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Has anyone dropped other services and began to ONLY plow snow???

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by merrimacmill, Jul 6, 2010.

  1. merrimacmill

    merrimacmill PlowSite.com Addict
    from MA
    Messages: 1,823

    I feel like there has to be threads on this, but I cannot find any using search tool. But anyways, has anyone found it to be profitable to drop other services and only plow snow? Do you find that you can keep your prices competitive enough when you have to base your snow pricing on supporting your equipment fleet, insurance, your own salary, etc, 12 months out of the year instead of say, 6?

    I have dreamed about doing this for a long time now, and have been crunching the numbers constantly for a couple months now. I have been factoring in every cost I have, or could come up, and the numbers tell me I should be able to do it, even this year, dropping landscaping and everything and only doing snow. But I feel there must be a reason not to many people are doing this?

    I would start paying weekly salary for all drivers and operators, hourly for shovelers, and start pushing for seasonal snow contracts, excluding salt and bill that by the yard applied. This is how we do most our contracts, and it seems to work best for us now. And then my variable costs would be a lot more controlled than now I feel.

    I know there is "snow only" guys on here with a sizable fleet, so I'd like to hear some thoughts on this step in the game that I'm thinking of taking.

  2. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    We are working towards that slowly but surely. The main reason we still do landscape maintenance is to keep the customers year round, that way someone else isnt getting their foot in the door. Its also nice to have done a good job doing landscape maintenance on a property, and having the "in" to bid on snow.
  3. RLM

    RLM PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,270

    I'm getting there as well. However "in season" we are a sizable company, (about 15 -20 between staff & subs), durring summer it's me & 2 part time guys. Most of the companies that are "Snow Only" you will find use a sizable number of subs, own very little as far as equipment, shop space, etc to keep overhead low.
    I swear I'm done with landscape work, but always find "some reason" for not going snow only it is an anual thing for me. Then about now I regret it because I'm stuck cutting grass or trimming shrubs instead of solicting work, or I'm up at 2 am putting mailings together, etc. I tell my wife all the time I feel like I'm chasing the short dollar, instead of the long one.

    MIDTOWNPC PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,554

    I have other incomes but only do snow. There is no grass or landscaping.
    I fix computers and I have a plaza that I collect rent from, but my equipment that is used for snow is carried and paid for by snow. One of the things that worked well for me was paying the workers a flat rate for the season if it snowed or not. They are on call and they are playing the game you are if you have seasonal contracts (you are both looking for it not to snow that much)

    If your billing by the yard applied try to get a minimum amount applied.
    Try for multi year deals. What about All Inclusive?

    If you have the grass now, who will take over the grass and will you lose the snow to a guy that does both.
    This has been my only worry and trend I have seen so far. 1 guy does it all, they write him 12 cheques for all his services.
  5. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    Couldn't have said it better myself. Why am I wasting my time for these peanuts? One month of a snow contract is so often the entire summer of landscape maintenance 20 mowings, fertilizings, bush trim spring clean fall clean, :dizzy:
  6. cf1128

    cf1128 Member
    from NH
    Messages: 77

    Great thread, I am up in Hampton, I have been wondering the same thing...we are in the minority in our thought process. When I talk about it with a couple of my buddies, both that do really well in snow, really well, they think I am crazy. they hate the hours etc... I have gotten down to ONE contract in the summer and I am focusing on going all snow except for that one. I will say this, your equipment costs are the same, so if you can keep your loaders working, or trucks working, if they are making you money, it is hard to not work them in the off season. I have been lucky enough to pick up a good summer contract that works my equipment during the night, since I owe on my equipment 24 hours a day,l try to find work that will pay as many hours as I can, which I know sounds obvious, but not everybody views it like that. I would love to grab a coffee with you one morning,
  7. snowman5313

    snowman5313 Member
    Messages: 86

    I only plow. It is easy to sub work from year round companys. Personaly I like to lease the equipment that way its always good equipment and I have what I want. Besides guys are easy to find. Just remember IT IS A BUSINESS. WORKMANS COMP AND TAXES TAKEN OUT. Its your ass not theirs.
  8. JD Dave

    JD Dave PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,194

    We could swing the whole snow only thing but I have far to much machinery that is available to use year round so I see no point plus I like farming. It's also nice to keep some full time guys year round. Another problem I have is if I'm not working making money I'm spending it. I'm also not sure what I'd do with my spare time. There is only so much snow realted stuff do in the summer. We already work on our snow stuff though out the summer in our slow times. My wife would make me Mr Mom if I only did snow.
  9. EGLC

    EGLC PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,733

    soooo what happens when it doesnt snow?

    and like some others have said if you're currently doing a full landscape maintenance contract and tell the people you want snow only I'm willing to put a good deal of $$ on the fact that they will gladly take bids from other guys.
  10. buckwheat_la

    buckwheat_la 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,254

    I don't know about anyone else, but i would be hard pressed to pay all my bills, equipment, etc. I also have to go with JDdave, i would get bored
  11. merrimacmill

    merrimacmill PlowSite.com Addict
    from MA
    Messages: 1,823

    heres the deal with me though, I have another business and income. I run an office building that my mother and I own. So the whole landscaping/snow thing has always been a secondary income to me. It started as supplemental income, then matched my income from the office building, and has now exceeded it. So I guess I'm saying that things got serious a lot quicker than I thought they would. With only so much time in the world, and my vision of having plenty of time to be on my boat, I feel like I need to direct my focuses in business. And where do I make the most money? Snow.

