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Starting Snowplow Biz

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by Workhorse2500, May 13, 2003.

  1. Workhorse2500

    Workhorse2500 Junior Member
    Messages: 24

    I was interested in starting a snow removal company as a sole proprietor or LLC partnership. I read as many threads as I could on starting up a company, and theres a ton, but I just had to write a thread.
    Couple of Questions?
    Please define the rate you charge. Please define "per push." Any examples. Which is the best way to make money and keep clients.

    How much does it take to make up a contract?
    What should be in the contract?
    Whats your say on used snowplows?

    Registration, Permits, Licenses?

    In your opinion, best used pickup plow truck?

    Any advice on Advertising?

    Any advice in general?

    Please give some examples on insurance premiums, residential and commercial.

    Best ways to get new accounts?

    Advice on sub-contracting?
    Please explain salting in general, i mean the pricing game of it.

    Thank you, i know this is a ton of questions, but i would appreciate it your response very much, Thanks again

  2. Arc Burn

    Arc Burn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,141

    2 of our most respected members here have both published books answering every question you have just asked.You can buy Chuck Smiths book at www.snowplowing-contractors.com or John Allins book at the SIMA website.
    I thought i would tell you that because neither one "pushes" or promotes their books here but they are very informative reading.
    Last edited: May 13, 2003
  3. snowplowjay

    snowplowjay Banned
    Messages: 890

    well Matt my first tidbit of advice to you would be EXPERIENCE.

    I see that in your profile it says that you are 17 years old. I myself am only a few years older than you. My best piece of advice to you in starting your business is gain experience in the right ways to plow. In the long run you will save yourself lots of money by having this experience (I.E. save on insurance from damage, save on vehicle maintenanace costs, and keep yourself from being overwhelmed). Sitting in a truck watching my father plow for most of my life and being able to get behind the wheel for years with him tutoring has helped me tremendous amounts. It seems as if too many guys nowadays just buy a truck and decide they are "Snow Plowers" but as everyone realizes at some point its not that easy. Good luck and have fun.

  4. Mick

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

    Try to answer some:

    Per Push - removing snow from any given area once. Ie: To give a per push price, you would charge that amount each time you cleared a driveway - perhaps three times for one storm.

    Best way to keep clients - charge a fair price, give good service, keep your word and anticipate/meet their needs

    How much does it take to make up a contract? - agreement on service to be rendered and pricing. This is the bare basics - contracts can actually be several pages long.

    Whats your say on used snowplows? Know what you're doing and have some knowledge of diagnostics and repairing the model you get.

    Registration, Permits, Licenses? - Find out what applies to your area and get them. You will need Commercial Vehicle and General Liability insurance - no exceptions.

    In your opinion, best used pickup plow truck? A 4WD - make is less important

    Any advice on Advertising? Place an ad in a local shopper and start about a month or two before snow falls.

    Any advice in general? - Don't worry about contacts the first year. Just take one time plows for experience. Stay away from commercial the first year. That first year is to Learn, Learn and Learn.

    Please give some examples on insurance premiums, residential and commercial. - Varies widely by region. Mine is about $900/yr for General Liability with two trucks and very rural area. In a more metropolitan area expect maybe $2000 for the same coverage.

    Best ways to get new accounts? - Word of mouth and reputation

    Advice on sub-contracting? - Good way to start and get experience.

    Please explain salting in general, i mean the pricing game of it. Again it varies widely. I charge double my cost.

    Hope this helps some.

    JD PLOWER PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 751

    Mick I was posting almost your exact post when the server crashed :realmad: :realmad: .

    Good to see some things are universal :salute: .

    Matt I think searching will give you the most detailed answers to your questions. Look at it this way, you have all summer to read this site till your :dizzy: . Good luck!!
  6. Workhorse2500

    Workhorse2500 Junior Member
    Messages: 24


    Thank you for your advice and comments, especially Mick.

