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Educational Opportunity / Networking Opportunity

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Chuck Smith, Jun 12, 2003.

  1. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,317

    Day 1

    7:30 - 9:00 am - GENERAL SESSION - City of Buffalo Snow Fighting Plan
    Joseph Giambra, Commissioner of Public Works, Parks and Streets for the City of Buffalo will review the citys snow fighting plan.

    TRADE SHOW OPENS - 9:00 - 12:00 noon

    12:00 noon - 1:30 Snack & Chat - Optional Luncheon Event
    This highly popular event is bigger and better than ever! Choose a table from a variety of snow industry subjects and take advantage of the opportunity to network with your peers while enjoying a hearty lunch.

    1:45 - 3:15 p.m. - Concurrent Sessions

    Maintaining Worker Alertness and Performance by Managing Operator Fatigue: Critical Elements of Workplace Stress Management - Speaker - Gerald Krueger, Ph.D., CPE, Krueger Ergonomics Consultants, Alexandria, VA
    This presentation will inform equipment and vehicle operators, safety and risk managers, and management personnel about the stressful implications of extended work-hours, sustained performance, circadian rhythm physiology, disruptive rotating work schedule changes, disrupted or inadequate sleep, operator fatigue, loss of alertness leading to impaired performance, and resultant threats to safe operations. Coping strategies to enhance workplace safety by managing operator fatigue will be presented.

    Technology is Your Friend - Speaker - Eric Keller, CSP, Plaza Care Corporation, Kitchener, Ontario
    There's a lot of confusion surrounding technology. There have been many situations whereby people in our industry that have implemented technology have been unable to gain complete benefit from their investment, or worse, have found that their business has been negatively affected by the implementation of technology. However, we believe that technology is your friend. Advanced technology, properly applied can provide a significant and tangible positive benefit to your business.

    Winter Maintenance Contracts and Managing the Risk of the Slip and Fall - Speaker - Atty. Robert Kennaley, McLaughlin & Associates, Toronto, Ontario
    Slip and fall claims can lead to increased premiums, excessive legal costs and unwelcome interruptions to your business. A sound risk management strategy towards managing this risk should contain many components. First, managing the risk requires an understanding of how liability for a slip and fall is assessed in law. Second, a good winter maintenance contract is an important part of the strategy. A good contract, however, involves much more than terms and conditions. Proper descriptions of the work are just as important. In addition, your employee training and record keeping practices are fundamental in avoiding liability for the slip and fall. Finally, the way in which we manage a slip and fall claim, once it has arisen, can have a significant impact on how insurers will deal with a claim. Robert Kennaley is a former contractor who now practices construction law in Toronto, Ontario. Robert has spoken and written extensively on winter maintenance contracts and on the maintenance contractor's potential liability for the slip and fall. Robert also took the lead role in drafting a standard form winter maintenance contract for use by members of Landscape Ontario. In this session, Robert will speak to how each of the components of a sound risk management strategy can be used to manage the risk of a slip and fall to your business.

    Weather Is All Around Us...How to Observe and Make Your Own Predictions - Speaker - Peter Gieger, editor Farmer's Almanac
    Everyone talks about the weather...but the Farmers' Almanac has gained respect for almost 200 years for its long range prognostications. Editor Peter Geiger, Philom. will discuss its successes and show how the signs of weather are all around us. Find ways to make your own weather predictions using nature and the almanac.

    3:30 - 5:00 p.m. - Concurrent Sessions

    Avoiding Headaches With Systems - Speaker - Dave Tucker, CLIP - Sensible Software, Inc., Ijamsville, MD
    Systems are the way to go. How can a company owner maximize their systems to make sure that the company will run without them? How can the owner get their company to the point that they can spend all summer at the beach and just check in every once-in-awhile while receiving checks on a monthly basis? What systems will be necessary for this? By putting systems in place, the company owner can literally have almost no work and still have their company run profitably. This is the goal that all business owners should strive for, getting the business to run on its own.

