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Contracts but I'm unavailable to fulfill contracts on most every Friday???

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by Exact Services, Oct 20, 2008.

  1. Exact Services

    Exact Services Senior Member
    Messages: 198

    I have a LCO and my focus is residential and I'm a 100% solo operation. I'm reluctant to offer or require a snow removal contract or service agreement for the simple reason that with very few exceptions my other business requires my full attention all day Friday. Early am till 11pm at night. Thursday is also partially tied up but is more flexible. Due to holiday weekends this day can often be moved to all day Wednesday or Thursday. This schedule has never been a problem in Lawncare or my other services since my clients are weekly or bi-weekly.

    However I see this as a problem fulfilling a contract for snow removal. If there is a big storm on Thursday night or early Friday the driveways don't get cleared till late Friday night.

    I want to be up front about Friday's with my customers but I don't want to alienate my clients. Am I stuck with just establishing a preferred customer list and billing agreement based on per event only? I may get lucky and never have an event on a conflicting day but then again . . . ?

    Any input?
  2. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    Sounds like a bad idea to me to try and do it yourself. Providing snow service is an emergency service, you need to be dependable, which it sounds to me like you can't be. You need to be dependable to perform the services 100% of the time not 85% of the time. You could find someone to subcontract for you.
  3. MB3

    MB3 Senior Member
    Messages: 123

    I feel exactly the sameway. It never fails, when you have something planned, and it snows. I would have someone on call that knows the route and the equipment to cover for you. When it snows, everyone wants to be out right away, and they will not wait until later that night. It happened here a couple of years ago, everyone who waited to clear thier snow, it turned to ice, and there was no clear of it without a tractor. Either you are in it, or you can not offer the service.
  4. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    yeah, that happened here last year on the first snowfall of the year, dealing with people who hadn't signed up for service or whose contractors didnt show up was a real joy. did a lot of billing by the hour for new people for the storm payup
  5. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,236

    Snow is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week commitment during the winter. If you can't live up to that, don't even bother.

    Or try to find someone to plow for you on Thursdays and Fridays.
  6. Exact Services

    Exact Services Senior Member
    Messages: 198

    YES . . . .the other option is to offer the service not based on a 24/7 service contract but per snow event and charge an hourly rate???

    I was thinking offering a deep discount 30% to 40% off a Spring lawn aeration or other type of service as bait to have a "Priority Agreement".

    A "Priority Agreement" would merely be a billing agreement along with the bait of the deep discount on lawn aeration in the spring. Basically a "Preferred Customer" list.

    If I get a call when I'm busy with the other business - I will tell them I will get there as soon as I can. Since they will not be paying a flat seasonal rate but per event they don't pay unless it snows.

    Not really sure how else I can do this. Since snow removal for me is 100% snow thrower, shovel and hand crank deicer hiring a sub is not realistic and I really don't trust someone else to do it correctly anyhow. "Owner Operator" is one of my slogans for my LCO.

    The only other option is to get my wife out there to cover for me in a pinch. Since she has had fairly serious frost bite damage in the past I think this plan will go over like lead balloons.

    The other option is to forget the whole snow removal idea and suspend my Insurance over the winter and reactivate in in the Spring. The insurance coverage and rates I have are some of the best in the industry.

    My goals for snow removal this season is to offset my winter insurance expense, fuel and other biz overhead.
  7. iceyman

    iceyman 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,925

    just tell people if its friday there up the creek without a paddle....
  8. YardMedic

    YardMedic PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,266

    So you're going to establish snow removal contracts of some sort based on snowfall any day but Friday? If I may ask, who is going to jump on board with this concept? I'm a career firefighter with 40 accounts... don't you think there's a reason I didn't list my work schedule as an exception to when I can service the consumer? If we in the snow removal business can't or won't do the job AS NEEDED, we're certainly not securing work for when it's convenient. I will tell you it drives someone nuts to be committed elsewhere on a day it snows, and I'm in that situation 8 days/month. However, I have the contacts already made to get my route done at a moment's notice with a couple phone calls.

    Keeping it simple, if you can't or won't make the commitment for 100% of the time, you're SOL. Adapt & overcome. Do the job correctly, and by correctly I mean completely, by whatever means possible.
  9. hydro_37

    hydro_37 PlowSite Veteran
    from iowa
    Messages: 3,790

    You need to find a dependable sub or don't offer snow removal. IMO
  10. Exact Services

    Exact Services Senior Member
    Messages: 198

    Thanks for the input - since I'm realist keep it coming.

    Ok . . . looks like I'm SOL fulfilling a snow removal seasonal contract this year. But before I give up on the idea altogether there are remaining options.

    Like I mentioned before in passing . . . . how viable is it to have a "Preferred Customer" list based solely on Per Event? If it doesn't snow they don't pay essentially no contract. Slight service delays possible on Fridays ;)

    The only bait I can think of to be placed on the "Preferred Customer List" is to offer them a discount on a "One Time" spring service such as lawn aeration, power edging, lawn dethatching etc. This way they remember me and will be less distracted by Joe Six Pack's ad or flyer. Even for folks who mow their own lawns I still have something to offer.

    So . . . to qualify for the "preferred customer list" I would need to make personal contact with the prospective client, BEFORE THE SNOW FLIES, so I can see the property and give ball park figures. If they agree to the "Preferred Customer List" they will receive the discounted spring service and will put them at the front of the line over any other call I would receive on a per event basis.

    #2 The very last SOL option is to have a running ad all winter in service paper, corrugated plastic roadside signs, hand out door hangers/flyer in neighborhoods and if I can't get to them I don't.

    Basically this put me in the J6P beer money category of snow removal service. The difference is I'm a legitimate Co. with Insurance and any contact with customers allows me to up sell my other LCO services in the Spring. These residential areas are the exact same type of properties I would be putting door hangers on in the spring.