    I agree with you on the only way to learn is by experience. Your last comment gave me the impression that you thought I was some impostor. I agree with the Fact that a lot of people go out and buy 3/4 ton trucks and a plow and think they are plow boys, they are not. I have worked two farm jobs here in Michigan, and a third at a local ballpark. I believe deeply in principles and a strong work ethic, and I stand for what I believe in. No two people are a like, so do not compare me with some life wasting 17 year old dead head. I have taken every single business class in my school, and enjoy politics. I argue about politics, while my fellow classmates plan out getting wasted every weekend. I work hard and know what I want. I have read threads where new guys are torn apart because they had a hope of owning a business they could call their own, and have pride in it. They give everyone all the respect in the world, have the common courtesy in doing the same. Be blunt and truthful, they'll figure it out. I am 17 years old, I am new to the business, and I am determined.
  7. snowplowjay

    snowplowjay Banned
    Messages: 890

    Sorry Matt not meant for you pal in stating about the people buying a truck and plow and calling themselves "Snow Plowers" I was just stating what has been going on in our world in recent winters. No stab or inferrence meant to you in that my friend. I wish you luck and many sucessful winters.

  8. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    A haaa!!!

    Fresh meat!

    Welcome to Plowsite!:drinkup:
  9. JCurtis

    JCurtis Banned
    Messages: 862

    :waving: welcome to Plowsite...

    I must say that you sound somewhat intelligent, and hardworking. I don't think snowplowjay's comments were meant as an insult to you at all, nor was he trying to compare you with a 17 year old deadhead.

    I started plowing snow around your age (actually younger) and have been doing it in different fashions and venues for many many years. Speaking from experience, it is a pretty well known fact that in any area of the country that gets a winter snowfall season, history shows that during the spring and summer AFTER a Heavy snowfall season, the sales of 4wd trucks and plows go up. Everyone wants to cash in on the "EASY MONEY". So guys go out and plunk down a deposit on a fancy new truck with all the bells and whistles and puts a plow on it. First snowfall comes and he is out cruising the streets trying to get work. Some get lucky and land good accounts, some steal accounts from legit business men by undercutting prices by as much as 50 to 75%. and some just have no clue at all what it takes to run a plow operation.

    History also shows that most of these guys realize how much hard work plowing actually is and cannot handle the committment needed 24/7 during the winter season. Especially after a mild winter with little or no snow fall accumulation. Thats when guys like me in it for the long haul can buy up trucks with plows for a good price, because either the seller can't afford the monthly payment or can't handle the responsibility of running a reliable snowplowing service.

    It means being up all kinds of hours in some of the worst weather known to man, it means missed dinners with the wife or family, it means working Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years it means breaking your a** clearing other peoples properties so they can have clear access and then when you are totally exhausted and barely able to get out of your truck because you have been in it for more hours than you can remember, you have to go home and plow your driveway, and clear your walks.

    It means hard work, very little appreciation from most people ( since most people feel we are the type that can't hold regular jobs, and that in most peoples eyes a "snow plow jockey" is just someone out to rip people off by doing an easy job that anyone (except them) could do.

    You can make very good if not excellent money if you are in the right location, provide a promptand reliable service at a fair( to the customer and you) price.

    Just cover yourself in the contract ( see a lawyer for legal issues in your area) don't take on more work than you can actually handle, and if you have a friend with a plow work out an agreement where in case of a breakdown of either truck, you will back the other up. The quickest way to lose money or customers is to have a truck break down and not do your customers.

    If you haven't plowed before, I agree with the others that you should probably work with someone first to gain experience, ither as a sub contractor in your own truck ( you still need insurance mentioned above) or just drive their vehicles.

    Good Luck
    Last edited: May 14, 2003
  10. digger242j

    digger242j Senior Member
    Messages: 672

    Matt, You've already done the smartest thing you could do in starting a snow plowing business, which is to come to PlowSite. I've learned more of the finess of the business here in the past couple of years than I'd learned in the ten years before that. Do read as much of the content here as you can. If it hasn't been discussed here yet, the chances are it soon will be.

    You present yourself very well. I honestly have a hard time believing that you are actually 17. I mean no disrespect by that--rather, I think it's a matter of having seen many folks your age exhibiting great enthusiasm, but clearly lacking the self discipline to "dot all the i's and cross all the t's", so to speak. It's, admittedly, a prejudiced point of view, but one many adults hold of teenagers. If you present yourself as well in person as you do in print it'll go a long way in establishing your own credibility with your customers and potential customers. That's a large part of the battle right there--at least as large as knowing how to push snow.

