1. Welcome to PlowSite. Notice a fresh look and new features? It’s now easier to share photos and videos, find popular topics fast, and enjoy expanded user profiles. If you have any questions, click HELP at the top or bottom of any page, or send an email to help@plowsite.com. We welcome your feedback.

    Dismiss Notice


Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by RON66106, Dec 14, 2004.

  1. RON66106

    RON66106 Member
    Messages: 53

    I have seen may times on this board the constant whining about low-ballers, scrubs, scabs and so on. I would like to explain my perspective on this subject and let out some of the years of experience I have out doing the snow removal thing, lawn care thing, business owner thing and so on .
    Its not anything other than competition!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    It's the same thing that Chevrolet went through with the small block engine. There are so many company's out there supplying parts the price for sbc 350 parts are the most economical on the market.
    Where do we buy our groceries? always at the same store? I don't some stores have sales or specials which save me money on the same product.
    Where do we buy our fuel for our vehicles? I personally look for the cheapest prices when running my routes. Last summer I found a station that sold diesel for .22 cents a gallon cheaper than anyone. Did'nt last long but I saved while I could.
    This is truly a eliminate of business and this post probably needs transfered to that section.
    The whole point is this::::::::::::::
    Lets quit crying about the competition and figure out ways to offer our professional services and make a living while we do it.
    I personally show or give my clients a copy of the front page of my insurance policy. I also ask them if they realize who is responsible if something happens.
    I don't always know who will be the responsible party thats for my attorney and the courts to decide.
    What I do know is if I sell myself and my company better than most I earn more than most.
    Heres a story for you. I was sitting at home the other night and my phone rang It was a liquor store I have bought my beer at for several years. Not a customer but I have always wanted and tried to get them as one.
    I had a check bounce and they wanted it covered, I told them I would be right there. I don't bounce many checks but wanted to make things right. Also knowing that the guy running the liquor store was the owners lover I saw an opening ( yes they are gay )
    When I arrived 15 minutes later it really surprised the clerk and made an impression. He told me he had never had anyone show up so soon after a call to cover a check.
    Long story short I now plow and salt their parking lot and have a new customer who has faith in me and my word. Just goes to show how many untrustworthy people there are out there.
    From a simple bounced check? Go figure.
    I don't always agree with my clients life style or ethics but if I turned away everyone I have ever disagreed with I would have starved to death many years ago.
    Try to float a check these days and see what the bank will get you?
    anyway I am not by any means perfect and don't profess to be but I truly believe if we all stick together and trade information we Will truly be the cream that rises to the top. Competition comes and goes and truly only the Sue will remain.
    If you only have some wise a## comment than your a basher and if you can separate the good from the bad then your a thrasher.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2004
  2. snowbankr

    snowbankr Member
    Messages: 49

    just picked up a driveway that the customer had someone else (without insurance) do last year. This guy drove around the corner of the house, down the side, and over the artesian well cap. When I priced teh drive, I didn't know of this. I gave my price, ($13.00 per push more than his last season price), and his jaw dropped. Then I hear the story...had to claim on his homeowners' policy, shorted out the pump, etc., 4 days without water. Then to top iti all off, he says that I'm overpriced. I told him he's wasting 3 peoples' time, mine, his, and the guy that plowed the drive last year, call him back. See ya later. Last nite, he called back to apologize and sign on. Stick to your gun, CYA, and sell them on the fact it takes time to get to their driveway and over to your next one. It's not just the time at their drive they are paying for, they're also paying you to watch the weather, be prepared, and to babysit them through the Winter.
  3. MGardner

    MGardner Senior Member
    Messages: 106

    Babysitting is a good way to put it. You have to be the one out there at 300 AM deciding whether to hit it or not. I inform my customers about the risk they take by hiring some scrub that works full time and has this little side job plowing snow....Not to mention availability, when I started I had a 16.00 an hour shop job my phone was ringing at work . The boss was glaring at me and I quit a week later to go full time. Calls coming in for bids, other contractors giving me sub-work.
  4. OneBadDodge06

    OneBadDodge06 Senior Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 770

    I dunno why lowballers are so hated. Competition is the best part of this country. I can underbid and still make a profit over greedy people.
  5. glenspot

    glenspot Senior Member
    Messages: 255

    i know its all been talked about before....but.

    A lowballer isn't someone who has a more competitive price.

    A lowballer is someone who can offer a cheap price by cutting corners that are a vital part of the business.

    If the gas station with diesel 22c cheaper was uninsured, hired illegal immigrants, or did other things illegally to be able to offer that price, then they are the same thing. If they were totally legit, and were still able to give the good price. Then THATS competition.

    I have a competitor who is fully insured, prompt, well equipped...but INSANELY inexpensive. I don't think he's a lowballer....just SOMEHOW able to do things cheaper than I can. More power to him.

