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Need some input!

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by born2farm, Dec 14, 2010.

  1. born2farm

    born2farm 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,310

    Ok, I know this is a year away and this is a long post but please bare with me! I am looking for some ideas on how to run/expand my business next year. Here is my current situation. I am 18 years old, have 1 truck (listed in sig) and currently plow 28 residentials and 4 small commercial. I could have added a second truck this year as the work was there to get, I just did to have time to purchase and set up another truck the way I wanted.

    Now here is where the problem comes in. Next year I will be attending college. I am going to a college 45 minutes away from my home. I will be away during the week and will be coming home every weekend. I have December off so we are looking at January and February as the problem months. My question is how do I continue/expand my current business while in college. I have a very good reputation with my clients as well as other local contractors and cannot afford to just walk away from the business.

    Here is how I am looking at it. I will bid commercial work in early to late sumer and have all of my contracts in by November 1st. It would be to much hassle to take on new contracts after this date. Since I would be around during December I would be there to make the first couple runs on each property ensuring that everything goes well with the emoployees. I would keep all customer contact through me and hoping with a very detailed snow response plan this would work. I could be home in 2 hrs (figuring road conditions) in an emergency.

    Obviously the biggest problem will be finding a realiable employee to work for me. The obvious answer is to wait untill after college to do this. Granted I do not like the idea of leaving the work in someone elses hands, but I am even more worried about keeping my company name good and there are just so many new companies popping up. That worries me.

    Another think I need to figure out is the money side of it. If I hire someone I will need to add another truck (unless I sub-contract) and buy a salt spreader. This brings up the question if I can bring enough money in to cover my expenses since I will have a full time employee.

    I would like to get some honest opinions on this. I have been putting alot of thought and research into this and would like some feedback and not a bunch of smart a$$ answers please. Again I know this is a year away but planning starts now and maybe you guys can help some with your snow business fresh in mind. I know I probably left some stuff out but as I look at 7 pages of notes I think this covers the basics. If you need more info just ask. Feel free to PM me to discuss this further.

    Thank you
  2. cat272c

    cat272c Junior Member
    Messages: 15

    if u realy belive u got a good thing just go to school in summer and work winters that would save u money and employes and help pay for school so u dont have huge loans to pay back and the money u save will buy u that truck or loader sander ie. i did a similar thing worked out great. school takes time and time is money.. hope i helped
  3. 01lariat

    01lariat Member
    Messages: 96

    I go to school now. It is 20-25min away. Currently I'm going 5 days a week taking 18 credits. Next semester thank God, I'm only there 3 days a week with 12credits. Doing a business isn't impossible. Your drive time is more than mine, but not that much more. I find plenty of time to do school work still. My teachers are cool. They know I'm burning my candle on both ends. If I'm not there I have a good reason, I try and call when I can, and they don't mind receiving my homework via email. As long as my grades stay up everyone is happy. College/tech school is way more flexible than high school ever was. There is a lot of freedom furthering your education post high school. I'd stay owner/operator as long as you can and go for it. It can be done.
  4. deereequipment

    deereequipment Member
    Messages: 90

    With snow removal, I ALWAYS plan for the worst. That way, I am prepared.
    Not to be negative, but think about the negatives, so you will be COMPLETELY covered.

    snow removal has ALOT of liability.
    finding reliable employees is very difficult.
    Finding someone you can trust, while you are 2 hrs away, is risky.

    If you can't be right there to oversee it, you may want to take your truck with you, and do snow removal around your college.
    there are too many uncontrollable factors, that could really cost you.
    (employee oversleeps, employee gets sick, employee quits, plow truck gets into accident, plow truck breaks down in middle of night).

    Good luck.
  5. born2farm

    born2farm 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,310

    I am kind of looking into this. The main problem is I am going to a two year school with limited course offerings. So this could pro-long me into going four years which isnt going to happen. Thanks for your reply though.

    Glad to here someone is able to do it. Im guessing you stay at home and not on campus? I am forced as a freshman to stay on campus. Granted I hope to cut back to like three day weeks in the winter so I could be home say Friday Saturday Sunday Monday. Just something else to get me home a bulk of the week.

    This is a very good reply and I have ran all of these things through my thoughts. One possibility is that I might be hiring my own father as my employee. He has 25 +years of plow experience and is now a full time farmer. This would help on the trust side of things. Im hoping to be in constant contact with my employee so I will know if he is up at 2 when he should be or do I need to call in a backup. I also have several subs I could count on to cover my but. At least until I can make the drive home. Thanks for pointing out some of the things that are less thought about.
  6. hydro_37

