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When to start residentials

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by JLC, Nov 27, 2001.

  1. JLC

    JLC Member
    Messages: 34

    New the plowing thing and have a few questions. I've already searched and found a ton of useful information. I will be starting this year doing 99% residential work. My question is when should you start plowing these? Do you wait until the storm is finished? My thoughts: Wait until the snow has stopped and then start, unless we get to a 6" trigger. At this time plowing starts whether the storm is finished or not. My thought is that the rate will be per push, ie if the snowfall is less than 6" then will we charge x, if the snowfall is greater then will be charged 2x.

    My wife and I keep going back and forth between what is practical from a business sense and what is fair to the customer.

    Also, how do you handle the situation where the drive is clear, the snow has stopped, but the city plow comes through and blocks the drive again. Do we charge to come back and push this snow?

    I'm sure I will have more questions, but these are all I can think of for now.

    BTW, I've been researching pricing in my area and can't believe that some of these guys are getting. One drive I'd want 40 to 50 for, a guy does for a consistant 25. His customer I talked to said he charges 40 bucks an hour. I don't see how you could plow for this and make any money.
  2. CT18fireman

    CT18fireman Banned
    Messages: 2,133

    I charge a set price for the plowing. Each time I charge that price (someimes I make execuetive decisions) I plow residential every 3-4 inches. If the storm will be less then 6 it will be plowed once. If more then it will be plowed more times. We always plow with the storm easier on equipment that way.

    Stick with your prices if they are within the norm in the area. Don't be swayed by lowballers. They usually do not stay in business long.
  3. casey

    casey Banned
    Messages: 180

    Start them after 2". Charge a set price based on an average fall per visit unless it's a dusting. Customers first on the list will end up with more visits so occasionally I'll give them a dusting price for the second visit. Charge extra for plow banks if they are day after jobs.
  4. Deere John

    Deere John Senior Member
    Messages: 410

    2" or 14", we only plow once per 24 hour period, as we mostly use seasonal contracts and we have told people, and they agree, on the level of service they are paying for.

    I would sooner plow 14" once than travel back at every 6". In this case, they would be left with 2" in their yard, and that would take a 3rd trip. In my market, they will not pay for this level of service, by-in-large, so we don't offer it. Apron cleanup is an additional rider on the seasonal rate.

    I recommend seasonal contracts, bid on your average number of snow events at the average accumulation per snow event. Works for us for many years now.
  5. CT18fireman

    CT18fireman Banned
    Messages: 2,133

    Around here it is hard to plow 14" of snow in one time. Most drives are hilly, curvy and little space to push big piles at once. Plus people want to get out in the snow. We have to come at least twice in a 24 hour snow event to be competitive. People around here will pay for a lot of services if you sell it to them and are dependable. They would rather have me plow twice then have someone not show up.
  6. newtosnow

    newtosnow Junior Member
    Messages: 17

    I start at 2", then charge 50% each time after...keep it clean. If someone gets stuck even once, they never seem to forget!! Whatever works for you, everyone seems to have their own way. I try to make $100/hr. too, not $40...you're right, you'll go under quick!!!!
  7. JLC

    JLC Member
    Messages: 34

    Thanks for the excellent information so far guys! I'm kinda sitting here frustrated because I don't want to charge to little, but since I've never done this before it is hard to do.

    I think that most people don't expect to get a service for 4 inches for the same price as 8 inches. Now I just have to figure out a breakdown of prices for various depths of snow that won't have customers second guessing how much snow actually fell all the time. If anyone has any information along these lines that is too sensitive to post in the public forum here, send me a private message.
  8. flakesmeangreen

    flakesmeangreen Senior Member
    Messages: 217

    right now i'm 100% residential (kinda sucks, nothing to do while it's snowing!!!) and the trigger is 3". every region and market seems to have their own way about residentials (45-50" avg/10 storms avg here)...here's how it is by me. less than 3" storm-no plowing for me. 3"- (about) 12" one plowing at the end of storm. 12" or more (or forecasted accumulations of that amount) plow throughout the storm, at least twice, depending on forecasted total. per push contracts pay each time i show up, seasonals are paid up front, doesn't matter how often i show up. would really love to plow more throughout the storm but this is how everyone seems to do it around here...they may complain when there's snow in their drive but only want to pay once!

    as far as the apron thing goes: what i try to do (might not be able to do it in all areas) is this. i plow a swath in the direction of oncoming traffic into the snowbank at least a truck length long, so when the city truck comes by there is almost nothing to push in front of the drive. i didn't always do this and no one ever called me about cleaning the apron. just figured it's one more way to try and differenciate myself from others. "how come the jones' driveway doesn't have snow in it after the plow passes by?" don't know if the apron cleanup would fly by me, but it's on my list of changes for next years contracts!

    forget about the guy making $40/hour-he's not making any $!!! next year his clients will be will calling you and u get to explain WHY his isn't around any more. i've already raised prices about 40% from some of the guys around here ($25 vs $15!)...working on them little by little.
  9. JLC

    JLC Member
    Messages: 34


    Thanks for the great response. I was thinking along those same lines for a minimum. I don't understand these guys that only get the $15. Why wouldn't you plow if there is less than 3? I guess I'm the type who likes to have my drive melted and dry by the middle of the day, so I would want someone who serviced my drive to come unless it was just a dusting that the plade wouldn't even clear.