    Any further input?
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2008
  11. Exact Services

    Exact Services Senior Member
    Messages: 198

    I agree - problem is finding someone reliable and trustworthy and will not scare off my customers.
  12. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,236

    In a word, no.

    Say your preferred customer thing happens, you get a 12" blizzard on Thursday night and don't start getting around to clearing drives until Saturday sometime when your other job is finished. You really think people are going to wait that long to be called a preferred customer. This ain't going to cut it, face it.

    Not sure about you, but my preferred customers would get preferential treatment, not whenever the heck I get done with my other job. Some disagree, but snow is an emergency service, you have to be ready 24/7 for the winter season.

    You run a better chance of pissing off your customers because you can't provide the service they need. Further ruining chances for additional sales in the spring\summer.

    Do it right or don't do it.
  13. Gicon

    Gicon Senior Member
    from MA
    Messages: 989

    I dont want to shoot your thoughts or intentions down, but I will have to agree 100% with Mr. Mark here. The last thing residential customers want is the thought that they are "trapped" in their house, and people cant get in our out. Elderly people always worry that they are going to need an ambulance the day of a storm, and they wont be able to get to the person. I cant see a way in which you will be able to work this out with your potential clientel, and sounds like your luck will bring you snow storms only Thursday nights and Friday days.......
  14. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    To be frank, I checked your profile while reading through this thread. I expected to find you are 16 years old or at most 20. Be realistic and put yourself in your potential customer's place. Would you go along with possibly being snowed in every Friday until the plow guy can get there? Snow work is erratic, unpredictable and considered an can emergency service. At best, you might find some "absentee owners" (those who winter in Florida) who just want the driveway open for the fire truck. Or you might try taking those one-time pushes where they just call you when they want you (most plow guys avoid those like the plague) or drive around looking for the guy/gal out shoveling and offer to push it for $10. And be careful cancelling or letting insurance lapse. Insurance companies really, really hate that (as another member here just found out). You will be severely punished, if they take you back at all.
  15. Gicon

    Gicon Senior Member
    from MA
    Messages: 989

    Mick I was surprised as well. 44? He should be able to put himself in a homeowners shoes as well.
  16. Brant'sLawnCare

    Brant'sLawnCare PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,756

    I agree. Even on Christmas and New years, and any other "important" date to you, you've gotta be ready to plow! Especially commercial accounts.
  17. Gicon

    Gicon Senior Member
    from MA
    Messages: 989

    There is no such thing as a calendar in Snow & Ice Management. If you wake up any day between November 1st-April 30th, and you see snow, you go handle it. You dont think about working at a day job, or sunday dinner with the family. I can remember plowing on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years before.......There are no vacation days, no sick days, no holidays in this business....
  18. Clapper&Company

    Clapper&Company PlowSite Veteran
    from NE OHIO
    Messages: 4,413

    I total agree
  19. Exact Services

    Exact Services Senior Member
    Messages: 198

    Yes I'm a fairly well adjusted 44 year old with a family.

    My avatar shows a Toro single stage so I understand the impression given. Absolutely no intention of buying a plow for my truck at this point so there is no impressive list of cool equipment in my signature. I figured the "insured for snow removal" in my signature would of conveyed some sense of legitimacy and maturity here at plowsite :D

    Some of you had me for 16 or 20 something :jester:

    All replies appreciated. Yes I totally understand the issue of lack of service from the home owner position - that's why I posted. Nothing like stating the obvious though. Family members are not much help in making business decisions so I thought I'd ask the professional veterans here.

    I'm now looking into the options of subbing out the work when I'm tied down on Friday and part day Thursday. My wife is on my commercial insurance but I don't think this will work due to her past cold injuries. Beside she's terrified of driving anything but front wheel drive in the snow. She also has difficulty with driving at night. So it's not a a good combo.

    Anyhow It's not like I'm washing dishes at the Olive Garden on Fridays I actually make as much on my Thursday/Fridays as many do working a full time job. I work in the production of several internet radio shows. I don't make as much as Full time Firefighter in a big city but close to what one would in a small town. Yes when I was seeking employment as a FF/ Emt in my community I was grilled on the very issue during my interview since the interview was with the same district I volunteered with. "If we hire you will you quit your other business? . ? . . ." Did I mention I'm a really bad liar. The entire panel knew I had my own gig going. And I never answered the Fire District pager on Fridays either. That fire district actually expected blood letting from their volunteers. Yes ... why kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

    Anyhow - I decided to NOT offer snow removal last winter mainly because my insurance didn't cover it. Sure enough we had record snowfall last year and I cringed with every storm. Extremely frustrating. :cry:

    Meanwhile all the Joe Six Packs payup

    So if I'm NOT able to find a SUB when I'm tied up - looks like I will be chasing snow storms on a "per event on call only basis" which does put in me in direct competition with all the beer money J6P's.

    Or I can suspend and park my insurance over the winter which is the easiest option and I can watch the 2nd heaviest snowfall in recoded history pass me by.
  20. ducatirider944

    ducatirider944 Senior Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 469

    Yeah, tell me about it, I missed 4 of my favorite nights to snow last year. Christmas Eve, New years eve, Night of the National Championship, and the super bowl. First time I was out plowing all 4! It sucked but, you do what you have to do!

    IF thursday night and friday make you that much money why do you want to clear drives? Why not just hook up with someone and sub to them the other 5 nights a week? Then you don't have to worry about someone covering for you and you will still make good money? It seams like a win, win combo. You have work that fits around your schedule and clients dont have to worry about, I cant go out tonight because I can't get out of my drive till 3am tommarrow morning?