    Methods of a Snowfighter - Part 1 - Moderator - Rick Winnestaffer, CLP, CSP WinnScapes, Inc., Columbus, OH
    A panel of seasoned snow fighting professionals show us how to manage specific snow operations. Sites will include a hospital, retail mall, trucking facility, apartment complex, and office space. Using slides and maps learn what equipment to use and how to use it. We will cover estimating hours for different types of equipment, specific tactics, and successful implementation.

    Some Solid Simple Samples for Sure-Fired Sales Success - Speaker - Ed Laflamme, Grass Roots Consulting, Inc., Huntington, CT
    As business owners sometimes we forget the "basics" of sales success. As a salesperson we might overlook the fact that the "devil is in the details." Whether you wear the owner and sales "hat" in the company or have a "sales team" you will be "sold" on Ed's insightful and practical approach.

    Creating Systems…Learn How to Love Snow - Speaker - Nick DiBenedetto, ND Landscaping, Topsfield, MA
    Even the most committed snow contractors sometimes dread the 24/7 commitment that is necessary in this business. It may be caused by the lack of commitment of his employees, equipment breakdowns or just plain fatigue! In 1995, using a strategy called “ideal modeling”, DiBenedetto and his partner developed systems which took their smallest profit center (snow) within his landscaping company and developed it into a highly profitable and rapidly growing division of his company. This system took them out from behind the wheel of their trucks and grew their snow business from $150,000 to $750,000. This detailed system has plowed through the dread and put the excitement back into snow! Come learn how after 24 years behind a plow, this contractor turned it all around.

    6:30 - 9:30 p.m. OPEN RECEPTION
  2. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,317

    Day 2

    Saturday June 14, 2003
    7:30 - 9:00 am - Concurrent Sessions

    Dispatching Made Easy - Speaker - Peggy Allin CSP, VP of Operations, Allin Companies, Erie PA
    This session will take you through the set up and preparation for dispatching of snow plowing & ice control operations. It will also include proper documentation, flow of ideas and dispatch operations.

    Organizing Your Business to Take Advantage of Tax Planning Opportunities - Speaker - Bob West, CPA, West & Co., Cleveland, OH
    The success of your business will require you to pay several forms of tax. Three of those taxes - payroll taxes, income taxes and estate taxes can be effectively reduced with timely and continual tax planning. The opportunity for such tax planning begins with selecting the best form of organization for your business and exists throughout each year as you continue to decide how to withdraw the income that your business is generating.

    Successful Snow Removal - Speaker, Alan Steiman, CSP, Alan Steiman's Landscape Inc., Northborough, MA
    Take advantage of Alan Steiman's 29 years of experience as the leader in snow removal services just west of Boston, MA. In this session Alan will share his creative ideas and challenging experiences that have made his company both unique and successful.

    MARKETING: OUTSIDE IN - Speaker, Ed Laflamme, CLP, Grass Roots Consulting, Inc., Huntington, CT
    As landscapers and buisness owners, we invest our working lives in managing the growth in our customers' landscape. And, regrettably give little attention to landscaping our own businesses; growing our income and retirement. Becoming better, more skilled marketers will make the difference. "Marketing: Outside In" will give you a fresh perspective, plus new tools and strategies to turn your sweat equity into business equity.

    9:15 - 10:45 a.m. - Concurrent Sessions

    Organizing Your Business to Take Advantage of Tax Planning Opportunities - Speaker - Bob West, CSP, West & Co., Cleveland, OH
    See description above.

    Job Costing: Control Your Cost - Control Your Profit - Speakers - Jeff Tovar CSP, President, and Rick Lenth CSP, V.P. of Administration, Tovar's Snowplowing, Inc. Elgin IL
    You can sell it. You can produce it. But are you making money plowing snow? Learn how one company job costs each snow & ice event to be sure costs are controlled.

    Methods of a Snowfighter - Part 2 - Moderator - Rick Winnestaffer, CLP, CSP WinnScapes, Inc., Columbus, OH
    A panel of seasoned snow fighting professionals show us how to manage specific snow operations. Sites will include a hospital, retail mall, trucking facility, apartment complex, and office space. Using slides and maps learn what equipment to use and how to use it. We will cover estimating hours for different types of equipment, specific tactics, and successful implementation.

