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Getting sick and tired of it all (long).

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by Tubby's Snow Plowing, Dec 14, 2009.

  1. Tubby's Snow Plowing

    Tubby's Snow Plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 199

    First post here. I'm entertaining the idea of plowing snow as a side service to my business. Been in business for 3 years on a part time basis but full time since earlier this year. I'm self employed as a firearm and ammunition manufacturer and am located in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan. Small town, lake effect snow. Average snowfall per winter is 200 inches. Last year my village got 380-something inches. We just got about 4 feet in 3 days plus another foot or two in the last week and it's supposed to snow straight for another week. Welcome to my world. All this is in the last two weeks.


    Neighbor across the street plows for the garage side of the house. He's got a 3/4 Dodge diesel with that v-type or "scissor plow" as the locals call it here. He used to plow for the previous home owners. We bought it 3 years ago. I let him put as much snow in my back yard as he wants as long as he takes a couple swipes at my driveway to keep it open and snow bank pushed back so my wife and see/get out to the street. I park on the other side of the house between the houses. I've got a snow blower but that's getting old.

    Here's the plow route in the back yard. He pushes all his front yard snow across the street and in my back yard.

    Second track pushes along side the house on the sidewalk up to the light pole. I have to dig out the furnace vent a couple times a week so the ice doesn't plug it up and send CM back into the house.

    By the end of the winter the back yard will be stacked with snow up to about 8-10 feet and the snow bank will end up about 6 feet or so from the garage.

    So, I don't have any plowing experience. My only vehicle is a 2000 S10 Blazer 4WD, so I'm limited to what I can mount. I've got good tires (Destination M/T) on it that really grips in the snow and ice. Priced at $700/set mounted but it's cheap insurance.

    My goal/idea is to try to find a plow that will fit and be affordable for my Blazer. I can plow my yard, etc for a season before I venture out to make money. Get some experience under my belt first. Maybe offer to clear out the apron of the driveway during a big storm for someone stuck shoveling, the neighborly thing. Could be a potential client when I do it for profit.

    Mostly what I would like to do is residential driveways in the village. A long driveway is 20-30 feet tops. Village is maybe two miles from one end to the other, it's like 10-12 blocks in either direction.

    Most of what plow guys charge is monthly account. $150 per month flat rate, they come every day but Sunday as long as there is 3 inches on the ground or more (I'm not religious so I can go 7 days a week). Their rule is the go outside and stick their index finger in the snow. If the snow goes above their knuckle of the hand, they go out and plow all their accounts.

    I've been trying to figure out a program rate. It snows almost every day during the winter and the season runs from October to late April/early May, so there's a good 5-7 months of plow season. Like I stated earlier, the norm is $150/mo, maybe $50 room either way. I'm thinking of offering a tier sort of service. Straight plowing is $150/mo, driveway only. Plow and cleanup is $200/mo and it includes cleaning up with a shovel by the garage door where the plow can't get close enough. I've got a credit card merchant account so I can take CC and even set an automated rebilling where I charge their card every month and just drop off a receipt (also email them a copy automatically). Monthly sounds good but per trip could be more profitable, say $25 a trip would be $750 in one month from the single client. I've learned in my current line of work, bulk discounts entice clients. Less they buy the more they pay per unit. With plowing, it would encourage them to just buy the monthly plan as it would be cheaper for them but would be what my bottom line is based off of. The monthly accounts pay the way whereas the per trip clients (my car is plowed in can you dig me out?) would be flat fee. Extra cash from per trip clients can supplement the maintenance account. Just thinking out loud I suppose.

    Short drives, short travel. I've been watching the neighbor plow in my yard, watching plow position, angle, watching the lines, etc. My brother inlaw lives close and he plows too (3/4ton Powerstroke) but only for himself and down at the family farm. I'm sure he'd let me loose to get some time under my belt.

    Sorry such a long post.

  2. Tubby's Snow Plowing

    Tubby's Snow Plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 199

    Here's how my neighbor tackles my place.

    reference pic. This is looking from his truck parking spot in his driveway.

    Road plow comes in from the right side to left side, so he doesn't stack too much along the house where it will only get pushed back into the driveway when the road plow goes by.

    Big storms with a build up at the apron of the driveway he will take an angled push to either side as far back as the pile is. Normal snow (less than a foot or fluffy dry snow) he drives straight in plow parallel to garage door, drops it, then pulls it away about 6 feet. Lifts plow up, backs up then angles plow and pushes it forward to extreme right or left (limit of space). Then backs up and takes it straight back to the pile in the back yard. The "cleanup" push he sends everything against the house (pile that ends at the light pole, 1st post set of pics).

    He's there for about 5 minutes or less. I've learned from watching him so far all about snow storage and angle of attack. Pretty neat stuff.
  3. Brant'sLawnCare

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

    Your blazer is pretty small to plow with. Just make sure you plow with the storm and don't let it pile up too much. Then you should be fine.
  4. MileHigh

    MileHigh PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,827

    good thing you werent plowing last season..

