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Keeping Shovelers Over the Winter

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by Pristine PM ltd, Mar 20, 2007.

  1. Pristine PM ltd

    Pristine PM ltd PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,891

    Hi guys,

    I figured I would ask this before the season is over.

    We will most likely need between 6-10 sidewalk, steps, and front walkways shovelers for next season. We need people that are relible and that we can call at 2 am and have no problem getting them out.

    This season we only really needed 6 people per storm. We had many problems getting people and having them as regulars. We were paying $15 an hour with a four hour minimum. We had some high school students, who seemed positive at first, but once they started work were slow and useless at times. We had a few good people that found regular jobs pretty soon, and were out of the picture. This winter we really only paid out about 40 hours per person, which isn't much to live on.

    How do you keep shovelers over the winter? Do you just have a huge call list? We thought 15 numbers would be enough, it wasn't.

    Have any of you paid monthly? Would $300 a month sound right? We really want relibility, but can't afford to go broke paying for shovelers. We had a light winter, so I am glad that we paid by the hour, but if it were a heavy winter, monthly would make sense...

    We would have decent jobs for them from April till November, 40-50 a week, $12-$14 an hour, so that might keep them around, but we pay legit, so they couldn't collect much EI over the winter.

    Anyway, any thoughts on this would be great,


  2. Italiano67

    Italiano67 Senior Member
    Messages: 645

    Good question. I also need a solution for the same problem. I also pay a similiar rate and am always fair with my help.

    JPMAKO Senior Member
    Messages: 660

    Fortunately for me there are a bunch of younger guys and high school students in my Fire Dept. that are always willing to make some $$$. Besides which I would rather pay them and help support my community than pay some stranger $300.00 a month to be on call.
    The guys on my landscape crew get other jobs over the winter so I probably could not rely on them.

  4. Flipper

    Flipper PlowSite.com Addict
    from CT
    Messages: 1,180

    My main summer guy always finds people for me during the storms. We pay them as sub contractors given that if they make over a certain amount they get a 1099. My main guy stays around all winter because he helps take care of maintenance, winter jobs etc. He is full time on the books.

    DAPLOWKING Junior Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 20

    When in doubt call the immigrants. They want and apprechiate the work.
  6. dodgeguy99

    dodgeguy99 Senior Member
    from mn
    Messages: 272

    call in the south of the border friends and high school students just make sure you are generous and they will always want to come in and make $$$
  7. Pristine PM ltd

    Pristine PM ltd PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,891

    Toronto doesn't really have the same type of situation with workers that you have in some states. Craigslist has worked for finding some people, but it isn't perfect.

    Any other thoughts on the price?

    What about per event?
  8. dylan

    dylan PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 83

    Interesting topic. This is something I've struggled with for years.
    We shovel between 200 and 400 walkways etc per storm here in the ottawa area.

    Average $100 per walkway for the season. Average 20 events. That's $5 per visit. My competition charges $35 - $50 per walk. I don't know how they do it. I feel way under priced at $100. Should be $200 - $300 for walk. Then you could afford a full time dedicated quality individual.
    I don't charge by the event. Too hard to collect small amount of money from large volumes of people.

    I would like to have full time people waiting around to go out at the drop of a hat but it just seems it is not possible. There is not enough money to jusify the expense.

    Here is my odd mix that gets the job done. ( i would not call it a perfect solution)

    One full time person is available 24 / 7. They are paid a salary (more than minimum wage) even if it does not snow. They use a company truck and ferry around up to 4 temporary shovellers that we pick up from a call list of students from the local college. The call list is around 25 people long. Usually we can find at least 3-4 bodies. Keep in mind, I am offering $20 per hour, four hour min. Problem is sometimes we have to wait till classes finish or if everyone is gone for Christmas break. This shoveller foreperson is responsible for quality and quantity. They go out the next day for missed items.

    My tractor drivers will also jump out and shovel the odd missed walk. Helps keep complaints down.

    I have a few guys that are sometimes available with their own car. They get about $30 per hour. Problem with this is sometimes they are not available or have better things to do.

    I have some guys that get $300 per month and are only responsible for 40 walks right around their home. IT works out to about $2 per walkway per event.

    I'm still searching for the perfect solution. It seems we need to charge a lot more money for shovelling to be able to afford someone to be ready to go out at the drop of a hat.

    I also get more complaints about shovelling than anything else. "not here soon enough, the guy missed my frt, side, back, deck, car, path to bird feeder, whatever and on and on.
    That's the problem with not using regular people. The quality is always different.

    I use maps with addresses on them instead of lists. People get lost too easily. On the signs beside the driveway I write a list of what is to be done on the property. That what I'm not worried about the guys loosing the list or getting it wet.

    Anyone else got any ideas?
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2007
  9. Flipper

    Flipper PlowSite.com Addict
    from CT
    Messages: 1,180

    I like the call list idea. Have more people then you need on a first come first serve basis.

    I do the same thing with my full timer. He is basically in charge of quantity and quality as well as transportation.

    We only shovel out condos and commercial during storms. Any residential that chooses shoveling agrees to contracted terms of shoveling within 24 after snow ends (given snowfall in inches, blizzard clause, ice blah blah blah).

    We get very few residential complaints. Commercials we try to implement blowers to help. Next year I am going to try a generator and two electric shovels on cord reels from the truck for doing decks, steps, etc.
  10. Pristine PM ltd

    Pristine PM ltd PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,891

    I just wish we didn't have to use one of our trucks. We only need people at three different sites, and they should all take about 3 hours each. They are townhouse units that are full service. So we should be able to have people just show up to the one location, but that means that the bus system has to be perfect as well...