    And don't mind Jay, his mom gave birth to him in a snowplow and that gives him a right to be just a little bit, well...different.

    (Hey, Jay, you know I'm just kidding. You too have presented yourself well enough, often enough, to have earned my respect as an authentic plowman...)
  11. Workhorse2500

    Workhorse2500 Junior Member
    Messages: 24


    Thank you Digger. I agree with you definitely that the overall youth has a great enthusiasm, but do not finish it all the way, correctly or just plain do it half-@$$. Jay, I meant for no hard feelings as well, I have the greatest respect for you seasoned plowers. Thanks Jeff for the information.
  12. Workhorse2500

    Workhorse2500 Junior Member
    Messages: 24


    Yeah i argue politics. I argue with ignorant liberals everyday. I am as conservative as can be, thank God I live in West Michigan!
  13. snowplowjay

    snowplowjay Banned
    Messages: 890

    Thanks digger as I have always said this is the place where I learn the most. I love plowsite.

    Workhorse im sure you will find tons of great info here now and in the future

    Good Luck

  14. Pelican

    Pelican 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,075

    Workhorse, you sound just like the type of guy I'm looking for as an employee, hard working and responsible. Unfortunately there aren't many like that in my neck o' the woods...

    In answer to a couple of your questions:

    Most guys start out plowing with a pickup. I recommend a 3/4 ton HD or better, my smallest truck is a 1 ton SRW. This is bound to spark another 1/2 ton debate, but I feel the bigger trucks just hold up better to the rigors of plowing.

    I'd recommend you subcontract for a few years to get a feel for the business. This will allow you to learn time and equipment requirements for different sized lots and pick up pointers on techniques. Many of us got our start this way.

    If you ever consider a move East, give me a ring...
  15. JohnnyU

    JohnnyU 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,040

    I'm not too much older than you, perhaps a little more seasoned in the field however (just finished my third winter on my own).

    It is important to build a reputation as a reliable, honest and reasonable person. Since you are young, you will not get much respect from the older generation (the argument to come from that should be interesting...) Therefore it is very important to cast a good impression to everyone that you come in contact to.

    Getting started, subcontracting is definately a good idea, its a great way to get the experience that you will need to be able to run your business well.

    How will school factor into your schedule, that could really cut down on your availability during day-time storms, but if you plan well, it should be easily avoidable. Good luck!

  16. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,317

    Ok, I'll bite. Respect is earned. It is earned by what you said in the first sentence, and last sentence. It is strengthen by knowledge, which comes with experience. Having PlowSite as a resource, will increase your access to knowledge and experience, thus, increasing your own when coupled with actually doing the work.

    Matt, you seem to be starting out on the right foot, that's for sure. In your area, I am sure you've noticed that the Dodge 2500 with Boss plow is most popular. If that is the case, that is likely the vehicle and plow I would choose myself. It means parts for both are readily available, and probably at many places, which is important. There is nothing worse than being at the mercy of a not-so-good dealer, when it is the only dealer for miles and miles. If there are that many of the combination of truck and plow, then the dealer know the quirks, and ahould know them inside and out.

    You might want to make a post in the Networking Forum here, to find someone to sub for. You can go to www.sima.org, and look for contractors in your area to sub for too.

    As others have said, spend as much time as possible reading and asking questions here, and you will be far ahead of most that are new to the biz.

    Good luck,

  17. gordyo

    gordyo Senior Member
    Messages: 527

    Some of my best student employees over the past 17 years are the ones that have either grown up on a family farm or worked on farms when they were young. They are the ones that don't complain about hard work, have a great work ethic and will pitch in and show some initiative.

    Welcome to plowsite Workhorse 2500:waving:
  18. kojak

    kojak Member
    Messages: 32

    Matt, I've just started up a company to start plowing for the coming season, and I thought I'd bring up some things to consider. Some of these may seem pessimistic, but I'm trying to mention things in a realistic manner, not scare you off, good luck whatever you decide.