    Can't blame someone for being more efficient than you are. But if they are more efficient because they are illegal....then there's a problem.

  6. johntwist

    johntwist Senior Member
    Messages: 415

    I have to agree that it's not just about the price, it's about the whole package being offered. Proper insurance, reliable service and a reasonable price.
    The other day I picked up a job, and also lost a job, both in part due to "lowballing".

    The job I lost was a guy over on the next street from me who has two driveways at his house to 2 separate 2 car garages. I told him 40 per push or 55 by contract for 4 to 7 inches, 80 for 8 to 11 & so on. Now I'm figuring that if he can afford a home with a 4 car garage, this is not unreasonable for 2 separate driveways on the same property, one of which has a very sharp hard turn into the garage and would be a pain backdragging out. He told me that "the old timer" he had last year did it all for 30 bucks. I mentioned insurance, he said he's never had a problem before and doesn't think it's an issue. I told him to call the "old timer" up and good luck to him for 30 bucks. So, I know that one day during a hard snow fall he'll end up calling me up because his 30 dollar boy didn't show. I can't wait for that.

    The job I got was for a retired Navy 30 year vet with some health problems. It's a l-o-n-g drive leading into a circular drive, a fairly big area. I thought a 75 dollar driveway, but I cut the man a break because I thought he was a nice old guy and he deserved it for his many years of service to our country. 50 bucks to come after the snow stops and just push it out. I feel like sometimes retired folks need a little break and they appreciate getting one more by paying you right away with no b/s. My reward may end up getting his two neighbors too. I don't mind cutting the price a bit to pick up jobs that are all in the same spot. What I lose per push I gain in time saved.

    Just my opinions, it's up to every businessman to set his prices and services. As much as I don't like losing work to a lowball price, I suppose whoever set that price has his reasons, and if they were not good reasons, then I know he won't be around for very long to compete with me and it'll all even out eventually.

    REAPER 2000 Club Member
    from 60050
    Messages: 2,230

    This also depends on if trucks are paid for or not. I had a 1989 GMC K2500HD w/270,000 miles. Plowed great and wish I had saved those axles when I sold it. Have a 1988 now. Was a Comm. College truck. Garage kept pars runner and sidewalk plow only. Is a 1988 and I bought in 2001 with only 49k miles on it.

    The HD was a much better truck but they both do the job and I am not making those long payments every month.

    I use to be a certified mechanic back in the late 70's early 80's and have been a labor force worker all my life so ,not bragging, my mechanical aptitude is fairly high. Maintenance is the key to keeping costs low. I treat my truck as some do their 2005's. I keep every thing washed and cleaned and any minor thing that need's care is treated immediately. Dirt can reduce a battery by 3-5 volts in the cold of night alone.

    So keeping costs down and looking for loyal costumers that feel like you do is key. Look at some shops when you pull up. Do they have garbage blowing around? Broke windows or boarded up broken windows/doors? Tattered signage and pealing paint on a dirty building? If so I drive right on by as they will not care if the job is professional or not. Some even want it done right on the cheap.

    It is also the area I have found. The more snow your region gets the less hourly pay is. But, you make more over doing more plows. In and around Chicago you can get up to a 125.oo a hr. But how many times have those guys plowed this year? Hence the reason I am sitting in Kalamazoo with a laptop. Go to the UP by MSU college. You will maybe pull 30 a hour. But you may be plowing everyday at times 14 or more days in a row.

    Companies have to budget snow removal and the less a County or State gets the more available per push. It has more to do with where you are than anything. And if you are in this professionally ,I have found, you really don't want those accounts that look for a low baller. Most times they themselves are slow pay or no pay till you show up at his household at his dinner time with the police threat of theft of services to get paid.

    I laugh at alot of the new guys that get a new truck and think they are plow men. Most are doing more repairs on that fancy truck on things they break for lack of experience or knowhow or the new truck is in shop on a recall when you need it most. I have personal trucks that are for my comfort and looks in summer. 99 Yukon and a 94 Ram that i bought new when they 1st changed body styles and has been garaged kept most of it's life and still looks as if it came off the showroom floor.

    But for a work truck give me a reliable horse that I know will get the job done, keep me warm[A/C in a plow truck???] and last the winter with no breakdowns or nights of standing in front of the truck with snow blowing down my neck and back while I try to figure out why the plow ain't workin or why the trans is over heating.

    Kind of a rant for a new guy but no one ever accused me of being shy nor light of word.

    It comes down to what fit's you and if you represent a true professional in the business or if your that mo draggin the muffler down the street hoping not to hit a bump to hard for fear of losing a expensive part.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2004
  8. BreyerConstruct

    BreyerConstruct Senior Member
    Messages: 132

    I just lost my biggest account. It was for a small office, the owner's personal residence, and a larger warehouse. All the same owner, pays right on time, & plenty of potential for more business when the rest of his buildings are built and/or rented.

