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Is this a bad idea? (subcontracting)

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by crazymike, Oct 25, 2004.

  1. crazymike

    crazymike Senior Member
    from Toronto
    Messages: 639

    Currently my brother runs a lawn business. Some of the customers expressed interest in plowing/snow removal but he's in school and can't fully commit. So I'm going to do this for him and he can cover me if need be.

    My winter job is flexible. At most I would need to take 20 minutes at some point between 6am and 10am to turn out horses, then another 20 minutes or so to feed them and bring them in between 5pm and 8pm. So as you can see, I'm pretty much available 22.6/7.

    Although I could pick up a few residential accounts off of the lawn customers I was thinking I might be better off subcontracting for a few reasons.

    1) There is no responsibility. I don't have to chase down new customers and I don't have to chase down payments.

    2) If worst comes to worst and my equipment fails, I don't have to go and hand shovel/snowblow driveways.

    3) I'm limited in experience. I think this will be a good way to learn the business and gain experience. I don't mean this in the way "if I screw up it won't be my customer" but more so, if I have a question, I can ask my boss. Or if I don't feel comfortable in a situation I can tell my boss. (is, plowing down an icy hill with a 90 degree turn and river at the bottom :p

    4) I also have a snowblower I can bring with me in the back of the truck. And I'm also willing to get out and shovel walkways, etc... on my route. Is this of any benefit as a sub contractor?

    However, I have a few concerns about sub contracting.

    1) I'm not sure how easy I can find work or what to expect pay wise. I'm located in the Eastern GTA and willing to travel. (pickering/ajax/oshawa/etc...)

    2) I'm unsure if my equipment will scare off future employers. I will use a late 80s F250 Diesel w/ an 8' plow. And even though I know it's bulletproof and dependable, future employers might not believe this. I plan to paint the vehicle so it looks reputable, but some people are picky.

    3) I've never worked on a plow before. I'm certain I can fix anything on a truck, and I do understand hydraulics, but I've never had to fix a plow. are they that difficult?

    Is subcontracting the best option? Do you think I will find people to sub for? What's the best way to find them? cold calls? drive around to people with plows in their driveways? I take any work I get very seriously. I have a perfect driving record and G license and willing to insure myself. I can also provide numerous references if need be. I'm not the type of person that doesn't show up for work, ever. And quite used to working 14+ hour days, 7 days a week.

    Thanks, Mike

    PS, sorry for the long post :)

    CARDOCTOR PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,312

    ive been sub contracting for 3yrs
    alot less ag. a permanent route i get paid in 30 days
    started out subing as a way to add some dollars
    to the few buildings that i plow myself
    my original truck was a 79 f-350 which is now the back up truck

  3. crazymike

    crazymike Senior Member
    from Toronto
    Messages: 639

    thanks, any tips to the best way to find people to sub for?
  4. cet

    cet PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,257

    Mike I am north of Toronto and to far for you to travel. There are always people looking for subs and in the beginning it is a good way to go. Learning to do driveways is pretty easy. A few tricks but you will these as you go. Try to take easy straight forward ones with places to put the snow, especially by the road. Try not to get them on busy streets and try to get them real close together. A driveway worth double or triple your going rate is only good if your not driving 15 minutes to get to it. Advertise in the local paper as it is cheap and stays only in your area. If you want phone some people to see if they need help or also look in the local paper for people looking for work. I have approx. 10 subs every year and when I get one that has nevered plowed I bring him with me and we will do the same place together. Sometimes it is hard because I need to have the bigger places to do so there is room for 2 trucks. You will catch on quick or not at all, that is what I have found. Start off a few bucks less in the beginning but ask for a raise as soon as you see yourself improving. Good luck.
  5. Heron Cove PM

    Heron Cove PM Senior Member
    Messages: 202

    You still have responsibilities as far as performing work, showing up, etc...; however, depending on who you work for, hopefully you won't have to chase down payments. Yes, chasing new customers you won't have to do.

    This is true, but you may be in a position where you're letting down the person you are working for. Are they totally dependent on your rig? Remember, ultimately any breakdown associated expenses come out of your pocket.

    It is a good way to gain experience. Yes, you can limit yourself with things that you are not comfortable with, i.e. conditions, job sites, etc... Again, how dependent is the contractor on you? Any good contractor, however, hopefully will be willing to work with you until you gain more experience. As far as gaining experience from the business aspect itself? I don't know too many contractors willing to give up too many in depth trade secrets, pricing, etc... about their contracts in fear that they may lose the job to you.

    I did this for my contractor for many years. After done plowing, we all did the sidewalks and obviously, I got paid a lower scale for sidewalks than I did for plowing.

    As said above, place a small ad in the local paper to get work. Stop guys that you see on the street and get your name out there. Even ask if they subcontract and what the going rate of pay is.

    This is true, but so can some new trucks. All the electronics on the new trucks scare us to death. We used to worry that we would lose a truck because of an alternator or a battery or plow problem. Now we're scared we're going to lose it because of a computer failure. Let them take a look at your truck inside and out. If you can afford to, or when you can, buy some extra parts and keep them with you. Belts, an alternator, anything out of the ordinary that goes wrong on a regular basis (keep reading this site) so that if you do go down, you're only down for a short time.

    They are not too considerably hard to work on. A little common sense will get you a long way. Again, you have tapped into a great resource and when you can, do as I stated in the last quote. Get spare parts and keep them with you. Heck, we even carry spare pumps now. Swamp them out and fix them later!