    I hope your blazer will last for at least half of what you got last year.
  5. Tubby's Snow Plowing

    Tubby's Snow Plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 199

    This would be a trial truck and then serve as a back up if I decide to do it commercially. Figure truck is paid off and if I can find a used plow to save money and learn with before a large investment and find out it's not for me.
  6. JDiepstra

    JDiepstra PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,780

    Have you considered the option of a smallish tractor with a blower on it? This sounds like it might be a good option for you as there is not a lot of traveling to do, and, blowing the snow helps disperse the snow in the lawn and such a bit, rather than having to move it all over the place.
  7. Tubby's Snow Plowing

    Tubby's Snow Plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 199

    Could be another option. If I get clients in nearby villages (15 mile radius on 2 way highway) a plow would be more mobile. Tractor would have to be cab enclosed for a little heater.
  8. hydro_37

    hydro_37 PlowSite Veteran
    from iowa
    Messages: 3,790

    Better price out insurance first
    15 miles on 2 lane roads is a LONG way to drive in a bad storm
  9. Tubby's Snow Plowing

    Tubby's Snow Plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 199

    Agent is calling back with quote.

    Not to brag, but 15 miles on a two lane in a blizzard is nothing. I was a pizza jockey up here for 5 years and drove in weather that scared the street plows off the road, they refused to drive anymore until the storm let up. I kept on going with my "little" Blazer. Driven in storms that laid 39 inches in four hours, never a white knuckle moment. Weather doesn't scare me. First thing I want to do when a storm comes is go drive around.
  10. Mick

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

    Sounds good except for one tip - NEVER, NEVER push snow against a building. If you're going to be moving snow alongside a building, angle away from it. Be conscious of drainage so the snow melt does not go back to a building, across a sidewalk or onto a driveway.

    I once had a client WANT me to stack snow against his house for insulation. I declined and explained that there are several unwanted consequences - it puts pressure against walls, windows etc, snowmelt will seep through siding and window frames, basements will flood, and wood will rot.
  11. Deco

    Deco Senior Member
    Messages: 453

    the only machine that comes to mind is a road grader

  12. Tubby's Snow Plowing

    Tubby's Snow Plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 199

    See the bottom pic in first post. That's as close as it gets. My house was built in 1902. Foundation is stone and it isn't moving.

    Usually about mid-late April the village comes by with a front loader and dump truck and clears the side sidewalk.

    The village has three of those we use as our snow plows. We use converted US Army half tracks retrofitted with plows and front blowers During the winter, the village is contracted (pay or they lien on your house) to plow the front sidewalk and only on my street. The front side of the house is 50 (x120 lot). Village charges $1.85/liner foot, so $92.50 per winter. That's a steal.

    Under 6 inches (ie rarely) they just send a Chevrolet with standard plow. Over 6 inches (normal snowfall) they send the front loader.
  13. Lawn Enforcer

    Lawn Enforcer Senior Member
    Messages: 569

    Did you by any chance call a guy in Minnesota about a plow?
  14. Tubby's Snow Plowing

    Tubby's Snow Plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 199

    Nope. Wasn't me.
  15. poncho62

    poncho62 Senior Member
    Messages: 431

    What he said...I use an old Blazer and 6 ft Meyer...just for my personal use....You have to keep after it.
  16. Tubby's Snow Plowing

    Tubby's Snow Plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 199

    If I get a season out of it and it looks like a seasonal service I can tack onto my business to help during the slow season (December to April) I will buy at least a half ton with decent plow. Squirrel away cash the first season and that's my budget, keep the Blazer as a backup.

    Season starts November and runs til April. We get a bit of snow in October but it's usually gone in a week. So basically a 6 month season.

    I'm thinking running three packages.

    • Seasonal contract runs November 1 to April 30 with two options. Plow only is $150/mo (local standard, do what you can, never get out of the truck) and plow plus shovel clean up is $200/mo. Clients that pay in full for the 6 month season contract will receive services for the entire month of October for free.
    • Late signups will be $200/mo, prorated for first month rounded up to the next $5 increment, then $200/mo until end of April.
    • Per trip customers will be flat rate $25.
    Give some incentive to clients to pay in full and they get a free month of service (October) where there usually isn't much snow (good for me) but sometimes we get rocked hard (good for client). The late signups pay a little extra to be added to the client list as I don't have time to snap yard photos and plot things like I do with the early clients. Per trip customers are short notice on call that pays my lunch for the day.

    Timed my neighbor last night when he was by my house at 10 minutes. This is just a neighbor favor and taking his time. As a newbie, I figure double that to not overbook myself and to include the shovel clients too. 20 minutes per client at 10 clients is 200 minutes of 3hrs20mins. Leaves me plenty of time for on-call per trip customers. Half the day plowing the other half working on my main business focus (guns and ammo). At that rate $1,500-2,000/mo at $9,000-$12,000 per season I would be completely content with that cash flow.

