3 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Commercial Snow Removal Company

commercial snow plow

Winter is just around the corner, and with the winter weather comes heavy snow and ice. And as a business owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the property is cleared of dangerous snow and ice — which is where commercial snow plow companies come in. With commercial snow removal services, you don’t have to worry about clearing snow yourself. But how do you choose the right snow removal company? Let’s take a look at a few factors to keep in mind to ensure you choose the best commercial snow plow company for your needs.

Timing and efficiency: When a major snowstorm hits, you want to ensure you’re working with a company that will have the snow removed in a timely manner. This is why it’s important to ask potential companies about their turnaround time after heavy snowfall. You don’t want employees and customers or partners showing up to your company, only to find piles of snow still remain. So when choosing a snow removal company, make sure to ask about what kind of response time you can expect.

Communication: Working with any business requires proper communication. This is especially true when working with a service company, like snow removal companies. You should never feel like you’re not having ample communication with your snow removal company, particularly during heavy storms. So when speaking with potential companies, make sure to ask about their communication methods. Many snow plow companies will use calling or emailing to communicate with customers before and after a snowfall. It’s important to remain informed about what services are being done at which times.

Services offered: And lastly, it’s important to choose a company that offers the services that you need. Aside from snow plowing, companies may offer services like deicing, snow relocation, sidewalk shoveling, and more. If you choose a company that doesn’t offer the services you need, you’re going to have a tough time managing the snow and ice come winter. So before deciding on a company, make sure you fully understand which services they can offer you.

With one million Americans sustaining injuries due to slip and fall incidents every year, it’s important to ensure no one gets hurt on your property this winter. Keeping these factors in mind can help you choose the right commercial snow plow company to ensure your property is taken care of this winter.

3 Reasons to Hire a Commercial Snow Removal Company

plowing

Come winter, business owners are going to find themselves preparing for snow storms. Snow and ice removal is crucial, especially for businesses with plenty of employees and customers. The winter weather can pose the risk of injury, which is why so many businesses invest in the help of snow plowing services. If you have yet to hire a snow removal company, let’s take a look at a few reasons to do so.

Avoid injury: Removing snow and ice can be very dangerous when not done correctly. In fact, a 2015 study found that on average, 11,500 Americans receive medical treatment each year for heart attacks, broken bones, and other injuries caused by removing snow. So rather than risking serious injury, business owners and property managers should leave snow removal to the professionals. This way, nobody gets hurt and snow and ice are removed efficiently.

Save time: It’s no secret that shoveling, snow plowing, and deicing can take up mass amounts of time — this is especially true for businesses with large parking lots and plenty of walkways. So instead of business owners taking it upon themselves to remove snow and ice, and taking up important time doing so, commercial snow removal companies can take care of it. Snow removal companies have the tools needed to remove snow and ice in no time. And this can allow business owners and employees to focus their time on important job-related tasks.

Prevent damage: It’s important for businesses to keep their property looking its best. Unfortunately, improper snow removal can cause significant damage to property. If snow and ice aren’t removed correctly, it can cause concrete and pavement to split and crack. Additionally, landscaping can be easily damaged when removing snow and ice. But when you hire commercial snow plowing services, you can rest assured that the proper equipment and methods are being used. In doing this, no damage will be done to your property and the snow and ice will be effectively removed.

As you can see, there are several benefits to investing in snow plowing services. So if you’re looking for a way to effectively remove snow and ice this winter while protecting employees and customers from the risk of slipping and getting injured, hire a commercial snow removal company this winter.plowing

What Do You Need to Become a Commercial Snow Removal Company?

Commercial Snow Removal Services - Sneller Snow Systems, Grand Rapids, MI

Are you interested in breaking into the Commercial Snow Removal market?  It is not easy, but as a team that stays on the cutting edge of Snow and Ice Management, we have a few thoughts to share.  There are no real “secrets” to becoming a contractor to commercial clients (that’s why we don’t mind sharing), but it will take a significant investment in time and money to specialize in the commercial snow removal market.

