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I'm intimidated and need advice

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by Gonzoduke0, Sep 12, 2009.

  1. Gonzoduke0

    Gonzoduke0 Junior Member
    Messages: 7

    Ok, first things first: Hello everyone my name's Phil and I'm new (clearly). I do apologize in advance as this post is probably going to be quite lengthy, but I have a lot I want to get off my chest. I would like to say that this is a great forum with a TON of information. So much so, that I need to slow down on the reading posts, searching for answers, and just ask some questions. By some, I mean a lot.

    So I'll start with a quick bio. I'm 28 and live in Massachusetts. I work in construction as a laborer and have for 3 years. It was only going to be a temporary thing at first, but I'm sure some of you know how that can go. I'm getting tired of being the low man on the totem pole. I work extremely hard and intelligently, but it's a small family business so the possibilities for advancement are very small. I might be able to work my way up the ladder to be lead laborer...but other than that, I'm still the #1 gopher and it's just getting old.

    My plan is to start a landscaping business (lawn maintenance to start) in the spring. I want to incorporate Snow Plowing into my company so I'm not bored/broke in the winter. Ideally I'd love to start this coming winter, but I'm not sure that I'm ready, financially, mentally, experience...etc. I have many apprehensions about diving into the small business world. I'm not being overly stupid (I hope). I've been doing my research, getting books from the library on running your own business and marketing.

    I own a 2001 Chevy Silverado Ext. Cab Short Bed 4x4. From what I've noticed the 7.5 plow seems to be the pick of the litter for this size truck for residential. I hope to purchase one soon.

    I guess my question is more philosophical. How did you first get over the jitters of going out on your own? I'm nervous that I'll be a failure and let my family down. We rent an apartment and we're so sick of it, but we're stuck in that rut of not making enough money to be able to save for a house. Obviously I'm not going to up and quit my full-time job tomorrow, but if I could I would.

    I'm an intelligent and eager guy that just wants to make his own way in the world. I love working hard at things I love to do. For me, that's Winter Management and Lawn Maintenance, but I'm definitely scared about being my own boss...

    Anyway...sorry about the rant/ramble...I've beeing reading so many posts that my eyes are seeing double...oh wait, maybe that's the beer.

    I'll figure out what my questions are and post them when I'm more capable of expressing myself less long-windedly.

    Nice to be here!

  2. Mick

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

    Just went and did it. Most started that way. Most get jitters at the start of every winter, but settle down after the first trip out. It's normal, so just go do it. Take it easy starting out. Think about your next move. Everyone gets stuck every so often, so have a plan on how to deal with it.

    7.5' plow is right for that truck.
  3. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    Go easy. Just hope your first snow is easy and early to give you time to figure it out. By the 3-4 snow you'll be plowing like you'd been doing it for years.
  4. hydro_37

    hydro_37 PlowSite Veteran
    from iowa
    Messages: 3,790

    Just about everyone starts like you want to. Put an ad in the local paper and try to pick up a few accounts thie year and if you do a good job next yar will be even easier.
    Talk to neighbors for a few easier accounts.
  5. 2COR517

    2COR517 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,115

    If you are real nervous, you might consider doing some sub work for a larger contractor. This will give you a chance to get a feel for plowing, and the business. That's how I started, and I believe many others here did the same.

    Either way you'll be fine. The fact that you're nervous is good. I would rather see that then some blowhard who thinks he can do it all, yet has never put a plow on or pushed a flake.

    Attitude is most important, and you've got that covered. Do you have any friends in the business? Maybe they can help you with what the local pricing structure is.

    Best of luck to you.
  6. MeeksCo

    MeeksCo Senior Member
    Messages: 214

    I believe we were all in your position at one point.
    When it comes to winter managment, you'll enjoy it.
    The downfall? It can be very expensive.
    Like most guys you will see on this site, they push a lot of snow, spread a lot of salt, and make a lot of money doing it.
    You wont! So don't go out and purchase a two thousand dollar plow tomorrow. (Though, purchasing snow plowing equipment farther before winter will save you money. Prices go up on that stuff when the flakes start to fall).
    Look on Craigslist. Find a used Western 7'6" plow. Easier to install, easier all the way around in my opinion.
    You'll find a nice used Meyers or Western on Craigslist.

    I currently own a 7'6" Western old fashioned cable operated plow. I love it. I feel as If i have more control in what the plow will do. It was cheaper to purchase and get my foot in the door. I still have it and don't plan on upgrading until this one falls apart or I somehow come across tree that grows dollar bills.
    Don't expect to purchase a salt spreader and buy a bunch of salt.
    Just plow drives!
    Door to door. Flyers. Handouts. Vinyl's on your vehicle. Cheap easy business cards. (VistaPrint.com...only have to pay about $10 for shipping on 100+ cards).

    Charge anywhere from $25-40 for a regular drive. $40 and up for longer/more difficult drives. Don't lowball yourself (for many reasons).
    Don't make guarantees your first year. Make 'agreements' verbally or on paper. Act confident.
    Make sure you get your auto insurance changed to a commercial liability policy that covers snow plowing and property damage. VERY IMPORTANT!