    Numbers look good but I figure maybe half that for reality. :laughing:
  17. Tubby's Snow Plowing

    Tubby's Snow Plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 199

    I'm self employed but have a wife and 3yo son. I can either take him with me or drop him off at my in-law's. Wife works during the day. I can pretty much handle things 24/7. Worst case is I take my son with me in the truck and he plows with my father in law so he'd love it. Heading out twice a day to plow wouldn't bother me a bit.
  18. poncho62

    poncho62 Senior Member
    Messages: 431

    Make sure he is strapped in good....I remember my dog flying around the cab pretty good.........:laughing:
  19. Tubby's Snow Plowing

    Tubby's Snow Plowing Senior Member
    Messages: 199

    Standard high back car seat with 5pt harness. He's in the back seat center (in the event of getting T-boned, he's not at the direct impact site) so he's protected well. In the Honda, it's a 2 seater convertible so he's in the front seat but that driving weather is very different than Blazer weather.
  20. leon

    leon Senior Member
    Messages: 872

    Snow in the UP


    Greetings and salutations from my corner of the soon
    to frozen eastern wilderness at 1140 feet above mean
    sea level.

    How far are you from White Pine and iron Mountain Michigan?

    I guess my first question is who is plowing the neighborhood?
    and how would they react to you entering the plowing business
    as a competitor?

    If it was me I would invest in a low profile four wheel drive
    orchard and vineyard tractor specifically:

    Kubota 8540 with rear tracks and mechanical front wheel drive
    with a top speed on tracks of 13 miles per hour.
    suit case weights and a rear weight box to allow a lot of
    flexibility in using a rear snow blower or loader
    the tractor has the top of the line Lauren cab with air filtration
    radio, wipers, defrosters, rotary beacon
    high output alternator for more work lights
    mid mount PTO for a front snow blower if desired
    front end loader-very handy for stacking or digging out the
    small places.

    About the snow blower:

    A Pronovost PXPL-75 would work well with the Kubota 8540
    as it will do driveways and side walks too.

    It has a rear scraper blade that allows it to plow snow by
    dragging all the snow out of the of the driveway you are
    cleaning and blow it down the road to the next place if the
    local constable does not get cranky and continue cleaning
    the driveways as you move along .

    With the PXPL you will be able to get close to door ways
    and overhead doors to clean better and reduce any shoveling
    to near zero for the home owner.

    It has both a hydraulic chute rotator
    and hydraulic chute control to raise and lower the chute to place
    snow where you want it with ease and hydraulic scraper blade
    and rubber flap allows you to back into a driveway pull al the snow out
    and then blow it down to the next drive way to continue moving the snow
    and eventually down to your last clients house where you will be able
    dispose of the snow quickly in total if there is adequate room do do so.

    The tractor with the loader , weight box and blower will give
    you flexibility to deal with what ever snow you have to deal with
    and have a fixed operating cost consisting of:

    tractor and implement payment per month.
    fuel cost
    seasonal liability insurance
    preventative maintenance costs being:
    filters, service hours maintenance to satisfy
    warrantee requirments
    50 hour, 200 hour etc.

    Once you pull the snow out of the driveway you can either stack
    it by blowing it in the front yard or blowing down the road as you clean up
    the rest of your clients driveways blowing it down the road
    to where it can be blown out of the way for the season
    reduces the build up of snow and lack of visibility coming out of the
    clients driveways too

    A tractor like this will give you years of service with a strong frame that
    will not give you problems. The newer tractors are easy to maintain by
    yourself by greasing, checking fluids and doing filter changes as well.

    Even the smaller Kubotas like the BX 2660, B3030 or B3200 with full cabs
    give you plenty of power their are many B3030 owners on
    www.tractorbynet.com with snow blowers who are very happy with them.

    Having a front and rear blower for the above tractors would be a must have
    to give you additional speed in cleaning and ease of use being no turning
    around to use the rear blower by simply overlapping the cuts with the blowers.

    the only issue is getting close to building to clean up near doors and building
    as it will be harder to accomplish with out a scraper that can act as a push or
    pull plow.

    The smaller blowers will take longer to remove heavy deposits of snow but they
    will do it.

    The volume of snow you want move would make me a bit nervous with a smaller tractor
    only because of the tons per hour you will have to move which would make me want
    to investigate the 8540 with the Pronovost PXPL-75 blower.

    www.pronovost.net/snow blowers

    they have a very neat welll done video for down load showing the PXPL blower in use on a front mount four wheel drive hitch tractor

    several members of the plowsite forum have the pronovost PXPL blower
    and have posted pictures of them too.

    kubota.com/specialty utility tractors

    for the
    kubota tractor forum

    Kubota owning operating section
    Kubota buying pricing section


    Disclaimer: I have no finacial interest in Kubota Corporation or Pronovost farm equipment
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2009