You can get away with a F-150 and a straight blade on a four-stall parking lot, but that is not really what we have in mind here.  When we talk about “Commercial Snow Removal,” we are looking at the bigger jobs. Parking lots with hundreds or thousands of stalls, factories or warehouses with lots of bays, properties with a mile of sidewalks, and other big projects.

Here is what you will need to be a Commercial Snow Removal Company

1.  An Understanding You Are About Risk Management and Client Satisfaction on top of Snow Plowing

First off, you need to change your state of mind.  Moving snow is your secondary concern.  Your primary concern is to minimize risk and to keep people happy.

You need to minimize risk of slip-and-falls, minimize risk of damage to property, and minimize risk of lawsuits to your direct client.  It changes the way you do your job because now, you can’t settle for “good enough.”  People have to be safe and the client that hires you needs to be safe from lawsuits. So that little patch of ice that might melt in 3 days might be okay on a residential driveway, but it is absolutely unacceptable on a commercial property.

What about keeping people happy?  In order for your clients to keep their clients, people need to not only be safe, but they need to feel like the lot is welcoming after a big storm.  Piles of snow that reduce visibility, slush in the gutters, and even excess salt that ends up on people’s dress shoes can all lead to bad client experiences that will ultimately lead to your client not happy with your service.

Ensure you keep this bigger picture in mind to provide what commercial clients need during winter snow and ice management.  It will help you to focus on the right things to drive real value for clients and therefore real profits for you.

2.  Excellence in all you do.

With commercial clients, you cannot afford to be mediocre.  There is just too much at risk.  With our litigious society, your clients cannot risk mediocre service that leads to lawsuits.  With fickle shoppers, your clients cannot risk an off-putting parking lot.  With a job worth six or seven figures a year, you cannot afford to mess this up.

We’ll be honest, if you are not driven do everything with excellence, you are not going to keep your commercial clients.  You can play a good game for a while, but sooner or later things will happen that will cause you to lose clients.  Even when you are driven to excellence, things go wrong, but a lot of things go wrong when you settle for mediocre.

If you want the big contracts, but you are hoping to be just “good enough,” do yourself a favor and make different plans.  If you disappoint the wrong clients, you could find yourself out of business completely.

3.  The Ability to Plan Well

It does not take a lot of planning to move snow off of a single car driveway.  Keeping a hospital safe and running during any weather or clearing the snow off of a square mile of parking lot is another story.  A good commercial snow removal company starts its planning in the summer time for how to tackle storms.

The plans include where to move snow, what areas need to be treated as “zero tolerance” areas where the areas are kept safe and slip free every second during the entire winter, how you are going to keep different zones safe, what hazards are in the lot and on the sidewalks, what landscaping to protect, and the list goes on and on.

One plan is not enough. You need contingency or backup plans. What happens if you have to work with an understaffed crew?  What happens when you get freezing rain and then the temperature drops so the ice doesn’t melt?  What happens when there is so much snow you don’t have room to pile it up anymore?  What happens when a piece of equipment goes down? All of these things need to be planned for ahead of time because a hospital won’t accept “my plow broke, so I will be back tomorrow some time.”

4.  The Right Equipment

Commercial jobs demand more efficient equipment.  Often that means bigger equipment because an end loader with a large box plow moves a whole lot more snow in one pass than anything that would fit on a half-ton truck. You would never finish putting salt down if all you used was a tailgate spreader.

It is not always bigger, though.  Sometimes smaller, specialty equipment is what you need.  If you are doing sidewalks with lots of pedestrian traffic, the right piece of small equipment is going to be more efficient than a big piece of equipment that sits and waits for all the people to get out of the way. In order to handle a commercial job timely, efficiently, and profitably, you will need to invest in the right pieces of equipment for each job.

5.  Training, Training, Training

Now that you have your plans and your equipment, your team needs to be able to effectively use both. You can’t just throw the plan at an employee, point them toward a piece of equipment, and say “go.”  In order to provide that “excellence” we talked about earlier, even the newest team member needs to look like a tenured pro their first day of clearing snow for your old and new clients alike.