    First and foremost, and it may even take you a couple of trys, is to find someone good to work for! Building a good relationship is the key in any business. It may be hard or difficult to find the right one, but it is out there. Be dependable, go the extra mile, do all the crap work that's handed to you first, prove your worth, and work your way up the ladder. I started driving a guy's truck (oh boy) years ago. I worked my way up to where I ran his business for him. He even helped me purchase my equipment and I am his main sub-contractor. It may be hard to believe, but I am the first called and the last sent home! He cuts his own trucks off before he cuts me off! I run his biggest job site! I am responsible for all avenues of that site. The property managers come to me as if I was the head contractor. I also have clearances to government contracts and handle them for him. He asks me on a regular basis for my opinion from equipment purchases, to how to run the business. Repoir is everything!! Trust is everything!! You will get there in time. You will learn a lot. Keep researching. Keep working at it. I personally think sub-contracting is the way to go. I have a hell of a lot less headaches than my boss does or I did when I was running the company. When all is said and done, if I want to, I CAN go HOME!

    You are definitely on the right track with your thinking. The IMPORTANT thing to keep in mind is how dependent is that contractor going to be on you and that vehicle? Work out some kind of agreement(preferably in writing) to cover both you and him. Set all the parameters including pay, insurance, who covers what, etc...

    Good Luck!

    Last edited: Oct 25, 2004
  6. crazymike

    crazymike Senior Member
    from Toronto
    Messages: 639

    Thanks, I will give those things a try.
  7. crazymike

    crazymike Senior Member
    from Toronto
    Messages: 639

    Thanks for the reply.

    The responsibility of showing up for work is expected :p Don't get me wrong, it's not responsibility I'm trying to avoid, it's head aches. I've ran a computer business for the last 4 years and I'm quite simply sick of dealing with the business end. If I sub contract I can focus more on having fun in the snow without worrying about keeping a business afloat.

    Ofcourse I don't plan on my equipment failing, and I hope I never have to miss anything because of this, but you never know. I'm chosing an older diesel for 2 reasons.

    Primarily for cost. But also the fact that parts are readily available and easily interchangable. An alternator on an 89 F250 is a 1 hour job in 4' of snow. Including the time it takes to go to the pick and pull or find it in my mess of a garage :p

    I don't want to see what needs to be removed to do something simple on a new truck, especially without voiding your warrenty...

    Again, thanks for the replies people.
  8. plowman350

    plowman350 Senior Member
    Messages: 125

    subbing without insurance?

    You may want to look to be a handsomely paid hourly employee instead. The IRS has several criteria you must meet to be a subcontractor. The fact that you have less experience may scare some businesses off. Most contractors require their subs to carry liability ins and commrecial auto insurance. As an employee of that company, you don't have to worry about that. You could even work for a "flat rate" as an employee.

    Just remember that as a subcontractor, YOU are responsible for any damages, and must have your own insurnace should you run into a problem. As an employee, you might make a bit less, but it shifts the burden to the owner of the company. Most owners will have no problem paying you a more than generous pay if you're working for them and using your own truck. And, you'll probably be working side-by-side with them. This means that you'll have help along the way. You used the word "Boss" in your thread. As a subcontractor you technically don't have a boss. All an employer can do is tell you what expectations are, and you may complete the task in any way you choose. There is a HUGE difference in a sub vs employee. Allin's book Snow and Ice Management has a whole chapter on it. Go to www.snowbusiness.com and you'll find links to his book. check it out and know what your responsibilities are as a sub. There's more to it than most people think!
  9. crazymike

    crazymike Senior Member
    from Toronto
    Messages: 639

    Thanks, I was looking into those books and the SIMA videos. Currently there is no way I can afford the SIMA video. Maybe closer to winter time I can come up with that kind of money.

    I didn't realize it was possible to work as in employee with your own truck, but I definitaly wouldn't shy away from this. It's not really the subcontractor title I'm looking for, just the ability to plow and make some money without worrying about running a business. I will definitately look into those books though.
  10. Heron Cove PM

    Heron Cove PM Senior Member
    Messages: 202

    Wow, I just learned something from what you have said (plowman350). This is for the most part the way I am set up. Most of what you said makes me think I am an employee. However not to a Tee. I DON'T pay for any thing I may damage. I do have to carry my own insurance, I'm paid by the hour, but I am my own boss (for the most part) as well. I am set up mostly as a sub, but I fallow a lot of the employee stuff you talked about. I'm so confused. Maybe I just got the best of both worlds.
  11. crazymike

    crazymike Senior Member
    from Toronto
    Messages: 639

    Thanks for the replys everyone.

    I definitaley decided this is what I'm going to do this winter.

    I'm debating on equipment to use. I have an old pickup I can put a plow on which I know is dependable. However, the body is in rough shape.

    I was looking in the trader and I found another 89 F-250 7.3L Diesel with 230kms. He says he just put on a new bed and has a cap that needs some more body work. He says the engine runs perfect and sounds really nice.

    He's asking $3900 Canadian and comes with an 8' fish plow (he thinks 8', he says it's wider than the truck) and works good with no leaks.

    Here is a picture - http://img99.exs.cx/my.php?loc=img99&image=161676jpg1.jpg

    Does this sound like a good truck? Is it even worth going to look at (1 hour drive each way). Or should I keep looking.

    Will plow trucks he easier or harder to find as the season approaches...