    I don' t know about the $30 an hour pay, I don't think we could afford that, and I really wonder if that would make a huge difference in the quality of work. Some of the kids that we had were used to being paid $7 an hour, so $15 was gravy to them, but they still worked poorly.

    Anyway, thanks and any more thoughts on the monthly or per time rate?
  11. Silentroo

    Silentroo Senior Member
    Messages: 147

    Some of the crews we found work well.

    Roofers, Siders, Window guys, Framers, and guys that know how to work

    Crews we found that like to watch work and collect a pay check

    Temp agency's (They all say their guys work but....
    College kids, HS kids, the unemployed, guys who worked for XYZ company and never got paid so are changing this year.

    I Always have 50% more crews than I need. Each crew is expected to have 50% back up. So If I am expecting a 5 man crew I want names of 7-8 guys from the Subcontractor. We are Clear that we will give the best crews the work. 80% of our crews go to the same site every storm. We have some crews that have been doing a site for 10+ years. Having margin always cost us more until we get into a 2 inch Ice even or a 15-20 inch snow and we are the only company in town keeping up....

    We are very clear with guys what we expect and what the job is. We however ever are ALWAYS looking and Advertising through out the year and season. One of my best crew leaders quit this year 1/2 way through the season as his job changed and he was no longer available. His crew tried to run it but after two storms we replaced them...

    We pay above average. We pay per occurance so our crews make Good money. Standard in town is around 14-16 an hour. Our good guys make 25-30 an hour, but they move some snow FAST!

    So If you feel you need 15 guys know of 45-50 who are committed in July....

    As to monthly, I have a few contractors on a seasonal rate. They know day one what they get. As the monthly check roll in they get their. I also do a call out minimum of 6 hours. I only pay a seasonal rate of monthly pay on properties that are seasonal. I have paid Crew leaders a set amount if they have 6-7 guys for the trouble of keeping the guys together.... Mostly I find your best bet is to find people who know how to work. There are very few people who can out work me. However most of our sidewalk guys can.... Every Year more of them do.....
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2007
  12. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    I was doing a seach for "blizzard clause" and came across this post, thought it was kind of interesting and i have some insight.....

  13. iceyman

    iceyman 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,925

    when in a bind...... call some mexicano menwesport
  14. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    We have some of them already.......and they especially love the possibility of a bonus at the end of the season :drinkup:

    MIDTOWNPC PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,554

    if you pay them per event they will pick and choose when they want to go out. Remember most are not of the business type, they want no risk, they just want to get paid for work they do. If it snows sat night, forget it, especially if they got paid on thurs for last storm.

    I say "carrot at the end of the stick" Pay them the hourly wage, and stick a fat bonus at the end. You do the whole year, no problems, great work Big Bonus.
    I did this one year... I made out the cheque and said... here... at the end of the season I will SIGN it, this is how things can work. They get real excited.
    I once pinned a $100 on the wall for the first guy that sold 5 computers in a week. I sold
    25 computers in 4 days. All they were asking about was when I was going to do that again.

    Carrot has always worked for me. In the mean time, big storm goes thru without a hiccup and you make big on it dont forget to take those guys out for a good meal or two to let them know you appreciate it.

    I dont have anyone any more but when I did, I got friends, of the shovelers, cause they had to vouch for their friend that they wouldnt let us down. However I did get beat once when there was a wedding to go to.

    I always usually lose the shoveler cause of the girlfriend or the wife. "well she really does't like me working these crazy hours"

    MIDTOWNPC PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,554

    You could do a monthly but try and get some hours out of it? Like say $200 a month but you want to bank at least say 10 hours out of that. If not used it passes on to the next month?
  17. Pristine PM ltd

    Pristine PM ltd PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,891

    Wow, times have changed. We have everyone on monthly now. Hourly was to harsh last year. We were paying out way to much due to the crazy snow. Everyone is on monthly and they will do decently.
  18. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    George Costanza?
  19. JohnnyRoyale

    JohnnyRoyale 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,935

    In the past our shovelers have been subs, other smaller landscapers, paving companies, fencing companies, roofers etc. the owner would supply the truck and machine (atv or bobcat) for a fixed monthly rate-say $1500.00-$2000.00, and we'd pay the crews by the hour when worked.

    Other part time winter employees of ours would get paid $18-$20 and hour, plus a monthly attendance bonus of $500.00. No show=No bonus, with a no excuses policy. They would join one of our full timers, in our truck and go from site to site. This worked well also.

    You could consider trying Labour Ready or another temp agency.

    Reality is no one wants to do that kinda work-I dont blame then either.
  20. LoneCowboy

    LoneCowboy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,760

    Just a small guy here and we don't use any other labor in the summer (rarely)
    But, I've found that having smaller routes helps. Guys with real jobs are willing to get up and work 3am to 8am or so and then go to their regular job. But working 8 to 12 hours straight doesn't work for them.
    It doesn't always work of course (stupid weather, why can't it snow from 8pm to midnight?), but if you get a huge storm, no one is working at other things anyway, so they are available then.

    I always call the day/night before (when forecast predicts snow) and touch base with them, make sure they are around and have thier phone ready.

    I pay GOOD. I pay $20/hr and typical is about $15/hour here. I always try and buy them some coffee or something and make sure they stay warm. I don't know if it helps, but it should.

    I'm also a harda$$, miss one storm and you're gone, I get someone else. Part of why you are being paid so well is because you have to be available.

    There seem to be a lot of guys wanting to work to make some extra cash this year. Construction is very slow, lot of those guys can really work. As opposed to HS kids who are simply 99% spoiled brats and don't work at all. (not good for our future)