That means you need to have a training plan and that training needs to happen in the early fall…long before you expect snow to fly.  We even recommend that you send employees through Snow Fighters Institute training as well as Snow and Ice Management training, so your employees are equipped to handle any situation.

6.  The Ability to Quickly and Accurately Document Everything

Due to the increase in lawsuits as well as increasing demands by commercial clients to prove you did what you said you were going to do, documentation has become an essential, non-negotiable part of commercial snow removal.  Newer apps linked with cloud platforms make this easier.

Now you can quickly and easily create your plans, show your employees how to execute those plans, and document what exactly happened to ensure the safety of the commercial property almost instantaneously…including capturing before and after pictures! Everything from time on site, to work done, to what equipment was used can be captured easily.

7.  Clear and Easy Client Communication

Related to documentation, you need to be proactive in your client communications.  It is not good enough that you have “done your job.” Now-a-days, clients expect instant updates, and you need to be able to provide those updates without making your employees spend half their day notifying clients regarding what is going on.

The same apps that document your work can allow clients to get real time views of current work with notifications when the work is complete.

8.  Insurance – Lots of It

It is typical for snow removal contractor insurance that covers four months to be SEVERAL TIMES MORE than what you paid for insurance for the landscaping side of your business for eight months.  Since there is more risk with commercial jobs, don’t be surprised if clients tell you a $1 million liability policy is too small.  You may need to have a liability policy that covers several million dollars in liability exposure just to have the privilege to provide a quote to some commercial clients, so be ready!

9.  Good Contracts

Some commercial clients have their own lawyers, so make sure your contract is well written.  The purpose of a contract is to provide clear communication of what is expected of each party both when things go to plan and when things don’t go to plan, whether one of the parties doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain or there is an “act of God” that was out of everyone’s control.

The contract really helps to keep a good relationship and to keep everyone on the same page if things don’t go perfectly.  We recommend you be the one who originates the contract, but regardless who writes the contract, make sure you have a qualified lawyer review the contract and have them explain what it all means in plain English.

10.                The Ability to Retain Great Employees

Let’s face it, snow removal can be hard.  Here in western Michigan, we can see three straight days of getting called out to remove snow day and night.  The long hours fighting snow in the cold is not an easy job, and the last thing you need is constantly losing employees during the season and between seasons.

When you can keep 80%, 90%, or more of your employees from season to season, you reduce hiring and training costs, you are assured consistent high quality work, and you can look in the mirror guilt free because you know you are treating people like they would like to be treated since they keep coming back.

How much you pay can attract people to your company in the first place, but it is how you treat them that keeps them coming back.  If they love what they do, they love the team they work with, and they love their employer, they don’t even think about doing anything different at the end of the season and you can turn around and get them to sign up for another year of protecting people against old man winter.

11.                Keep the Relationship in Mind

While the beginning of a commercial relationship may center on the quote and how well you present yourself, keeping the client means that you do what you can to maintain a great relationship with the key people who work for the commercial client.

This means you go beyond just clearing the snow.  Do you see a problem on the property that has nothing to do with you?  Your team should mention it because you are “partners in this together.”  When your client wins, you win.

Did something go wrong, and it is not clear whether or not it was your fault?  You are going to make it right anyway, because it shows you are invested in the relationship.  Maybe it was obvious it WASN’T your fault, you may decide to be the one who fixes it to delight your client.

While on paper it is a company that contracted you, in reality, it is still human beings that chose you and signed the contract.  Remember that relationship to keep these folks coming back to you year after year for your excellent service.

Are You Still Interested in Becoming a Commercial Snow and Ice Management Company?

We have given you just a taste of what it will take to become a true commercial snow removal company, and even then, reading about it is a lot easier than living it.  We have taken years to grow into a commercial snow removal company of excellence.  If you are interested in going after those big commercial jobs, plan on making a long term investment, and take one step at a time to grow into the commercial snow removal company of excellence you desired your company to be.