    You'll learn to backdrag, push heavy snow, where to put snow, etc. as you begin to plow. Also search on Plowsite. There are a ton of threads that discuss this.

    If you ever need help with contract/agreement/per visit samples/marketing signs...let me know. Or, you can visit this thread that I just got done posting a few in:

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2009
  7. basher

    basher PlowSite Fanatic
    from 19707
    Messages: 8,993

    Welcome to plowsite:waving:

    What is your truck? 1500 or 2500?

    does it have plowprep?

    Do you have a buddy with a plow?
  8. Gonzoduke0

    Gonzoduke0 Junior Member
    Messages: 7

    Awesome encouragement guys, thanks a lot. I definitely feel a little more confident knowing that I'm not the only person who felt nervous in the beginning. My truck is a 1500. I know I will need to eventually upgrade to a 3/4 or 1 ton, but from what I've read in other posts, my 1/2 ton should work fine as a starter.

    As far as plow prep, what do you mean? Yeah, I know a couple of people in the construction business who also plow during the winter so I have some backups if I need them.

    One question I have has to do with subbing. How would I go about doing that? Just call a few places that advertise plowing and ask "Do you need someone on your sub list?" I know that one seems obvious but I don't want to step on toes or anger anyone.

    I've done a little bit of plowing myself, just around the shop and a couple of our homeowners backyards (so the taladine/moffett can get the stock in) and like I said, I have a pretty level head so I'm hoping that my learning curve is high this winter.

    I will definitely be getting commercial liability insurance as soon as I get my dba and tax ID in order (hopefully this week) for my overall company.

    I've already got my business cards designed and I'll price advertising in the paper. Luckily I live close to a few heavily populated cities and some nicer suburbs.

    How far away tends to be too far? I know that the idea is to cluster your accounts so the driving time is minimized, but I'm wondering how far the cutoff tends to be. :confused:

    Anyway, more questions as they come. You've all been great and I thank you for your advice and support. I'm one of the people that will listen to your time-tested knowledge so please impart as much as you can. And yes, I will keep reading past posts.

    I've gotta take a break for a little while cuz I can't see straight yet. (ripped it up last night with some friends I haven't seen in years) :drinkup:

    Thanks for all the help.

  9. Mick

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

  10. Nascar24

    Nascar24 Senior Member
    Messages: 645


    Welcome to the forum!

    Starting a new business always brings wedding day jitters, I started my last business on Black Monday which was a day the Stock Market did a Nose Dive back in 1988! The stock market took the hit, my business grew from three employees to 10 within two years and bought a and build a new 1/2 Million dollar facility, + $200K in New equipment all at 27 years old!,Some 12 years later I sold my majority interest , made a few bucks butkept the real estate. Two years ago I burn't the mortgage, now making nice income from the rent. It's all about taking a risk if you are hardworking level headed and determined the snow plowing business should be a piece of cake!

    So if your ready to make your first big investment in your new venture take a look at this:

    This is a complete package for an 01 Chevy 1500, totally redone, $2750 installation is availbale . I'm 25 miles south of you, Give me a call if your interested

    508 753 6617
  11. Kramer

    Kramer Senior Member
    Messages: 386

    Hi Phil...welcome to the site.

    One word of advice--before you go hog wild with plowing, do yourself a favor and do a quick spreadsheet of income vs expenses. In short, most people dont realize how much it takes to break even. Remember that every winter is different and nobody can count on xxx number of storms/year.

    That being said, if you buy a plow, get liability insurance, upgrade your registration to commercial... and so on, it adds up quick. You might end up plowing 15-20 drives all yr for free.

    I am not trying to scare you off or discourage you from plowing--- I just hate to see people buying equipment to figure out that they make $2 profit at the end of the year--especially if they have a little one at home to feed.

    If you're going forward, please figure about 7 plowable storms in your area for a year. You will likelly get more than that, but its good to be conservative in your estimates.

    So 20 drives x $35 avg for 7 events/yr = $4900 gross.

    Plow--- ~ $4000
    Liability-- ~ $800
    Gas during plowing ~ $300
    Commercial truck insurance $1000
    Commercial registration --(new Ma requirementrs in Oct 09)-- $20 /1000gvw over 5000 gvw ~$120

    Advertising ~ $250
    Repairs to truck ?????
    Tires/shocks, plow mounting prep ???
    Property repair (mail boxes, lawns, curbs, garage doors) ???
    Snowblower for walks??? ~ $500
    Shovels, gloves, boots coffee, flashlight batteries, hat, ~ $200

    Anyway, plug in what you need and do a quick sanity check. It won't stop you from plowing but it will make you know how many customers you need to break even... its important.
  12. MeeksCo

    MeeksCo Senior Member
    Messages: 214

    Wow Kramer, now that you put it that way...I think I am losing money at the end of the year!!
    I'm selling everything tomorrow!
  13. 2COR517

    2COR517 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,115

    Many of those expenses posted by Kramer can be "absorbed" in other parts of his work. Truck registration, insurance, tires, repairs, etc. And the plow should be at least a five year piece of equipment, so that is written off over several years. And I don't think it's unreasonable to figure at least ten events in Leominster. Sure, you might get only seven, but you might get twenty.