    Strategic Planning - Your Company's map to success - Speaker, Judith Guido, KehoeGuido Co., Laguna Niguel, CA
    Strategic planning is a highly energized, creative process that requires the intimate involvement, skill sets, imagination and creativity of EVERYONE in the company. In this way, people buy off on the plan, as they are part of the plan. It is not a static document but a kinetic process that will change and evolve along with your customers and the market.

    11:00 - 12:30 a.m. Concurrent Sessions

    Plow your Profits into Real Estate - Speaker - Rick Winnestaffer, CSP, WinnScapes, Inc., Columbus, OH
    Leverage your plowing earnings into millions of dollars worth of real estate. Find out how the skills you have acquired in your snow removal business qualify you as a real estate investor. From snow removal to real estate, Rick Winnestaffer is here to share with you how savvy operators can capture his 10-year-and-out plan!

    "Beginners" Liquids: How to Get Started From a Snow Contractors Point of View - Speaker - Bob St. Jacques, CSP, President, Four Seasons Landscaping Inc., Windsor, CT
    Liquids: What are they? Why use them? This session will take you through the products available, equipment available and storage options. If you have been considering liquids but aren't sure where to begin, this session is for you. Just the basics! This Session Sponsored By: Monroe Snow & Ice Control

    The Power of the Internet - Speaker, Chuck Smith, CSP, Webmaster, Snowplowing-Contractors.com, Nutley, NJ
    Learn how to utilize the internet to its full potential. Can the internet benefit your company? Can it help you grow your business? Learn this and much more in the interactive session.

    12:45 - 2:30 Snack & Chat - Optional Luncheon Event

    6:00 - 11:00 p.m. OPTIONAL EVENT - Niagara Falls with Dinner-
  3. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,317

    Above is the schedule for the SIMA Symposium (just as an example). It includes educational sessions, networking opportunities, and social gatherings.

    The reason I posted this, is because I wanted to ask a few questions.

    Do you think it is a good mixture of opportunities?
    What educational sessions would you attend?
    What educational sessions would you like to attend? (Sometimes two are at the same time.)
    Do you think 2 days is too much?
    The trade show is supposed to have 85 exhibitors, is that enough, or too many?
    What topics would you like to see addressed in the educational sessions?
    Who would you like to see as a guest speaker that is not listed?
    Do you think it is a good balance of educational sessions, networking opportunities, and social gatherings?
    Would you prefer a regional, smaller event as opposed to a larger national event?

    I'll post more questions if I think of them. I think this is a good start.

  4. Mick

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

    Yes. Also, I would like to see topics more suited to the small, small operator. Most of the subjects (equipment, systems, payroll etc) listed are irrelevant to me. Then I imagine the problem would be sponsors, who are not interested in that size operation.
  5. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,317

    What kind of topics would you suggest Mick? That is exactly what I am asking. I don't want to give suggestions, but rather see what people want. And I do agree that many industry educational opportunities are next to worthless to the one truck operator.

    The SIMA show is somewhat unique, in that the guest speakers (at non-ticketed sessions) are not paid directly for their presentations, but rather they receive free registration for the symposium (which you could call a $350 value). Most educational sessions require a fee to be paid by attendees, and that fee can range from $100 per person, up to $400 per person, for a one day 8 hour session that includes lunch and educational materials.

    A show like the SIMA show can really benefit small operators too, mainly through networking opportunities more than the educational sessions that don't really apply to them. Some educational can benefit all businesses, no matter what size though.

    As far as trade shows, manufacturers pay for display areas, and I am sure that price varies a lot. The manufacturers need to feel it is worth it for them to pay to attend a show.

    So I ask again, what type of topics would apply to small operators?