    Does that apron trick work? I've given it thought, but didn't know if it would work. This would probably save the majority of the work to reclean this area.

    Now if we would just get some snow so I could probably answering a lot of my own questions.

  10. CT18fireman

    CT18fireman Banned
    Messages: 2,133

    It all depends on the surface conditions and amounts. I have places that with 3 inches I can spread a mix and it will melt off. Others I need to plow it down and then spread. It is up to the customer and all part of the pre-season agreement. I just let them know what I think and what I will do. I am not going to put my men or equipment at risk trying to push to hard or too much on a slippery surface.
  11. flakesmeangreen

    flakesmeangreen Senior Member
    Messages: 217


    i'd love to plow (or spread) under 3" but doesn't seem the market wants it here. even had a few contracts that were questioning my trigger ar 3", previous contractor did it at 4". i agree with you about a clear drive, i plow mine anything over a dusting.

    the apron thing works, not always 100%, but really helps.

    10-4 that "let's get some snow"!!!...just said on the today show minnesota got a monster storm!!!
  12. CT18fireman

    CT18fireman Banned
    Messages: 2,133

    What scares me with some drives is that we get a 2" fall it get driven on and iced and then we get hit a day or two later with a foot and the truck tires are spinning on the ice. I have agreements that say I will maintain the drive over the winter. This is why I tell them I need to plow or spread material for a light storm. I am not going to take that chance.
  13. flakesmeangreen

    flakesmeangreen Senior Member
    Messages: 217


    i agree w/ you. is what u do common in your area or did you have to persude ppl to make a switch? i'd love to change to something like this by me but doesn't seem like anyone does this, or is interested. if you had to persuade ppl to change i'd love to hear how it went. always making notes for next year (only 2nd season solo).
  14. Kent Lawns

    Kent Lawns PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 315

    1" trigger residential.
    .5" commercial.

    Salt as 1st flake is hitting pavement.
  15. CT18fireman

    CT18fireman Banned
    Messages: 2,133

    There are so many plowers here that will bid low that I do have to justify my service. I "sell" these extras when I meet personally with each customer. I let them know that this will make the driveway easier to plow and easier for them to drive on. you should be able to justify actions like this.
  16. cutntrim

    cutntrim PlowSite.com - Veteran
    Messages: 248

    Seeing as it's your first year, why not mix seasonal and per push? Also try different prices to see what the maximum charge is you can get while still signing up enough customers to fill your route. Unless you're planning to quote residentials all on the same street, your customers won't know one another so they won't know whether your other customers are seasonal or per push, or what they pay.

    After the season is done you'll be able to evaluate which pricing method and price level is the one that works best for the average winter in your area.

    We used to plow residentials per push but we now do them seasonally, same as our commercial customers. We went from strictly residential to strictly commercial. Now we mix both.
  17. carlriv2

    carlriv2 Senior Member
    from Mass
    Messages: 126

    There was a comment stuck in my head

    My wife and I keep going back and forth between what is practical from a business sense and what is fair to the customer.

    I understand about being fair but you best be sure it is practical from the business standpoint.

    When I was doing residentials I was always concerned with keeping the customer happy and not charging too much. Several years back I decided to raise prices and figured I would loose some jobs. I went up 20% across the board, lost one. Made more money. The next year I went up 10% more and lost 3 more. Still made lots more money and the customers I had were happy to pay because I did a great job

    In my case this saying did not really work but close
    "Charge more - Work less - Make the same money"
    I worked the same and made more.
    For those of you that think I was the lowballer I was getting $35.00 to $80 per drive per push up to 2 per storm and averaging $225 per hour on residentials
  18. CT18fireman

    CT18fireman Banned
    Messages: 2,133

    My trucks average just a little more than this per hour. In my area though prices are all over the place and customer loyalty is important.
  19. JLC

    JLC Member
    Messages: 34

    Let me be sure I'm getting it right when you say seasonal. I'm assuming that this is the number of events x price to plow. Example a $25 drive with an average of 10 snow removal events per year would yield $250 flat rate due at the beginning of the season and all plowing would be taken care of for them. I would guess the benefits of this would be that there would be now haggling over how many inches or how many times we plowed. Might be a problem if there is a dry winter though.
  20. flakesmeangreen

    flakesmeangreen Senior Member
    Messages: 217

    problem w/ a dry winter??? what problem would that be? lots of money & no work??? as long as the customer understands the agreement

    personally i like the idea of per pushes AND seasonals. it evens things out, especially if it's a long, snowy winter. but this is only my 2nd year, so who know what i'll say in a few more.