Here's what i would do if I were just starting out in the business!
First - you have to find out what the going rates per hour other plowing contractors are selling services for. Most plowing contractors will be bidding projects close to the same $ amount per hour. Keep in mind all pricing structures can be used starting from the $ per hour rate.
Once a general price is established - check it against your $ per hour rate. - This $ per hour rate sould include all your overhead costs as well. Can you make money at this rate and still be competitive?
If you are at a considerably lower $ per hour rate - find out why - and adjust accordingly. If you are at a higher rate you may need to play with the numbers for a while - to try and get back to the rest of the market.
As far as pricing goes - i believe there is alot more to a potential customers decision that just cost. So dont panic if you are a little high or a little low. Salesmanship, professionalism, attitude and preporation are just as important in my book. Sell the potential client on what you bring to the table - how is your company different from the rest, etc.
Again, this is how I would start into my new plowing adventure!
PS. - read all posts on this site - Your questions can't be answered with one response. Gather as much information regarding plowing as you can - buy John Allins book or Chuck's book for that matter. Join SIMA if your serious about getting into the plowing profession. And lastly get your feet wet in the bidding arena, there's no better place to learn!
you really need some behind the wheel experience to sharpen your quoting abilities . I would start by finding what the average competitor would charge and go on from there . Of course something always happens, so build that into your pricing structure. REMEMBER that you also need to charge for the equipment that is constantly wearing out .
snowjoker, not sure what you're situation is, but this might help. First, get an idea what your recurring expenses (gas, salt etc) are to make a full plow for each customer you have. Multiply by the average number of plows for the season. Then figure your fixed expenses for the year (insurance etc). Now figure replacement costs of equipment and divide by the number of years you expect each piece to last. Add those all together, then add the amount of money you expect to make for a season. This will give you a total you need to make for the season. (Don't forget to add in maintenance and coffee.) Divide this by the average amount you get for a drive, lot etc for the season. This will give you the number of contracts you need.
For a more detailed accounting, go the the Small Business Administration web site. Read everything and complete a Business Plan (completely).
To get business, again it depends on your situation. What worked best for me in the beginning was a small ad in the local shopper newspaper.
cntlawncare, you've already gotten some good but also - Have you ever had anyone plow for you? You could use this as a beginning for estimating jobs. How big is your drive compared to this one and price accordingly. If you've never had anyone plow for you, it'll be tougher but what you could do is ask the person what they paid the last guy. Then go with that as an "introductory offer" or add on 5-10%.
I'm not new to plowing i have been doing it for 8 yrs. Just decided to start a small business venture. I am going to try and get enough lots and drives to keep me busy. I plan on running an add in the local paper w/in the next week or two. BTW thanks Mick for the good info.
Cold calling seems to work best when starting out. Drive around to some businesses in your area. Get business name, address, and phone number, or look it up in the phone book. Don't go looking for Home Depots, or Walmarts yet. Start with small restaurants, small apartment complexes, small manufacturing companies, or even gas stations, or hotels. Call them and depending on the business, ask for the property manager, operations director, maintenance, or just the person who is in charge of snow plowing. Keep good notes, will help you when looking for landscaping customers! When you get a hold of the contact person, introduce yourself, along with the name of your company, and just ask them if they are looking for a company to handle their snow plowing and/or ice management situations for this winter. Most will say they have someone, they do it themselves, or they are not interested. If they are interested, ask them if you can bid the property, and drop it off and meet them. This shows personable-ism, and initiative. Or ask once you get the bid together, how is the best way to get it to them, fax, mail, or drop off. Dont just call them with a price. Have it printed out. After you drop some bids off, again keeping good notes, follow up with them after a week or so. This shows persistance, but dont do it to the point of harrassment. Everyone will say not to underbid a job just to get it, but you will anyway. I did, most everyone has at some point. If you bid something way too low, and you get the contract, you will feel this account is a burden after the first few snows. Because you will end up getting other accounts too, and the bid-too-low account will be a thorn in your side. I will tell you if this is your first year, and no previous experience, it will be a bit difficult to find someone to give you the experience.
Dont get discouraged, it is alot of legwork, but at some point it pays off. Check with your car insurance company to see if anything in your policy covers any damage if you are plowing. I used that my first part-time year. Also, if you stay with small businesses, they normally dont require large amounts of insurance. If your insurance covers damage while plowing, when doing your calls, let them know you are insured-it helps!! Find out the amount you are covered for, let them know. For more professionalism, when bidding, get a certificate of insurance from insurance company an attach it to the bid. Email me I will give you more assistance. Plowsite is probably the best single source of info out there. Spend time here, do searches, PM users, read as many posts as possible.
I, personally would start with insurance policies.Then , either hang around this site or a trusted individual around your neighborhood and work at least one season with them if possible.This way you dont end up with litigations and lowballing other contractors.Most of all ...........Have Fun & Enjoy.Good Luck!
By the hour $$$$ OR by the job $$$$ is the question. If you can bid a particular job by the hour thats great, be fair to your customer on the time spent. Most customers would love it if you give them a per "snowfall" price. We do the per snowfall prices because it makes it easier for our customers to budget the winter costs. This way takes a really good judge of what amount of time it takes a certain type of plow to do the job completely. To be competitive break it down by inches.... 2-4 inches= $$$ 5-7 inches=$$$ so on and so forth. You may have to experiment a bit to see if its profitable ( it should be ) but like the other good contractors on here all say..factor in your cost like insurance, fuel, maintenance etc. Dont bid low just to get the job and on the 2nd plowing you do ...BANG !!!! your tranny goes out and you only charged Company-X 50 bucks to do the lot... now your in the RED bigtime.