  6. Mick

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

    Just as some suggestions and starting place - I've thought about what new people ask that often irritates the "old timers" and gets "do a search" response:

    Topics for the Small Operator:

    Is Snowplowing right for me? Things to consider in starting a snowplowing buisness

    What equipment is right for me and my situation? Selecting a vehicle, plow, sander (tailgate or Vbox)

    Insurance needs

    Figuring costs & profits

    Record Keeping (types of records and why should you maintain them)

    Methods of pricing (Advantages & Disadvantages of each)

    Presenting a professional image (to people who may have known you all your life)

    Tax considerations

    Maintaining equipment (basic and "advanced"). Get down to "How do I check hydraulic fluid in my plow?"

    What does anybody think?
  7. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,317

    Thanks Mick, that is exactly the type of input I was looking for. I thought more Members would be interested in this topic :rolleyes: Remember that manufacturers read these posts too. It never hurts to let the industry know what you want.

    C'mon, let's here more opinions :D

  8. Mick

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

    Some more:

    Developing a Business Plan for snowplowing.

    Incorporating plowing into "the other" business.

    Off-season concerns.

    Marketing techniques.

    Adding services to basic plowing (sanding/salting, snowblowing shoveling sidewalks).

    Determining effective market areas.

    Setting up your route.

    Before the first snowfall (run the route, take pictures, line up subcontractors/emergency help, etc).

    I'm kind of surprised at the lack of response to this thread. I'm beginning to think I must be the only one in the situation where I want to expand and increase revenue effectively. I'm kind of taking a hit and miss approach right now. Or do most people just take whatever comes their way?

    So far, I've added services (salting/salting, stocking and marketing parts), developed a Business Plan, built a shed to hold my own mix of Magic Salt, attempted to expand my market area, developed more professional appearance than others in this area and generally marketed myself so people think of Mick when they think about snow.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2003
  9. wxmn6

    wxmn6 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,037

    No, No, Mick, you are not alone. I also am looking and interested in learning more about just exactly what you listed. I want to expand my own business, just like what you want to do too. But it would take alot of time and thinking before I could go ahead and do it. I am hoping that in future I could build a shop with salt storage area too. But it won't happen for at least several years until I have enough money to buy my own house. If there are some resources that will help educate small business operators, instead of targeting large snow biz operators, I would not hesistate to consider learning about doing this type of business.

    Mick, I am glad that you brough it up. This is something that we enjoys doing, and learning more about being small business operator is what we would like to do. :)
  10. BRL

    BRL PlowSite.com - Veteran
    Messages: 1,277

    "Yes. Also, I would like to see topics more suited to the small, small operator. Most of the subjects (equipment, systems, payroll etc) listed are irrelevant to me. "

    Mick, It may seem like that is the case, but in reality, many of the presentations can be used by small & one truck ops. You are using "systems" just like the big companies. They are just not as sophisticated & well developped or defined as such at this point. In your 2 posts after that one you listed specific topics to be covered for the "small" guys. I'm small & I went to Denver. I went to sessions there that covered easily half (probably more than half) of the subjects you mentioned. A one paragraph description of a session does not cover all of the info that actually gets presented during the one hour or so session. Many of the things on your list are complimentary to others, so various aspects of one particular topic will delve into other subjects on your list. Even though the big companies were able to walk away from those sessions with good new information to use, so was I. I'm sure most of the other subjects you posted were covered during other symposiums before & after Denver, as every desired topic certainly can't be covered in one 3 day period each year. The systems and methods that the big companies use to fight Ole Man Winter are the same as you & I can, would, could, or should use as well, just on a much smaller scale. The list that you posted is stuff that those big companies are also dealing with, not just us small guys.

    For those that can't afford to, or can't schedule to get to a symposium, SIMA usually sells Audio copies with materials of the sessions after the symposium. This is a great way to get that information with out spending the money on travel, room & board that us small guys may not be able to handle, and those who can't take the time off to travel for other reasons. I can't think of one session that I attended there where I didn't take away a lot of helpful information. And while I was in some of those sessions I sat next to people from multimillion dollar companies who were taking just as many notes as me, and and we shared how we could impliment some of the info being shared in those sessions in our own companies. Even though I was doing less than 100 grand in snow sales, & some of them were doing more than a million in snow sales, we both gained valuble help from the sessions. This happened in session after session, no matter what the topic. This also happened in the snack & chats. There was a "topic" for each table but we ended up talking about everything & anything we wanted to. THere again I sat next to owners & managers at large multimillion dollar companies & we discussed many of the subjects on your list. And it wasn't just me asking questions, those other big guys asked a lot of the same questions on your list, and even I was able to give some suggestions & help to questions from your list that some of those big guys asked about.

