Snow removal is a challenging business. Besides the unpredictable weather and workload, it’s also challenging to schedule clients, keep customers happy, and minimize risk and liability on the job. However, professional snow removal can also be a lucrative business—and a great augmentation to other seasonal businesses such as landscaping or tree care.
In this article, we address some of the common mistakes snow removal companies make and how to avoid them.
12 Common Mistakes of Snow Removal Companies
1 – Failing to Plan Crews Ahead of Time
Snow removal companies face unique scheduling challenges. Unlike many companies who can schedule crews days or weeks in advance, snow removal companies are more on-call, needing to be able to dispatch at relatively last-minute times. However, this doesn’t mean you should be scrambling to organize your crews whenever snow hits.
You should have a crew prioritization plan in place, as well as a system for scheduling the most efficient routes. Tools such as Arborgold use GPS to schedule the best routes for your crews. This helps minimize drive-time so you can make all your appointments in a timely manner.
2 – Overscheduling Your Crews
Your customers are relying on you for timely service. There’s nothing that will kill your business faster than a reputation of unreliability. The best way to ensure you’re able to fulfill the promises you make is to be sure not to overschedule your crews. Use scheduling management software, crew tracking, and data to make more educated scheduling decisions.
3 – Not Using a Snow Removal Management Software
If your company is relying on spreadsheets, word documents, or—worse—handwritten ledgers, you’re not functioning as efficiently as you could be. Scheduling, client management and communication, resource management, billing, reporting are all essential to your snow removal business. However, if you’re doing most of this by hand, have lots of double-entry (having to input information in two or more places), or do not have automated systems that work with each other, then you’re likely making mistakes or letting opportunities fall through the cracks.
Utilizing a snow removal software for your business management means all of your essential systems are interconnected. Quotes can be turned into work orders in a click, finished jobs are invoiced immediately, and you can even automate client communication. This helps reduce error, time, and effort, making you less likely to have jobs, clients, or payments fall through the cracks.
4 – Forgetting to Watch the Weather
If a storm hits and your company is unprepared, you’re likely to have some unhappy customers on your hands. Stay up-to-date on weather warnings and reports. This helps you prepare triage ahead of time so you can delegate as soon as the storm hits.
5 – Not Scheduling Strategically (Or Scheduling by Hand)
Any snow removal company knows that clients have high expectations. They believe that snow should be removed from the premises as soon as the first flake falls—and stay removed throughout a snowstorm. While setting expectations is important, so is getting your crews on the road and minimizing time between appointments.
Snow removal companies should have a system for scheduling crews in the most strategic way possible. In most instances, this means using a scheduling system that uses GPS to predict the best routes between clients.
6 – Starting Too Late in the Season
To run a successful snow removal business, you should be beginning your prep early. This means hiring crews, preparing equipment, and—most importantly—securing contracts with new clients.
Before the snow season begins…
- Renew previous year’s contracts (and ask for referrals)
- Begin advertising your services
- Reach out to potential clients
- Ensure equipment is in working order (perform repairs and maintenance as needed)
- Stock up on necessary supplies (ensure you use a forecast to predict needs so you don’t overextend your working capital)
- Hire crews
- Organize snowfall crew schedules
7 – Failing to Purchase Insurance
Snow removal can be a dangerous business. However, some businesses are so excited to hit the ground running that they forget to protect themselves from accidents. Make sure to have not only worker’s compensation insurance but liability insurance as well.
8 – Not Protecting Yourself in Contracts
Has your lawyer taken a look at your service contracts? Make sure you’re protecting your business from liability, service disputes, or payment issues by having a well-written contract. This can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in refunds, litigation fees, damages, and more down the road.
9 – Skipping Safety Training With Your Crews
Even though you (hopefully) have worker’s compensation insurance, you want to avoid using it unless you have to. The best way to avoid accidents on the job is safety training. Don’t assume your crews know the best way to prevent slips and falls, how to properly use the equipment, or how to identify signs of hypothermia or overexertion. Require regular safety training—and don’t skimp.
10 – Not Knowing the Competition
To run a successful snow removal business, you should have an educated idea of the competition and market price in the industry. What are your competitor’s rates? Do people find them too high (or a great deal)? What are their service levels?
A general rule of thumb in business is to know everything you can about your competition and keeping track of what you can do better.
11 – Not Having a Backup Plan
When a huge snowstorm hits, there’s nothing worse than not being able to fulfill your client contracts. Instead of risking upsetting your client base, have a backup plan in place. Partner with another snow removal company, have additional contractors on standby or find another backup plan. You should ensure that if the workload is more than your business can handle you can still make things work.
12 – Failing to Communicate Well with Clients
Even though snow removal may feel like a manual labor job, it relies more on customer service than you would guess. Your clients should know when to expect you, when a job is complete, and have an easy way to process payment. Some snow removal scheduling software will send automated text messages when the crews are on their way or when a job is complete and will process payment automatically.
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