    Yes, do the numbers. Yes, be conservative in your estimates. Yes, there is money to be made. Yes, there is fun to be had. Best of luck to you.
  14. juspayme

    juspayme Senior Member
    Messages: 116

    best advice. work hard save 20 grand. your jiters will then be gone. dont ever i mean ever spend money untill you have that amount. dont buy things when your making good money. dont let women run or convince you to buy stuff and dont buy stuff you dont need untill you have that amount save,

    most guys get into business and when that money comes in fast in the spring, they think they are milionaires. trust me i been doing this for alot of years. i watch them finance 40000 trucks and 10000 dollar mowers and when it doesnt snow or rain there screwed,

    when i quit my job at 25 i was scared. i didnt have alot of money saved. i worked hard. made sure i had a money cusion, im good today.

    never buy i mean never buy an item over 500 dollars without sleeping on it.
  15. MeeksCo

    MeeksCo Senior Member
    Messages: 214

  16. big acres

    big acres Senior Member
    Messages: 653

    cwpm... this is just a thought. one thing I and others always b*tch about is the lack of reliable sidewalk/shovel labor. Yes, the work ain't fun, but I see a nich market for someone and other than the work kind of sucking, I wonder why there out more people starting out this way.

    Most companies here are billing out $35-50 per hour for a shoveler... who is paid $20 an hour tops. The overhead? a shovel, plus wage, and worker's comp unless your using rent-a-bums. Ok, here me out because I know that you personally do not want to operate a shovel.

    You already mentioned you are getting into lawn care. Let's say you invest in a good, gently used out-front mower with quick-attach options for a blower/blade/brush... Maybe even an enclosed cab. We just bought one for $4k. You hire a few laborers, buy a trailer and snowblower or two, and start calling bigger snow contractors. Go after commercial. I know that if we had a rock-solid and reliable sidewalk sub, we would probably retain little margin as we could take on more plowing if the sidewalk issue was handled.

    This would allow you to kill two birds with a modest investment. I would guess that your truck is your daily driver, and it would only be towing a trailer. You'd be running your machine, making money off your laborers (and dealing with their headaches), and studying how the plowing is done and how long things take.

    again, just a thought.
  17. Gonzoduke0

    Gonzoduke0 Junior Member
    Messages: 7

    Couple words: You Guys Rock!

    Thanks again for all the advice.

    I have no plans of spending all the money I'm gonna be working hard to earn. Saving every penny I can. And I actually don't have to worry about my woman. She's not a materialistic type and she is probably my biggest source of support. Keeps reassuring me that we'll make it work even if things get tough.

    What do you mean by a 5 year piece of equipment? Just that I have to have and use it for 5 years? Is that some sort of standard that the IRS upholds in order to write it off as a business expense?

    I'll be crunching some serious numbers over the next couple of months, not mention doing a lot of legwork, but you're all really giving me even more confidence that I can do this.

    Thanks a lot.

  18. Mick

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

    It helps having a wife who is supportive. Mine has always said she'd support me whatever I decided to do when I was contemplating different careers/expenditures, etc.
  19. 2COR517

    2COR517 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,115

    Your plow should last you at least five years. So from a profit&loss perspective, you don't have to take the plow money all out of your first year revenue. From a cash flow perspective, you need to pay for the plow all at once, or borrow the money. From an IRS perspective, you can depreciate the asset a a couple different ways. Over several years, five I think; or write it all off in one year; or some combination of the two. It makes the most sense to depreciate the same way you pay for it. But it's tempting to take the charge the first year and reduce your tax liability. You probably won't figure that out till tax time next spring.
  20. Kramer

    Kramer Senior Member
    Messages: 386

    Actually, I know multiple people that thought they'd buy a plow and be rich by spring.... check craigsist and you might find their stuff.

    You can juggle the numbers any way you want-- it wasn't my intention to give details of how to operate his business. I was just pointing out that he might spend a lot of money and have a cash flow issue in the spring---in which case he will be looking for lawn maint equip and have little to support that effort. It appears that he has a truck so far--thats great but there's a lot more to it, which is what I was hoping to put forward.

    Yes a lot can be depreciated and yes if he's also planning on doing landscaping he can spread some out. But, right now he's NOT doing landscaping and that has its own equipment purchases to get around.

    I hope you are making money at the end of the year-- I hope we all are. But doing some quick numbers before getting into any business just makes sense. If he's got extra money investing in a sander might be a good choice to up the revenue considering we always have ice storms.

    Just remember that sure, you might be able to count on 10 storms but considering the rate of un-employment this year prices are likely to go down--- anybody with a snow blower will be your competition this year. Maybe he cant get 40 accounts at the $20 /house going rate. Thats why its important to juggle some numbers.

    Take a poll and see how many customers the new guys recently got in their first year. Now downgrade that a little because Mikey will be shoveling this yr because Daddy lost his job.