 

The Property Manager’s Guide to Getting the Best Commercial Landscaper

Snow Removal and Snow Plow Operator Careers - Grand Rapids Jobs from Sneller Snow Systems
  • Are you are a property manager or business owner who wants the best service out of your commercial landscaper in Lansing?
  • Have you looked for a landscaper who would give you the right combination of great service, reliability, and price, but you keep coming up empty?
  • Are you hunting for a commercial landscaping service but keep running into neglected projects, missed deadlines, or landscapers that are hard to reach?

As a property manager or business owner, the responsibility lies with you to delegate your landscaping jobs in a way that leaves your grounds looking great. After all, it’s a reflection of your business and your brand, but it’s the kind of thing that’s “invisible unless it’s bad.” People may drive by your property or walk up to your door again and again and never notice the grass, but as soon as there are areas that are neglected or sloppy, you would be amazed at how quickly these same people form a lasting negative perception—not of your landscaper, but of your company. After all, it’s your sign out front, not the landscaper’s. If they have to look past overgrown weeds, that’s not the impression you want to impart.

This illustrates the importance of the relationship with your landscaper. You rely on the landscaping company to get the job done, do it on time, and complete it right the first time around. When that doesn’t happen, this relationship may end up being rocky, strained, or just plain toxic. You fire your landscaping company and have to start all over again. You’re back in the uncomfortable territory of having to research new companies, get quotes, and hope that you have a better experience this time around.

That’s why our commercial landscaping company in Lansing has put together this guide to help property managers get the best possible service out of your landscaping company. We’ve talked with Ryan Thomas, a business consultant in Washington who has a background in commercial landscaping, to get his insight on how property managers can successfully navigate the relationship with their landscaper.

When this relationship is thriving, you’ll receive the best service and the highest-quality work. When it breaks down, stress mounts, quality suffers, and tempers may flare. So it’s worth keeping in mind the following points that will help you to hire the right landscaper and then cultivate a positive relationship with them.

What Both Sides Want

The best business relationships are the ones where you negotiate a deal that lets both sides come out smelling like a rose. The property manager wins because their grounds get taken care of with impeccable service. The landscaper wins because they get a client who provides them with the potential of stable, long-term work with a company they’re proud to add to their portfolio.  

There are two areas where Thomas points out what the commercial landscaper wants.

  1. Trust
  2. Recognition that you’re in business to make money

 These two forces are identical for the property manager. You can’t work with someone you can’t trust, and you’re definitely in business to make money.

Where Both Sides Differ

If you, as the property manager, want the same thing as the landscaper, where’s the problem? Here’s where the tension lies. Where the rubber meets the road, these two forces look different to both parties. However, a lot of that tension can be cleared up simply by being transparent about it. So here’s a (perhaps uncomfortably?) transparent look at what’s going through the heads on both sides.

1. Trust

The Commercial Landscaper

Thomas points out that the landscaper wants three things when it comes to trust.

  1. Trust that we’re not trying to rip you off
  2. Trust that we WANT to build long-term relationships with each one of our clients.
  3. Trust that we know what we’re doing.

The Property Manger

On the other hand, the property manager’s version of trust looks more like this:

  1. Trust that you’re going to come in under budget – no surprises, hidden fees, or tricky contracts.
  2. Trust that you’re going to do the job right – give me great, high-quality results that never make me look bad.
  3. Trust that you’ll own any mistakes – no sloppy work, cut corners, or concealed damage.

Now that both sides’ perspectives are out on the table, let the negotiation begin. The landscaper realizes that in order to earn that trust, they need to offer a fair price for great work that’s dependable, aesthetically pleasing, and consistent.

The property manager realizes that there’s no real trust if the landscaper feels mistrusted and suspected.

Here’s the basis for a strong, long-term relationship.

