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Developing a strong winter administrative team could include bringing in seasonal support staff.

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October 19, 2018
Stephanie Sauers-Boyd
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One of the most challenging aspects of running a snow business’s admin team is navigating around the seasonal nature of winter services. It’s important to realize that an admin who works well all season long, may struggle to keep up during the fall and winter months when the flakes are flying and office needs are demanding.

A common practice in the snow industry is to utilize service providers as support staff in the field, and there is nothing wrong with doing the same in the office. Here are some things to keep in mind when considering seasonal support staff.

What's an admin good for?

Have you heard the phrase “delegate and elevate?” Delegating lower level tasks allows the time to elevate to higher level tasks that are critical to the success of a company. Honing in on this skill has been my core focus at our company for the past year and it has helped the entire company. The point that I am trying to make is that there is not much that others cannot do. It’s just a matter of setting up a process and providing the proper training. Some of the tasks that our support staff has helped with includes setting up account manager binders, entering customers in our accounting system, entering pricing in our mobile app, setting up admin binders, sending contracts to service providers and, of course, doing snow invoicing.

How do I best utilize an admin?

While it’s important to realize that there are mistakes to be made, there are a few things you can do to prevent a major catastrophe. For seasonal snow invoicing, here are some of the steps you can take to ensure a successful season.

Equip. Create a detailed instruction manual that can be used as a training guide and reference for the entire season.

Educate. See if you can create a copy of the program that you use for invoicing and call it your “test system.” This way the admins can practice with real events without the threat of messing anything up in your true set of books. Once you set this up, provide weekly training leading up to your season.

Eliminate pitfalls. Think about all the things that could go wrong and then discuss them with your IT team if there are any surefire ways to prevent it from happening. We had an incident last year where an admin accidentally sent an excel sheet with too much information on it to a service provider instead of the less detailed PDF. After discussing with our IT team, we decided to restrict the admins from the capability of sending out ANY excel documents. While it had its inconveniences, I could rest at night knowing that the wrong information was not going to get in the wrong hands.

Where do I start looking for an admin?

Because it could snow every day or it could not snow for weeks, the availability of support staff needs to be very flexible. Keeping someone on retainer throughout the entire season is one thought, but being forthright and honest in your job postings, and marketing in the right place will lead you to a niche of men/women who have needs/wants that match yours. We found that the best match for our company is either a stay-at-home spouse with school aged children who is looking to get back into the work environment slowly or someone who is nearing retirement and is just not ready to completely give up work yet. Both of these demographics are happy to make some extra money around the holidays, but wouldn’t mind if they didn’t work all winter if it never snowed.

Admin Quick Setup Guide

  • Determine what you can delegate and create a process
  • Create a detailed help wanted ad that provides the specifics of what you are looking for
  • Interview applicants and focus on their willingness to learn and the flexibility of their schedule
  • Train, train, train
  • Follow up regularly to ensure accuracy

How do I ensure a successful season with a part-time administrator?

Because this position is part-time seasonal, it can be difficult to feel full confidence in the capabilities of someone who is not using their skills and operating in your system on a day-to-day basis.

To eliminate these concerns, you might think about having your team come in on a weekly basis regardless if it snows or not. A simple half-day to do more practice on invoicing could go a long way, just to keep their minds fresh on the process. Additionally, think about some other tasks around the office that could help them get to know more about your business.

One example could be having them scan old files into an e-folder. This will help you get more organized while allowing them the time to get more familiar with your file folder system. Finally, include your seasonal admins in team lunches and get togethers when it makes sense. Order lunch and eat together in the conference room. By having lunch with the team, conversation about various subjects will naturally occur and help them get more in tune with what is going on.

Stephanie Sauers-Boyd is the president of Philadelphia-based Sauers Snow and Ice Management, a 2013 Leadership Award recipient and a regular Snow Magazine contributor.