    So what I'm basically saying is the symposium may seem like an overwhelming event geared to big companies. But in reality it doesn't matter what size the company is because we are all fighting the same battle- fighting Ole Man Winter in a safe, effective & profitable manner.
  11. Mick

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

    First and foremost, I'd like to make sure no one misunderstands. I am fully supportive of SIMA; its methods and goals. When I decided not to renew my membership, it was a hard decision. However, it was based purely on economics - my tax preparer told me I have to raise revenue and/or reduce costs. Otherwise, the IRS may declare my business to be a hobby. I could simply not declare some expenses, but that's not my way. A harder decision was the one not to attend the symposium. Even up to last month, I was undecided but the determination to cut costs won out. Please understand - I'm not pleading poverty. I'm simply determined that my business will prosper on its own. Doing things that way instead of just writing a check without thinking whenever I wanted something (membership, airline tickets etc) has given me an insight into running a startup business on a shoestring. To give you an idea, my gross revenue last winter was under $10,000. Total costs for attending the St Louis symposium plus membership fees came to approx 1/3 of that. And, yes, I did gain much from the sessions I attended and the networking. But like I said, if you look at it strictly from a cost/benefit outlook - in my situation the financial return doesn't justify the cost.

    What I would like to see is what was proposed - regional training for the small operator. I proposed something along this line to the SIMA office a couple years ago. I really think that if there was a network of people willing to work with (mentor) new snow plowers, it would be a great resource. Each mentor need not be knowledgeable in all areas, but they would know who to ask about a specific topic. One thing it would do is seperate the serious from the BSer. Another thing it would do is allow a person to ask a "dumb" question without being ridiculed for the next several hours. I know I went the first year without knowing how to check the hydraulic fluid because it's not shown in the owner's manual and I didn't want to ask such a stupid thing of a bunch of experts. When I blew that hose last winter, I was in a little panic till I just figured it through.

    Anyway, if there are any plans along this line I'd like to offer what I can. Mainly my experiences since my technical knowledge is limited.
  12. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,317

    Mick, SIMA started the Mentorship Program back in August. It is mainly for new Members, but I see no reason why existing Members can't ask for a Mentor.

  13. Tammy

    Tammy Member
    Messages: 42

    Regional Training

    Just wanted to say that SIMA appreciates your input and that suggestions such as these are exactly how things happen. We have implemented Regional Training Seminars. Our next set will occur on August 19, 20 & 21 in Detroit, Hartford & Syracuse respectively. This round of sessions deals with financials. It will cover how to plan for profit including financial statement management, budgeting methods and processes, pricing methods and processes, equipment expenditures and asset management, job and budget tracking and reporting, & employee compensation and incentives. In addition to these sessions the educational committee is currently planning Regional Training for 2004 - while these are not confirmed their plan is the following:

    Winter: January 15th – February 15th
    Hiring subcontractors and human resources issues
    Spring: Month of April (work around Easter)
    “And I did it my way…” facility tour
    Summer: August – with Fall Leadership
    Selling/bidding and writing contracts for larger jobs
    Fall: Month of October
    Ice control

    Those of you that are SIMA members can give your ideas/thoughts to the Education Committee Chair, Doug Freer. I'm sure he would love to hear from you.
  14. Tammy

    Tammy Member
    Messages: 42


    While the mentoring program was designed for new members, I would encourage any member that would like a mentor to contact Grace at the SIMA office, she will see that one is assigned to you.
  15. Lawn Lad

    Lawn Lad Senior Member
    Messages: 407

    Mick -

    I'm just now reading this post and finding some good information in it. The Education committee uses a survey that was faxed out to membership asking what topics they would like to see covered in the Regional Training Seminars. Some of the topics you listed are the same that other members are asking for.

