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New to the Site and the Business

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by MNPlow, Jan 2, 2002.

  1. MNPlow

    MNPlow Junior Member
    Messages: 3


    I am fairly new to the site (been reading the posts for a few days) and wanted to introduce myself. I am just getting into this business and am relieved to have found a source of such useful information.

    I am starting up a lawn maintenance business and will do plowing as well given the lawn season is only about 8 months in the Minneapolis, MN area.

    I will be using this site alot as I get going this winter, but would appreciate it if anyone is willing to share their top one or two pieces of advice you wish you had been given when you were a newbie.

    Thanks in advance and I hope to be able to contribute something to the group soon.

  2. BRL

    BRL PlowSite.com - Veteran
    Messages: 1,277

    Welcome to Plowsite!

    Advice I was given as a newbie:

    1. Sell that stupid hunk of steel hanging on the front of that truck you just bought!

    I was too dumb to listen to that one though.

    My advice after doing it for a few years:
    2. As a rookie, try to line up work as a sub with a larger contractor in your area to learn how to plow. Then use this site, &\or join SIMA to learn how to manage the business end of it to build your own business.
  3. plowjockey

    plowjockey PlowSite.com Sponsor
    Messages: 622

    SIMA also sells a good training video "Basic Snow Plowing Techniques 101" Which could be of some help getting you satrted in a safe manner as well as having some hints about laying out lots etc.

    You can find out info about SIMA and the video at www.sima.org

    Welcome to plowsite and the business I wish you all the best with your new endeavor.

  4. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    Welcome MNPlow!

    I'm in agreement with BRL & Bruce - the sub route is a good way to get started, especially if you're new to plowing. Also, if you're planning to start plowing THIS winter it's a bit late in the season to get customers of your own signed up - probably most of the ones who haven't committed are ones you don't need/want anyway! (ie, "problem" customers)

    In my case, although I have plowed since '97 it was just my own shop and my workplace. This is my first year actually plowing "for hire" and I am working as a sub.

    Since you're starting the lawn maintenance biz, you already know about insurance - very important in the snowbiz. Yes, there are plenty of people who operate without it but not a good plan.

    The contractor I'm subbing for services several buildings belonging to a marine sales/service company, plenty of boats worth $100,000 and up to plow around. Without proper insurance, I wouldn't have been able to work for him.

    Since I'm a member of SIMA (Snow and Ice Management Association) as well, of course I'm going to say check them out!

    Again, welcome and best of luck in your snow AND lawn business venture.
  5. Mike Nelson

    Mike Nelson Senior Member
    Messages: 637

    Welcome aboard:)
    Ditto to what the other guys said. Also you want to make sure you have a good accountant and lawyer to help you along in the legal matters in business.
    Good Luck
  6. BOSS Adam

    BOSS Adam Senior Member
    Messages: 122

    Welcome you will find alot of useful info on this site. :D
  7. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    Here's my top two:

    1. Take your time while on the learning curve. A broken truck can't make you money, and they are easy to break if you aren't quite sure of what you're doing.

    2. Be dependable and professional. If you do this, word will get around and your business will do nothing but grOW! You'll also be able to price yourself above the gypsies.
  8. J.Henderson

    J.Henderson Senior Member
    Messages: 164

    Do I get to say it first? Huh Huh Do I??????? MNplow, before asking a question, use the search function!!! Ha, beat everyone to it, even the super moderators. ( sorry guys, to much time on my hands. No snow yet here in Illinois/Iowa
  9. MNPlow

    MNPlow Junior Member
    Messages: 3

    Thanks for input

    Thanks for the input. I know I am late for this winter, but I just finalized the truck order a few weeks ago and hope to take delivery next week.

    I think I will get the video - and a snow plow book I saw advertised. I figure you can't get too much information.

    In terms of insurance, I just about fell off my chair when I got a few quotes back for commercial auto to cover plowing. Add to the fact that I lack experience and you end up paying more for one truck than you do for your two personal vehicles. Perhaps I am a little naive regarding costs in this area. Anyway, does $1450 per year sound out of line?

    I will do my best to search the board before asking questions. I have found a lot of advice through various searches, but thought it would be interesting to see what advice people would give if limited to only one or two things.

    Again, thanks for the input.

    Michael McCormick
  10. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    Your insurance quote isn't too far off from what I pay. The minute you say "Commercial", the $$$$$ grow wings!
  11. szorno

    szorno Senior Member
    Messages: 308

    We are in our 26th year in the business. The advice the other guys have given is good. You have a really nice truck (much nicer than my starter). Here are a couple items to add to the advice list:
    1) a slow truck is faster than a broke truck. Do not get in a hurry. Learn to plow with a smooth rythm. Less shock to the plow and truck translates into longer better life.
    2) preventitive maintenance- do everything you can to keep your truck up. This will aid in the "being dependable" someone else mentioned. (specially in the out years) Keeps you out of the "gypsie" class
    3) If you don't have a CPA, get one before you strike out on your own. (good idea even when being a sub to someone else) You need counseling on what you can, & cannot deduct.
    4) Be in business for the long haul. Sometime you may have to do a freebie, or give a discount to a struggling customer. Generating good will takes time, but it will keep you going when other guys quit.
    5) Competition is healthy, but cut-throat kills you. Pick a fee, back it up with quality and dependability, and stand by it. The customer that goes by price only deserves what he gets.