    I bought the business from his son in law last year. The guy was charging 40-45 per hour to plow! I went to 50/hr last year, & didn't break even. Did break down a lot though! but, that's a story for a different post. I've learned to purchase the right equipment (was using one of my trucks & one bought w/ the business last year).
    After a lot of reading here, I bought the SIMA Cd, and have switched to plowing per push. It's just better. I've got great equipment & can offer top-notch service.
    When they saw the proposal, they thought it sounded high (was internally based on 100/per hour). & so they shopped around. The found someone who can do it for 60 an hour. I was polite & surprised when they told me. Right now I'm praying the guy's late & mowes down their fences! LOL

    A few morals I've gleaned from this story:
    first, don't buy a poorly established business.
    Second, pick clients who value what you do (good job over cheep price).
    Third, Don't expect to be busy quickly selling performance over price, I think it'll take a few years & even more targeted marketing to rebuild my "busy-ness" but Lord willin it'll be profitable busy-ness. (No more 2+ hours of wasted drive time per storm like last year).

    I don't like lowballers who cut corners, but I did have the opertunity to come in "cheep" on a bid yesterday.
    It's a small Dr's lot, would normally charge $55-75 per visit, but, it's right near a bank I plow. so I offered $45 per visit. It's all of 45 seconds of travel from my other location, and should take 1 plow & 1 shoveler 15-20 minuites, max.
    I also have another contact in the area, will be offering to plow for $35 per visit.
    I know these rates are cheap for the area, but if I'm right next door, I can do it- & still be offering top quality.
    Anyways, just my disjointed thought & ramblings....

  9. Mainiac

    Mainiac Member
    Messages: 46

    You guys are right about lowballing. I thought I was lowballing, but reading here I see I'm not.
    I'm in my first year, lawn care, painting and plowing/sanding. Sanding by hand this year, all residential, and have the time to do it. I'm looking into building a nice spreader in the back of the Ford for next year.
    We had a storm a couple weeks ago that only left us with an inch or so of snow, sleet fell on top of that. It was going to be in the 40's for the next couple of days, so I didn't plow. Most of my customers wouldn't have wanted me to, but I got a call from a guy that wanted me to plow at 3" or more and at the end of the storm. I was totally stressin' about it, was very polite and professional, even though he said we have a communication problem.
    I tell all my customers the trigger depth and to call me if they want otherwise.
    I plow his road (association) for $50 up to 12" and $65 12"+, plus I have 7 driveways on that same road I plow for $15, because he gave me the road. Luckily for me half of those drives are vacation homes so I can come back and do them after the residents that are here full time. I didn't see this as lowballing, just a way to generate business and make contacts. Just hope to keep them happy!
    I don't have a truck payment, a 79 ford f150 with a 7.5 fisher. Truck is mint, did a lot of cutting and welding on it a couple years ago, painted it, airbrushed my Compnay name on it, so it doesn't scare people when I pull in.
    Lots of rambling here, I know, just felt like a lowballer there for a bit when I get calls complaining. What do I do, just move on I guess.
  10. spacolee

    spacolee Member
    from canada
    Messages: 58

    I was called a low baller the other day and man was I mad. I don't think I am. According to him because I have a full time job and do Weed spraying and snow removal on the side Iam a low baller. I have insurance 2 million probably more then him I do a very good job that I know he does not. Just because I have a full time job am I a Low baller?
  11. Mick

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

    Mainiac, don't stress about it. I'm up between Augusta and Belfast. We got the same crap. For not plowing other than one place once this year, I'm getting all kinds of complaints. The one today was from a guy on an association road I've had for four years. They switched this year from me plowing and sanding anything that fell to wanting a 3" trigger and no sanding unless they call for it. Well, I got called the 13th for sanding only. Then got called today wanting to know if my sander was broken because they couldn't see any sand. NO KIDDING - it snowed another inch yesterday and covered it; then they'd driven on it. But I went over and sanded the "hot spots" again for free rather than have an upset customer. Once I talked to him while I was there, he did understand what had happened.

    As far as your pricing - that's what I do, with the understanding that I get the road and all the driveways.
  12. Mainiac

    Mainiac Member
    Messages: 46

    Thanks Mick, I saw the guy today while I was replacing a stake and talked to him about it. He understands the problem and we both feel better about the standards we have set.
    I lived in Palermo when I was a kid, up by the old elementary school on 17. Steve and Donna Haskell used to have a horse farm on one of those old roads.
    Anyway, thanks again for the reply.

    Mike K.
  13. Mick

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

    Mike, I sent you a PM.