    As Tammy mentioned we are working to develop the four seminars for 2004. We are brainstorming ideas now for 2005. It takes time to develop the program content, hire a speaker and do all of the logistical work involved.

    The challenge for the Education committee is to design a program that will be useful, beneficial, timely and relevant. It take a lot of brainstorming and many perspectives to make sure we are hitting all of the targets. The two programs that are new for 2004 (Subcontractors vs Employees and Selling/Bidding/Contracts for larger commercial jobs) are taking up the most time as we outline the content and material that needs to be covered.

    The best thing the Educ. Comm could have would be the input of a smaller contractor. I think of myself as a smaller contractor, we run 6 trucks. We're not huge by any stretch of the imagination. In order for me to grow to 10 or 20 I'll need to implement new systems such as the ones featured here. By pulling together a group of contractors of varying size, in different markets with different niches, we get a pretty good idea of what needs to be covered.

    What we can always use is more brainstorming power. This site is helpful for us to get ideas. However the best way to see your ideas get implemented is to get involved. You'll get way more out SIMA than what you'll put into it.

    Anyone interested in joining the Education Committee may email or call me. My info is below.

    Douglas Freer
    Blue Moose Co., Inc.
  16. Plow Babe

    Plow Babe Senior Member
    Messages: 218

    My input

    It's not lack of interest, this is just my first opportunity to get onto plowsite in a couple of days.

    First, I want to say that we really appreciate all that SIMA does for us, and the educational opportunities that are available. As mentioned above, much of the information is valuable even for the "little guy." But one-person or small companies do face unique challenges in taking advantage of these opportunities.

    There is an issue that we face regarding our ability to pick up and travel for the training sessions. In the winter season (late October through April), we can't take off and fly across the country. Even to leave Summit County if a storm is on the way is not a good idea, because if the passes get closed, we won't be able to get back home to take care of our accounts. There is no way in or out of our area without having to go over a mountain pass of 10,000 feet or higher. So the only time we go anywhere in the winter is if we have a good clear forecast for at least a few days. Since we average a plowable storm weekly, you can see the problem.

    A one-day trip to Denver could work for us, as long as the weather forecast was clear. But by then, we would have spent the money on registration, which is non-refundable, and we don't have a "spare" person sitting around to send as a substitute. So rather than take the chance of being out $100+, we would most likely not sign up for training sessions during the winter, even if they were close by.

    I can also sympathize with Mick's dilemma about justifying the expense. For the small operator, personal matters have a larger impact on the business. There is family to visit, many times requiring a cross-country trip, community or religious events to attend, babies being born, college funds to save, children graduating, getting married, etc. All of these things not only have to be financed by the small business, but time has to be allowed. If you are your only employee, you have to shut down your business in order to do anything else.

    So the training sessions need to be more accessible. I am ignorant about the logistics of this, but what about being able to attend a "virtual" seminar? If we could "attend" via the Internet, that might be a more realistic option. Also, if there were some way to make the registration fee refundable in case we couldn't attend at the last minute, that would help. Or maybe not refundable, but transferable to another SIMA event?

    As far as topics, I also agree that at least some technical or mechanical sessions would be helpful (like Mick suggested, "how do I . . . .") The training videos are good, and maybe this type of topic could be covered in videos?

    Mick had some great suggestions for topics. I like the one on presenting a professional image even to people who have known you your whole life.

    Things that come to my mind are:
    Starting a business: How do you get a business license? How do you register with the state and IRS? Does your state require you to collect sales tax? What about insurance? What about basic bookkeeping, whether manual or on computer? Should I incorporate? How do I do that?

    Growing from a one-person business: How to properly manage subcontractors. What if I have an employee? Proper documentation for employees. Workman's comp coverage. Payroll service or do it myself? Training and motivating employees. Where will I store my equipment?

    There is already a huge amount of information available in written form, for example in the books that are the study material for the CSP exam. Those books cover subcontractors, marketing, finance, and some technical information about plowing. But not everyone assimilates information well from just reading it - hearing or seeing a presentation is much more helpful. Also, the other benefit to group sessions of some sort are the networking opportunities.