    Also, I constantly feel like I am running in a circle between the two. Which is fine for someone who is doing it for a job, but I am simply doing it to build a business. What I mean by this is that I spend all summer working landscaping to make the money to buy more equipment for snow, then I work all winter to make money to buy more equipment for landscaping so I can make even more money for snow. That may sound almost ideal, but the problem is that along the way during landscaping season, I will for example have a mower go down and have to run out and drop 8 grand to 10 grand on a new mower, or I will have a brick saw go down, and there goes another $1,500 bucks for a new one of those, and so on and so forth. So as I go along in the season, fall hits and I'm really not drawing on all that much landscaping money to purchase more snow equipment. So the two have pretty much began to separate themselves financially, and grow independently instead of off of each other like I alway anticipate.

    So I sit back and look at the two sides of my business, that have seemingly separated themselves from each other, and I look at profit margins, and I see gross and net incomes and am shocked at the differences in higher profit for snow removal rather than landscaping. Its just a whole different game that I understand a lot better, and have learned to play a lot better than I have the landscaping game.

    I hope that all made sense as I kind of got on a rant about it.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2010
  12. Triple L

    Triple L PlowSite Fanatic
    from Canada
    Messages: 6,078

    Wow that was kinda funny reading that.... Im in the exact 100% same situation as you... minus having the office building thing... I go back and forth every day...
  13. Turf Commando

    Turf Commando Senior Member
    Messages: 567

    This ideology makes sense,explains why I see some lawn crews with more plow trucks then mowers...
  14. merrimacmill

    merrimacmill PlowSite.com Addict
    from MA
    Messages: 1,823

    Ya, it all started hitting me when I ran out last December and dropped 50K on a brand new tractor just for snow and put 80 hours on it in a whole season, now I look at it sit in the shop everyday.
  15. cet

    cet PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,257

    It can be done and I could do it now but I have 2 kids at home. It's not like I could take off for a couple of months and travel. Having too much time off isn't good either. I have 9 trucks and a skid. 6 trucks and the skid are winter only. I have 2 guys cutting 4 days a week. No headache sites. I took a small reno job I started yesterday. I will contract out most of it but do enough of the work to make it worth while. It is nice to have a couple of full time guys you can really count on. I NEVER go away in the winter but it is nice to go for a couple of weeks in the summer and know everything will be OK.
  16. JD Dave

    JD Dave PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,194

    IMO snow only means you only do snow. If you have another source of income then you arn't snow only.
  17. Montosi82

    Montosi82 Member
    Messages: 62


    I find myself in a similar situation as you. I have a full time job that pays a good salary and I do landscaping and plowing as a side business. I find that I make about just over 50% of my business from plowing and a bit under 50% with landscaping. I feel like i work all the time all spring summer and fall to make the same money that i do in the winter. The margins don't seem to be there but i'm worried about loosing some plowing customers to other companies. I will say i'm 90% residential so from some of your other posts i think your more into commercial plowing. Believe me my goal is to get out of landscaping and only do snow. (i will obviously keep the full time job) I doubt this helped but there are def. others out there thinking about the same things as you are. nice to see a fellow mass guy doing well. good luck
  18. lilweeds

    lilweeds PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,178

    I can see where you're coming from, the landscaping/lawn thing sucks anymore, and there is so much more cash in snow. Even here in SE PA I have thought about it a lot this year.
  19. Mick76

    Mick76 2000 Club Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 2,157

    Alright I'll put my 2 cents in..... I'm 90% snow and I own another biz ( a coin operated laundromat) that lets me work on my snow biz year around (I'm at it right now but I Have the time to work on snow) . The laundry is VERY easy to run and literally takes maybe 3 hours a week of my time... the rest of the time I have to drum up new biz for winter. I don't know what type of accounts you have but the few that I have that want me to landscape (I own no landscape equipment) I simple sub out to a co I trust (he hates to do snow anyway) and have them sign a non compete with that company I'm having him work at... hell on one account I make $3K for PUSHING PAPERWORK....... he does all the landscape, fert, cleanups, ... I sit back in my air conditioned office and continue to work on snow while they're out sweating their butts off... I keep both sides of that account and have got it for another 3 years. Customer is happy, landscaper is happy, and I'm VERY happy.
    When you consider yourself "snow only" your still going to be working during the summer. Your just going to focus your sights and have the time to find the quality sites for a profitible snow season. This is how you get bigger and hopefully make more $.
    You might want to consider the type of accounts your servicing now. If you want to keep your resis just do what I did (make sure you have the guy sign a non compete clause) and you focus all your efforts on snow. You might loose some but who cares. Your efforts should be towards snow were the really $ is. Commercial as Im sure you know is kind of a pain to find the guy or company in charge and may take awhile to find the person to find out if they're accepting quotes.

    My company isn't huge. I keep about 12 guys going in the winter. I own what you see at the bottom of my signature and I'm adding another truck and possibly another skid this year (I refuse to lease, IMO is just money wasted). Yes they will sit in the summer but who cares..... as long as you price your accounts correctly then they can sit.
    I've been doing snow for the past 15 years and have grown every year. This year is no exception. Why? Because I have the time to FOCUS ON SNOW.
    PM me if you'd like to know anything else....
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2010
  20. Mick76

    Mick76 2000 Club Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 2,157

    I never used to take a vaca in the winter either but I did this year. I've got some one that I can really trust and gave him my phone. Everything went fine and It was SUCH A RELEIF to take a vaca in the middle of snow season.... I might do it again next year:D
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2010