    hydro_37 PlowSite Veteran
    from iowa
    Messages: 3,790

    may be tough to run a business from that distance
  7. I will second what hydro 37 said about being tough to run a business from that far. Not sure of your situation but with my company I personally am the one doing all the bids etc or anything business related, therefore to customers I am the face of my business as far them having a question/issue etc. I also tell my employees that should they be confronted by an irate customer,neighbor etc, or just a customer with a question or someone asking us to do their lot etc they are to refer it immediately to me and in most cases other than a simple question I will go out and do a face to face with the involved party. Also as far as an employee goes you will have to deal with the workers comp ins, probable increase in GI and commercial auto rates, as well as deal with payroll taxes, etc. May be better to go with a sub if u can find one that you trust enough. Just some more things to think about, not trying to discourage ya, just helping ya think of some things that you may have not. Also have you considered just doing the summer landscape stuff for your customers till you are out of school, then going in with the snow removal when you graduate.
  8. born2farm

    born2farm 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,310

    I am the face of my company as well and want to keep it that way. Obviously confrontations during a storm could not be handled by me. I am looking more into subbing it out. One problem with that is my one guy who I could really trust subbing does not want to put a salt spreader on his truck. I offerd to buy the spreader since his truck is same year and make as mine and then just wire both trucks up for it but he didnt like that idea either, so I dont know what im going to do yet. I am snow only and farm in the spring summer and fall so there is no landscape side to my businessThumbs Up
  9. 01lariat

    01lariat Member
    Messages: 96

    Either dad to cover, or drop the university, and apply to a technical college. Hopefully one might offer something to you and be closer. Seems to me that could be the two best options.
  10. born2farm

    born2farm 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,310

    Ya. I am trying to talk dad into helping out. This is the nly school in the state that offers my degree so im kinda stuck there.
  11. plowguy43

    plowguy43 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,281

    Something to consider is how badly this will hurt your business rather than keeping your customers while in school. Being 2hrs away in good weather translates to 3-4hrs in bad conditions. Then you have to consider- is possibly losing my life driving home in the middle of a snow storm for $$$ really worth it?
    I lived 2 1/2 hrs from home when I went to school and drove home during a few storms and it took forever-waaay longer than I expected.
    As for hurting your business, like Deere said, if people don't show up, equipment fails, etc and your response is "I'm sorry I'll be there in 2 hours or so to fix this" you'll lose a lot of customers and tarnish your/your business name.

    I'd get the accounts myself and sub them out but let your customers know they will be cleared by someone else until your home full time and can service their needs like they expect. They probably know your going to school anyways and they'd respect you more for keeping them in the know. Act as a broker and keep a percentage from the work the sub is doing.
  12. born2farm

    born2farm 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,310

    You bring up some pretty good points. The more I think about it the more I am straying away from staying in the business next year. I do not like the idea of sub contracting it, just because its still my name and I just lose that much controll. Maybe I should just notify my customers at the end of this season and let them know I will cannot continue snow services for the next two years. As much as I hate to do this maybe this really is the best decision. I mean how much can the market really change in two years that the work wont be there when I get back. Its gonna kill me to not be building my business over the next two years. Gonna have to find something snow related to do to help the business.
  13. plowguy43

    plowguy43 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,281

    You can always plow near your college. Its how I got started in the business.
  14. born2farm

    born2farm 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,310

    I suppose I could always sub around college if I can find someone to sub for. Dont want to pick up any of my own accounts if I am only going to be in that area for 2 years.

    STIHL GUY Senior Member
    from CT
    Messages: 663

    my schools like 30 minutes away but i commute everyday...its not recommended but if it comes down to it, in college nobody cares if you come to class or not...if its a big storm school will probably be cancelled anyways and if not it wont be a big deal to miss one or 2 classes as long as you keep up with the work ad homework on your own
  16. born2farm

    born2farm 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,310

    I have to live on campush freshman year though. We are talking an hour and fiteen minute drive with good roads. Could be three hours with bad roads. So this is not really feaseable to come home everytime there is talk of snow.
  17. I think you would be best served by telling your customers that you will be away at college for the next two seasons. They should respect that and as you said there will still be work there when you finish school. Also I would agree that you should find some sub work near school. Not only will you gain wheel time and experience plowing, you will also be able to put money aside to use towards your business. best of luck with whatever you decide.
  18. Elwer Lawn Care

    Elwer Lawn Care PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,495

    Brock, i keep forgetting to ask you.. Does your college offer any classes online or all of it online? My buddy drives an hour each way to college here every day, so after the first year maybe you could do that in order to keep your business along with being able to skip a day or so when you need to plow. I am 15 minutes away from my college, I attend everyday but in the winter if it snow, I stay home and plow. Come spring I will be taking just online classes as spring is my busiest time. Just a thought as idk how your school is?
  19. swtiih

    swtiih PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,179


    Let me first commend you for a nice business that you have built for yourself. Sounds like you ar a go getter and hard worker good for you. Those 2 traits are hard to find, let alone trust and dependability.
    How many event do you average per season? I think the best possible solution would be your dad otherwise a brother, cousin or friend as long as they will be dedicated and reliable. I would do your best to retain the customer base that you have..
    Whom ever you get to do the work I would make sure that your expectations are clearly communicated to them. Have them sign a non compete contract( shouldn't be necessary with your dad) so they don't take your customers away.
  20. brianbrich1

    brianbrich1 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,102

    Go to school in the summer manage your own snow in winter......Semper Fi.....