    We thoroughly enjoyed the symposium, and felt it was worth making the trip for it. But, some adjustments could be made. Of course, this is just from our point of view, and may not be good for others.

    We are really into trade shows, and this one was great, because it was all about plowing. Other trade shows that we go to may have various equipment, but they are usually focused to some other trade, and the plowing application is lightly addressed, if at all. We actually would have liked to have more time allowed for the trade show.

    It was hard to pick which seminars to attend, since there were different topics going on at the same time that we would have liked to have gone to. Maybe the topics could be scheduled so that they rotate, so if you miss it at one time, you can catch it at a different time. Also, the 7:30 AM start on Saturday was a bit early.

    Tuesdays seem to be a better day for flying, as far as availability of flights and cheaper fares. So maybe the symposium could start on Wednesday with the trade show all day Wednesday and Thursday morning, then the seminar sessions on Thursday afternoon and Friday, then Saturday could be for sightseeing, or for travel home with a day to catch up before getting back to work on Monday.

    The Awards Banquet was nice, although maybe the guest speaker could be improved upon. And the Snack & Chat sessions were great. We would be happy with leaving the social events at that. The trip to Niagara was really nice, but not all cities have something like that to see. Maybe there could just be a packet of information about the local attractions, discount coupons if available, and some free time allowed so that each person or family could choose what interested them the most to go see or do.

    There is a lot involved in planning and setting up for the symposium and the other training opportunities, and it will never be perfect for all members every time. But the SIMA staff is doing a great job, and they are very responsive to input. So keep those suggestions and ideas coming. If you don't share, they won't know what works for you. Thanks to Chuck for starting this thread.
  17. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,317

    Re: My input

    We do hope to have scheduled, hosted chats, with specific topics on the SIMA web site in the future. We are working on this.

    I think that is a great idea. Even if it is just credit in general, redeemable towards another event, or even merchandise.

    Maybe we can get some of our Vendor members to offer sessions locally?

    On that note, CONGRATULATIONS on passing the CSP test!:nod:

    I have been saying how great the trade show is for a long time now. All it takes is attending once, and you know what you have been missing! :nod: And I agree. The longer the show the better. That allows for naps, breaks, other networking opportunities, etc.

    In Denver, we had an evening reception inside the trade show, which was nice and informal. You could check out the equipment up close, and it was not as crowded as the show itself, and at the same time, allowed you more time to look.

    I think 7:30 is not too early. The Snack n' Chats in Denver started at 7am! They were moved to a lunchtime chat to allow more time, and allow members to sleep in a little if they wanted after traveling.

    Wednesdays are when all the Committee and Board meetings take place. They take up the whole day, and I see that growing in the future as more boards and committees are formed with the growth of SIMA.

    That is why the 'finale' events are always ticketed events. You always have the option of doing something on your own, or going home early, etc. While all cities might not have a natural wonder to visit, I know those who went on the two trips in Denver enjoyed them, and those who went on the riverboat cruise in St. Louis enjoyed it as well.

    In Denver, we had the kids with us, so we went off and did our own thing. In St. Louis, we also chose to go off and do our own thing. We visited the Arch, had dinner downtown, and went to a casino riverboat... (I'm not a gambler, I just wanted to go to a place to watch the Tyson/Lewis fight!).


    Local gatherings on a smaller scale, initiated and hosted by SIMA Members could be a great thing. I am very dependent on my computer. I use it to network like everyone else here, every day.

    When I look at the number of SIMA Members registered at the SIMA web site, I actually feel sorry for those that are missing out on such a great opportunity right from the comfort of home. There are only about 25% of the Members registered at the site.

    When I gave my presentation in St. Louis, on The Power Of The Internet, attendance was slim. I know there were other topics, and I am no genius, but I also took it as a lack of interst in the internet as a tool.

    Everyone is so excited about the great networking opportunities at the Symposium, and they should be, but, they can also have a small amount of that benefit right from home, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  18. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    Chuck's done a good job answering the questions.