    - as far as I know a minor cannot get a business loan, and as a start up is a big risk, can you afford to lose your full investment

    - what will you do the rest of the year? will this interfere with your business? will the business interfere with other work or school?

    - Can your home life deal with this work? I hope you're not married or a father yet, but what about girlfriends and other family. This business will have to be a priority, it changes when you can take a vacation, or might make you work all Christmas day or your girlfriends birthday or your's, can you live with that? will they let you live with that?

    - Can you handle the work the hours the temperatures? Long hours of hard work, the frustration of dealing with other, the cold, isn't for everyone, you should be really sure that you want to deal with these before you commit. You may have experience to let you know this already, something like bringing in a harvest, but if not you should try to find a way to get a week of that type of work in, and see how you feel getting up in the morning.

    - If you have not had commercial vehicle insurance, or liability insurance before they will be hellishly high. When you talk to your broker you should find out what you could expect them to be in a couple of years. As they should go down, figure them into your business plan when looking at long term profitability. As well find out if they will drop the price if you have certifications such as first-aid, WHMIS, CSTS, RSTS etc.

    - talk to a good accountant, find out what you can use as a write-off. Suppliers will almost always tell you what they are selling is a wright-off, but it depends on your situation, it may not apply to you, or may only be a percentage of what you are spending, if you are smart about this you can be much more profitable.

    - find out from your municipality, county, and state what legislation applies to you, what licenses you will need, what by-laws you need to be aware of, and when applying for something like a business license how long the red tape takes to process, and how often they need to be renewed.

    As well while doing my research into starting my company I found quite a few examples of how to survey and bid a contract, what to look for and what to avoid (some customers are just not worth having, they don't pay, or are too much of a hassle) being forewarned and learning from someone else's mistakes is always a good idea. If you're interested let me know, and I'll send you a copy of what I've found.

    Good luck.
  19. Workhorse2500

    Workhorse2500 Junior Member
    Messages: 24


    Thank you all for the infraction and advice. Pelican, I haven't forgotten.

    -My seed capital will be from the sweat of my brow. No loans, no interest.

    -I will work my three other jobs during the rest of the year. Ironically, they do not provide adequate pay during the winter season.

    -My family would expect me to fulfill my responsibilities to my highest ability. No I'm not married or have kids. I can't remember when my last vacation was. I consider my vacations as the day long fishing trips I take, which can be postponed.

    -Believe me, I can handle the work. I have lived in Michigan since the third grade, and lived in Alaska for three years, Eagle River, near Anchorage. My first year, and possible second or third, I will start simple to gain experience and to "see" what the working conditions are like. I have no problem getting up with the sun, or during the night to get the job done.

    -Insurance, I believe, will be my largest hurdle. I may have to resort to a venture capitalist, my uncle, who has expressed serious interest in funding a company in this field.

    -I have taken 1 year of accounting, and my soon-to-be brother-in-law has graduated from Michigan State University and majored in accounting. My business teacher and I have a great relationship and he has a double doctorate in several business fields, including accounting.

    -I haven't had time to throughly look at registrations, licenses, and laws that would apply to snowplowing. My teacher has told me that registration a company is simple and inexpensive. In my city, I believe the snowplow license is around $25 or so, don't quote me on it.

    Yes I would be very interest in what information you have compiled together so far and would appreciate a copy of it. Thanks everyone for being blunt and truthful, keep the advice comin.
  20. Workhorse2500

    Workhorse2500 Junior Member
    Messages: 24


    -As for my schooling, I will take an internship working for my company during school hours. I have 10 "sick days" per semester, equaling 20. I would have to take a "sick day" during a day storm to get the job done, sometimes you have to sacrafice.

    -My neighbor has a 2001 GMC Sierra HD and will do a few driveways this season. I might be able to work something out with him so he could cover my butt if something breaks down, and I could cover him if his schedule gets in the way, he is an electrician. Since he has a brand new truck, he doesn't have much to worry about a breakdown, but I will since I obviously will have an older rig and plow, which ones are yet to be determined.