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Snow Only Operation

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by hansenslawncare, May 5, 2013.

  1. hansenslawncare

    hansenslawncare Senior Member
    Messages: 312

    Hey I haven't posted on here much but I was looking for some feedback please.

    I currently run a lawn & snow company...predominantly maintenance.

    Anyways, I'd really like to make the switch to snow only. Has anyone done this from a lawn maintenance company and how hard was the transition? How did you market to dramatically increase the snow customers, without losing them due to not providing maintenance?

    I've also considered making the switch to a blowing service with a tractor...a lot of upfront costs but the labor would be less as one tractor can do about 3x's a truck.

    I know this is a loaded post so I appreciate any feedback.

  2. TGS Inc.

    TGS Inc. Senior Member
    from Detroit
    Messages: 569

    I wouldn't recommend snow only. We were about 90-95% snow and then we had an extremely low snow year and it nearly crushed us. If you have key personal it because very difficult keeping them around in June, July and Aug...I had a secretary, salesperson, mechanic. Even if the summer pays overhead it is worth it in my opinion. There is entirely too much risk financially banking on winter 100%. I have been in business 25 years. Started mowing/landscaping. Got big in fertilizing, sold to TruGreen. Snow has always been good through the years. We are now re-establishing our summer division from scratch. Don't take what you have for granted. Just my opinion. Hope this helps.
  3. hansenslawncare

    hansenslawncare Senior Member
    Messages: 312

    Thanks for the response. I can understand that...last season we only plowed a hand full of times. This year we were really busy with snow.

    I appreciate my lawn side of the business....I was just wondering if other companies on here did snow only and what the perceived advantages are.

    I also understand the ebb and flows of snow...you can't bank on it.
  4. thelettuceman

    thelettuceman PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,218

    What TGS Said .... X2

    I am a snow only company but it's just me and my truck and plow. I have other work not related to my truck that pays the bills. This work is time flexible so I can snow plow if I need to. My plow has not been on my truck for 2 years because of the weather. Beware of Snow only.
  5. CashinH&P

    CashinH&P Senior Member
    Messages: 448

    I do the same thing, mostly landscape maintence and plowing in the winter. Hve you thought of just getting our of residential work all together? You could go with just commercial work that is contracted.
  6. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    Mainly snow here....landscape maintenance helps us keep customers under contract year round and keeps a few employees working so we don't lose them for winter. The only residential we do is for business owners/decision makers.
  7. IMAGE

    IMAGE Sponsor
    Messages: 1,747

    It's pretty hard to go "snow only" but it can be the only part of the service work that you actually do yourself. I only do lawns on the places that I have too, and even then I just sub it out. I used to actually mow myself, and have employees doing it too. But somewhere I figured out I was time/money ahead to do other things and just let a sub handle the mowing. Now in the summer I'm not tied to mowing and can focus on other business interests that have a better return for me then mowing did. This also gives me more freedom in the summer, because I am not tied to a weekly maintenance schedule.

    One thing to think about, there is no way I can imagine 1 tractor doing winter work will make enough to support you year round. You'll need plenty of snow equipment if you plan to make all your profits in the winter, and that means you'll need plenty of operators also. Tractors need good operators, and you don't just find good operators under every tree and around every corner. You can only grow at the speed you can add good employees/operators. So making the switch might not be a quick change, but more of a process over a few years (at least).

    Edit: Don't take it that I'm trying to talk you out of it lol. Snow Only is a dream for me too, maybe one day I'll get there :) If you want to talk tractors or blowers you can email or call me anytime Thumbs Up
    Last edited: May 7, 2013
  8. SnowClear

    SnowClear Senior Member
    Messages: 106

    I've been working on the switch to snow only and this is the last season I'll be doing work during the growing season (lawns, maintenance, etc.).

    A snow only business is a cyclical business and weather dependent. Two whoppers from a business risk standpoint. It is also challenging because property managers have been conditioned to expect bids on both services from one company; residential even more so.

    The upside is that as a snow only business you will have substantial time to plan, sell, build relationships with customers, prospects, and contractors, and so on.

    I enjoy snow business but I don't enjoy growing season work. That is why I'm making the switch. Evaluate the reasons why you would like to make the switch and ask yourself if you are willing to undertake the challenge.
  9. OldSchoolPSD

    OldSchoolPSD Senior Member
    Messages: 242

    Would it be possible to sign on with a municipality? I have never been in the landscaping business,but I do snow removal. I am contracted with the county so I don't have to worry about finding work. I couldn't make it snow-only in this climate, but I do make enough with it to justify buying trucks that get used only to push snow.
  10. merrimacmill

    merrimacmill PlowSite.com Addict
    from MA
    Messages: 1,823

    I am now 100% snow only (recent development). Nothing has been started in almost 2 months (I should probably get on that though..)

    From a business standpoint, yes it is risk, and yes it is challenging. There is never that other season, to make up for the bad one. In other words, each winter you have one shot to make it.

    This is where good planning, budgeting, and above all self discipline come into play. Without giving away the bank, I will say that it took me awhile to figure out just how to do it, but this is my first year not landscaping at all. I even have a landscaper mowing my yard, and the yard at my office.

    The challenges you will face is employee retention. If you can't provide year round work to people, you are worth less to them, and the are generally less loyal than those whose livelihoods depend on you. This is especially true if they are hourly, with no guarantee of work. With what I said above, combined with them not even knowing if they will be working/have a paycheck, it becomes even harder.

    So the options to overcome this are pay them very well, and pay them salary. To make them comfortable, define the job responsibilities extremely clearly. Almost, not quite, but almost contractually. That way they will feel more comfortable understanding what is expected of them for the flat/set amount of money. And as always, check your local laws regarding salary pay.

    I should also mention that if someone is still at the point of having a low or high snow year drastically affect the outcome of their profitability, then they should not consider being snow only. That would be the first hurdle before making any leaps. Thats a whole other discussion in itself.
    Last edited: May 10, 2013
  11. hansenslawncare

    hansenslawncare Senior Member
    Messages: 312

    Thanks for all the input guys...the more I think about it, moving to a snow only operation is a process, probably 3-5 years at least if not more.

    For anyone that is in this process, or has gone through it, what are the things you have done to make this happen, and be successful while doing so?
  12. Mick76

    Mick76 2000 Club Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 2,157

    1) networking , both with other contractors as well as clients
    2) constant cold calling and advertising (yes even during the summer months as this is when commercial accounts are looking for bids)
    3) "good" debt...imo a little debt is good but on lean years if you have a large amount of debt, it could kill your whole operation
    4) $ in the bank! got to remember its all about cash flow!
    5) get a good mix of seasonal and per push accounts. the seasonal help on low snow years, while the per push help on big snow years.
    6) don't underprice your services and know your costs.... its ok not to be the lowest/cheapest ... its ok to say no to a customer ..... focus on your reputation!

  13. hansenslawncare

    hansenslawncare Senior Member
    Messages: 312

    Thanks for the response, and good answers. On my signature you'll see my website. If a guy was to switch to snow only, would you start another website with "snow removal/plowing???" in it?

    I'm not worried about being found/rankings on a website, I have someone that can get me there fast...so building another website wouldn't be a problem. Maybe I should start the website/new business and slowly add to it.
  14. 94gt331

    94gt331 Senior Member
    from usa
    Messages: 293

    Congrats to anyone that can do this 100% snow only buisiness. 4-5 months worth of work max a year to make it 12 months a year in bills. I know you 100% snow guys say you work all year comon you guys sell alot of bs to do that snow only work. Kudos to you guys that can do it. In my area that seems imposible.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013