    Before I get any more philosophical, I better quit. Best of luck. Write if I can help.
    scott zorno
  12. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    Michael (MNPlow) although I'm from Canada, therefore it won't be a direct comparison, your insurance quote doesn't sound too bad to me: I'm looking at $2400 for the year, 2 mil coverage for both commercial liability and the auto policy. My truck's a lot older than yours too.

    The $$$$$ sure do get bigger when you put the word "commercial" in there.
  13. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    Zorno, you must be the twin I never had!

    MNPlow, to expand on Zorno's PM suggestion, between storms, thouroughly go over your truck, check plow mounting bolts, electrical connections, hoses, the framework for cracks and anything else that looks out of the ordinary. If it doesn't look quite right, fix it now! There aren't many parts stores open at 2:00 am. It's also a good idea to carry an extra hitch pin if you use them, a hydraulic connector, and fuses. I also carry one hydraulic hose long enough to fit any application in case of a failure and finally, TOOLS!
  14. Chief Plow

    Chief Plow Senior Member
    Messages: 201


    Welcome to the business. I just got off the ground a couple of years ago. I agree with the others, a broken truck will not make you a dime. Also, I did what others mentioned here, I did sub work for a company for about 3 years. I feel I gained alot of knowledge in that time. The one biggest thing I did learn was, you can never do enough preventative maintenance. Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you. As for your question about the insurance, I live in upstate NY, and just my liability (1 Million) costs me about 1100 for the year, then the truck policy is about, another 500, that is for comp and collision. To me the insurance was the biggest obstacle, but I think you will find to get any decent commercial work you are going to need it. OK, enough rambling..... Good Luck

    Chief Plow
  15. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    Insurance was definitely my biggest start-up cost (I already had the truck) but without it, I wouldn't have been able to work with the contractor I am subbing for - he services a few lots for a marine sales/service company, with boats from $10,000 to $100,00 + parked all around the lots you can't afford to take chances!
  16. MNPlow

    MNPlow Junior Member
    Messages: 3

    Thanks to all for the tips. I will definitely follow the advice.

    I don't expect to get much work this year as I am so late (I bought the truck this year for the Section 179 deduction). But I hope to at least get a few sub jobs - at least try to cover the insurance...

    Thanks again for the excellent advice!


    Now - I just need to get the truck - s/b next week...
  17. SCL

    SCL Senior Member
    Messages: 265

    Since we were kind enough to let JH tell you about the search function, let me just throw in that there was a recent thread on insurance that provides some good info. Welcome to the industry.
  18. GMCplow

    GMCplow Junior Member
    Messages: 26

    Hi Group! I am new to the site and plowing in general, and wanted to introduce myself. I've been lurking in the shadows here, and have to say what an incredible site this is! Really wish I had known about it last spring when I put the rig together. I've learned lots from searching the posts, and hope I can contribute to the knowledge base. Now, if I could just get some snow (St Louis area) to push! Anxious to learn by doing. Then, I should have enough confidence to get a few residential contracts together. Not in a rush, as I see this as a long term business, but anxious just the same.

    My truck is a 2000 GMC Sierra 4x4 regular cab/long bed, the plow is a meyers 7 1/2. Blade is a little rough, but still paintable. Pumps, etc have been rebuilt, and should last a few more years with regular maintenance. Plow frame and mounting frame are new. Still looking for a spreader.

    My full time employment is with Code 3 (Product Service Representative, Technical Service), so I'll probably have the most input/opinions on the lighting threads. Other passions include restoring an old Pearson Triton sailboat, drafting/design, and my incredible fiance - who amazingly seems to support everything I do.

    Anyways, nice to meet everyone and let me know when to do the snow dance! I'll help any way I can!

  19. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    GMCplow (good combination IMO! :D) welcome to the home of the "snow nuts"!

    I see you're from St Louis, Snow and Ice Management Association is having their annual snow & ice symposium there this June! Quite a few of the regular posters here on Plowsite will be there, hopefully we can meet up "in person" then.

    In the meantime, snow dance pleeeeez! It's snowing a bit here right now, but more wouldn't hurt.........................;)
  20. snow

    snow PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 1,002

    Code 3! geez, maybe i should lurk behind the shadows because all i'd consider putting on my truck is whelen or nova. :D

    Maybe if i could try an amber dashlazer, hmmm. ;)

    welcome to the site, i used to live in st louis and my sister was born there.