    Only one area I think needs abit more clarification..... With regards to refunds; while it may seem like a great idea - the logistics of it would be a nightmare. Very, very few conferences will allow full refunds right up until it starts. The caterers demand a "drop dead" count at least a week prior to the event (and in some cities it's two weeks) and they will NOT refund us the money we have spent on food simply because we don't have enough people showing up as they can't take the food back once they have committed to it; the hotel makes us guarantee "room nights" and after a certain date if the there are cancellations that bring the room night count below what we have committed to SIMA is responsible for some penalties - in other words, we gotta pay for your room if enough people cancel; budgets are set and dependent upon the bookings as committments are made based upon registrations; the SIMA Staff gets rather busy as the time draws near and dealing with cancellations can wreak havoc with the schedule. On the outside, it seems simple - just send back the money (or write a credit of some sort), but quite a large amount of money must be expended BEFORE the Symposium - and caterers won't refund money AT ALL if we don't have enough people to make the food count we have supplied to them. Thus, a published policy is established and enforced. Everyone knows up front (assuming everyone can read and does so) what the deal is regarding cancellations.

    The recent Regional Training in the Toronto area is a prime example.... we considered cancelling that Regional Training because of the SARS publicity. The contract with the hotel hosting the seminars was iron clad. Had we cancelled it - SIMA was on the hook for over $6000. Period. A small organization like SIMA can't take too many hits like that before the organization folds.... And, that's the way it is with conventions and gatherings like that. There is no wiggle room, and it doesn't matter how good a negotiator one might be - dem's da rules.... everywhere.

    IF 15% of the attendees cancelled within 2 weeks of the Symposium, and SIMA had to refund everyones money (or write a credit towards something else) - it would break the Symposium (or almost any national convention type gig).

    Regarding the time allowed for the Trade Show itself.... we must cater to the needs and requests of the exhibitors. They actually set the timing. They don't want you taking naps if they are standing there wanting to show their wares. They want it busy right up until the end. Their time is valuable and standing there doing nothing doesn't make them at all happy - and we really do need them to come back each year. Personally, I would have liked another two hours in Buffalo as I wanted to visit more booths than I got to, however the exhibitors like it that way. By the way - the feedback from the exhibitors is that they were thrilled with the attendance, the attention to their products, and with the way the Symposium was handled - and every one I spoke with indicated they would be in Minneapolis next year.

    As an aside..... the Symposium has come a very long way in 6 years. Now a full blown trade show along with very good educational sessions - I too applaud the SIMA staff for doing such a fine job. A great bunch lead by an incredibly dedicated Executive Director. Well done gang........
  19. Mike Nelson

    Mike Nelson Senior Member
    Messages: 637

    This year for me was simply the best and John is right the Symposium has come a long way in 6 years.

    Chuck is also right when he said that only 25% of the membership use the Internet. It is really a shame because look at all the info we all get from this site and the others. Just imagine if we had 75% more people here exchanging thoughts and ideas. Wow :eek:

    It is great to see all the ideas and suggestions coming out to make our future stronger and better. As I said before I believe the future shows will have to be longer. There seems to be more and more info to learn each year as Sima grows larger. I have to agree that I wish there was a way I could have attended all the seminars, but that is why I bought the tapes. I missed last years show, but was able to buy the tapes.

    I have made a decision to finally go all snow and sell off my pavement maintenance business after this season. I want to dedicate my self to this industry and to Sima in making it better and stronger. John Allin is definitely a mentor in this industry as are others for having such a great vision. Try and tell someone all you do is snow. They look at you like you have three heads. :alien: I try to explain and some people just don't get it. I give up trying to talk to them and I think now I am going just to keep my mouth shut. LOL

    My wife is still trying to figure out how John did the Olympics. LOL
    I tell her when you have a system and a process you can do anything. Have to make one for her around the house. :D

    Having more local seminars sanctioned by SIMA would be a great idea. I plan on attending Syracuse in August and taking my CSP exam. Even impromptu snack and chats with other members is a great idea. I know traveling costs money, but the rewards come back two fold.

    Keep the ideas flowing...
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2003