If you are a business owner, think about your best customers, the ones that make you smile when they show up. Do you roll out the VIP treatment for them? Be that customer to your landscaper, and you might just find that landscaper rolling out the VIP treatment for you. When there’s mutual trust and respect, it’s a surefire strategy to discover the landscaper’s best work showing up on your property.

2. Recognition that you’re in business to make money

The Commercial Landscaper

Thomas states the goal of the landscaper in language so plain, some landscapers might squirm at the idea of being that transparent.

“Every business, including the commercial landscaper’s, is in business to make money. Nothing is worse than having a customer who is trying to squeeze every last drop out of you.

“Our best long-term relationships with satisfied customers are with property managers who recognize that we have to hit our numbers. We love working with property managers who are willing to come up with creative solutions to get the most bang for their buck while understanding that we’ve also got to hit certain numbers or we’re not going to be in business much longer.”

The Property Manager

From the property manager’s point of view, you know your business has to make money, too. You don’t have unlimited funds to just hand out to every landscaper who wants to make more money. Your business has margins, and you have to hit your numbers just as much as anyone. That’s why you need a commercial landscaper who can come up with creative solutions to get you amazing landscaping services for a great price.

Now that those cards are on the table, the negotiation begins again.

  • The landscaper recognizes the pressure on the property manager. The landscaper needs to prove that they can hit their own numbers and offer quality work while still keeping the property manager under budget.
  • The property manager recognizes the pressure on the landscaper. The property manager sees that the way to get quality isn’t to “squeeze every drop” out of their landscaping contractor, but to step back and let quality flourish because that’s who the landscaper is.

Both sides come out smelling like a rose, and at the end of the day, both sides get what they really want: Trust, a recognition of the pressures that each party experiences, and a mutually beneficial solution.

A thriving, long-term relationship is in the making.

For Commercial Landscaping Services in Lansing, Contact Sneller Landscaping Today

For more than 30 years, Sneller Landscaping has been earning the trust of Lansing businesses for commercial landscaping services that go above and beyond the status quo. Our award-winning approach never sacrifices quality and never cuts corners. Learn more about what sets us apart, and contact us today for a quote. We look forward to serving you with transparency, dedication, and consistency. Call now!

How to Snow Plow a Parking Lot

Sneller Snow Systems, Michigan - Box Plow

Here you will find some basic pointers on how to properly plow a parking lot.  This is not an exhaustive list, but it will give you a feel for the basics.

Pre-Season Snow Removal Preparation

The biggest factor for success in snow removal is the pre-season preparation.  Like most of life, this old adage holds true, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

  • You need to plan where you are going to put the snow.  Take these things into account.
    • Put snow where water from melting snow will easily drain off of the parking lot and not where melting/refreezing snow will create a new slip and fall danger.
    • Avoid putting the snow near the building
    • Avoid putting snow near entrances to the street – the pile will block visibility and create a hazard
    • Put snow where it will minimize taking up parking spaces.
    • Put snow where people feel like it is not in the way of visiting your building.
  • Map where you will put the snow.  Yes, we literally mean “draw a map of your property and mark where you will stick the snow”
  • Identify, map, and mark hazards
    • Anything that sticks up above the pavement is a hazard and significantly unleveled areas of the pavement (like a big bump or dip) are hazards too.
    • Anything that needs to be gingerly plowed around (like landscaping elements that don’t respond well to a plow blade or snow stacking)
    • Use plow markers to identify where hazards are hiding.
    • Use the same map that tells you where to put the snow to tell you where all these hazards are
  • Identify what service levels need to be provided at what times of the day.
    • Some places need to have a perfectly clear lot and walkways during business hours but it may not need any work during certain hours of the night.
    • Do you have a “zero tolerance” property where during business hours you can’t have a spec of snow on walks or the parking lot?  Or can you wait until there is two or more inches before the plow comes out.  Can you just salt the lot when there is less than two inches?
    • Think about how clean you need to keep your property to always ensure safety without unnecessarily driving up your costs.
  • Will you use regular rock salt on your property, something that will melt snow and ice at very low temperatures, or will you use a product that is gentler on the concrete and landscaping?
    • Order salt or ice melt BEFORE the season begins.  You may have a hard time getting what you need at the price you want if it is a harsh winter and supplies are getting low.

