Spring cleanup

Spring cleanup

Earning money with snow tools doesn't have to stop when the snow stops falling.

May 12, 2011
Bryce Goodell
By the time the snow season is over, most contractors are content to put their winter maintenance equipment away and prepare for warm-weather work. One area contractor, however, is not quite so eager to put his equipment into storage. Instead, he holds onto his snow pushers for one more profit potential – even after the threat of snow has vanished. For him, it’s time to do some spring cleaning.

Tyson Bohlman, president of Superb Services in Grand Forks, North Dakota, founded his business seven years ago while going to school for landscape design. However, you could say he’s been in the industry since he was 13 years old, when he first began mowing his grandma’s lawn. Today, Bohlman employs between eight and 15 people depending on the season, but he expects that number to increase as he continues to grow the business at a controlled rate.

Snow and ice management became a natural extension of Bohlman’s business, allowing him to earn extra revenue during the long North Dakota winters. Unlike many other contractors in the area, though, he began exploring new equipment to give him an edge over the competition. In 2008 he purchased his first snow pusher, which was somewhat unique to the Grand Forks market. “Some of the bigger contractors up here use them,” said Bohlman. “But most guys don’t – especially smaller companies like us.”

Eventually, Bohlman expanded his inventory, and today he owns a rubber-edged Pro-Tech Sno Pusher for his payloader, as well as two rubber-edged Sno Pushers for his skid steers – with one of the two being a pull-back model. Throughout the years, the pushers have helped Bohlman be more productive with his existing equipment, since he wasn’t interested in buying new trucks, skid steers or loaders exclusively for snow and ice management. “We try to utilize all of our equipment year-round,” he said. “That’s where snow pushers come in. They help us be more profitable with the equipment we already have.”

Despite providing year-round service, Superb Services is left with a slight lull from mid-March to the end of April. During this time, a year’s worth of snow seems to melt all at once, saturating the thick clay soil of the region and causing the Red River of the North to go into flood stage. While this happens, there isn’t much work for area contractors, except for cleanup.

That’s where Bohlman started getting the idea to use his rubber-edged snow pushers for more than just snow removal. In the spring of 2010, he was asked to help remove a couple inches of water and mud from the floor of a potato warehouse. At such shallow depths, the water couldn’t be pumped, and the warehouse was tired of inefficiently using 10 to 15 employees with hand squeegees to take care of it. As a result, Superb Services was asked to clean up the mess.

“At first, we tried using angle brooms to push the water out, but we weren’t getting very far,” Bohlman said. Then, he reached an epiphany – “A rubber-edged snow pusher is basically one big squeegee.” After coming to this conclusion, Bohlman took out a skid steer Sno Pusher from storage and went to work.

Just as the pushers could wipe concrete clear of snow, they seemed to work equally well with water. And similar to how the pushers contained snow, rather than windrowing it, they held the water together in a similar fashion. Bohlman said, “The Pro-Techs worked amazingly. They cleaned the floors just as well as they clear snow.”

After success with the potato warehouse account, Bohlman began envisioning other applications where his snow pushers could be used during spring flooding. This led him to the city golf course and riverfront residential lots, where he began cleaning up the silt deposits left behind from the receding floodwaters.

To minimize turf damage, Bohlman attaches one of his pushers to a rubber-tracked skid steer, which allows him to travel over the grass without harming it. Then, he drops the rubber edge of the pusher onto the turf and begins pushing the silt and excess water back to the riverbank. “As long as the ground is wet, the pusher actually squeegees sediment off the grass without hurting the turf,” said Bohlman.

Although the market for this service is very niche, Bohlman has caught plenty of attention with his snow pushers. In fact, other area golf courses have taken notice and started renting their own snow pushers for this task, whereas before they would often tap into their irrigation systems to wash the silt back into the river.

His customers seem extremely pleased with the work he’s done. “Until now, people didn’t have an efficient method of cleaning up standing water and mud,” said Bohlman. “So they’re very happy.”

Likewise, Bohlman has been pleased with how his Sno Pushers have held up throughout harsh conditions in both winter and spring. “We bought them because they’re simple and extremely durable,” he said. “And we proved that to be true because my guys haven’t destroyed one yet – despite pushing our equipment to the limit on a daily basis.”

Bohlman strives to provide the best customer service in Grand Forks while trying to make his business more efficient. Thanks to his snow pushers and some progressive thinking, Bohlman took a step toward accomplishing both goals. Now, he offers a new, valuable service to his clients, which allows him to earn some extra revenue in the slow season with his existing equipment. Some may call that killing two birds with one stone but, according to Bohlman, “It’s simply taking care of my customers.”