Prepare Your Plow and Vehicle Before the Season Begins

  • Ensure any necessary maintenance is done to your vehicle and snow plow.
  • Double check the health of your truck battery.  A battery that is performing at 80% of capacity may start your vehicle easily, but it may not hold up to hours of plowing because the hydraulics on snow plows tax your vehicle’s electrical system.
  • Know how to use your plow!  This fact should go without saying, but too many people think, “It is snow plowing, how hard can it be?”  Read the user manual of your snow plow at least once to understand how to properly use your specific snow plow.
  • Install your salt spreader and ensure it is in good working order.

Pre-Storm Snow Removal Work

  • Double Check your equipment is working properly.  Always check for leaks and damage to hydraulic hoses 24 hours before a winter storm.
  • Pre-treat walks and parking areas when appropriate.  A pre-treated surface will make snow removal easier.  If there is freezing rain coming, proper pre-treatment can help ensure the walks remain safe through the storm.
  • Fill your salt spreader.
  • Get adequate sleep.  People who are tired work slower and are more likely to have an accident.

Plowing Your Lot

  • Remove snow from walks and next to the building first.  Those are obviously the most likely spots for slips and falls, but also you can push the snow to the lot and move it easily to where you will pile the snow.
  • Ensure Handicap parking places and walks get high priority because some handicap people require a cleaner path to your building than the average person in order to cover the distance safely.  This practice of prioritizing handicap pathways will also ensure ADA compliance.
  • Start from nearest the building and work your way to the outer edges of the lot.
  • Try to always move the snow in one push (in other words, don’t make a pile in the middle of the lot that you plan to move later)
  • Plan on plowing when your lot is at its emptiest.
  • Use extra caution and go slow when plowing next to curbs, vehicles, and other obstacles.  The weight of the snow in front of the blade can cause a vehicle to move a bit to the side and if you are going too fast, you will bump something.
  • Keep drains and catch basins clear to receive water from the melting snow.
  • With heavy snow storms, plan on multiple plowings.  Your plow can only move so much snow and waiting until the snow stops may not save you any work, especially with heavy snows.
  • Plow in straight lines for greater efficiency.
  • As you are coming up to the snow pile, slow down and start to raise the blade as you reach the pile to help with stacking (making the pile go higher) and to minimize impact on your equipment.
  • When plowing on a slippery surface, start the vehicle in motion just before dropping the blade.
  • Always pull the snow away from the building.  Pushing snow into the building can damage the building or at the very least put excessive moisture next to the building in spring.
  • Salt any slippery or potentially slippery surfaces to help ensure people do not fall.

Immediately After Plowing

  • Document the work done and take pictures showing a clean lot and walks.  This will help you avoid frivolous slip and fall lawsuits.  Store this information in a safe place for 10 years (or however long your lawyer tells you to keep it).
  • Clean your plow and look for damage.  Repair any damage right away so your plow is ready for the next storm.
  • Empty your spreader if you can.  If it is over a week between snows and a little moisture got into your salt, the salt can harden into big chunks, forcing you to break up a huge salt chunk by hand.
  • Evaluate how plowing the property went.  Take notes to make plowing go better next time.

At the End of the Snow Plowing Season

  • Document any changes you need to make in next year’s snow removal plan.
  • Thoroughly clean and prepare your plow for long term storage.  Follow the manufacturers’ directions for storing your equipment.
  • Closely inspect your equipment for damage and repair the equipment BEFORE storing it for the summer.  Repairing now ensures you don’t forget about any issues and you will beat the fall rush for repairs and new installs.
  • Store your plow where people will not see it.  “Out of sight, out of mind” creates a situation where your plow is least likely to be stolen.

Those are our top tips for plowing a lot.  We hope you enjoyed reading through them!