I took a call this week from a property owner who had questions about Industry Standards. I initially thought they were going to ask about operational standards and the ASCA’s ANSI standards. Instead, what they were really after were standards for bidding contracts. And as I dug deeper, what they were really looking to do was save money.
The exact question: What is the standard trigger throughout the country?
Rather than answering the question directly, I began to ask questions. I needed to know where they were operating out of (Colorado), and then I asked what sort of properties they owned and what was located on the property. It turned out the property owner had a variety of properties housing various business establishments. One was strip mall with a Dollar Store, while another was a party/reception venue. A few others had businesses that generated plenty of foot traffic.
As the property owner continued to describe what they were trying to accomplish -- save money -- I began to contemplate how often snow professionals were going to have this same conversation this year.
So, I cut right to the big question: How much liability are you willing to take on?
Of course, the ASCA’s model legislation, the Snow Removal Limited Liability Act, passed in Colorado in 2018. I asked what would happen if a pedestrian slipped and fell while traversing one of the properties where he had decided to enact a 6-inch trigger (yes, this is what he was contemplating). I explained that even if they attempted to use a hold-harmless agreement to pass on their liability to the snow contractor, that would be null and void in Colorado and, as the property owner, he would still hold the liability.
Needless to say, the property owner was no longer enamored with the idea of a 6-inch trigger.
The conversation switched topics to fluctuating seasonal weather. The property owner didn’t want to be on the hook if they got a huge winter, but he didn’t want to pay for services if they had a very low-snow winter, either. I explained we traditionally see winter weather as a three-season cycle – one heavy/active, one light/non-active and the third moderate/average – and you need to stick with it. If you go with a seasonal contract you are going to underpay some years and overpay in others, but in the end it all evens out. If you with a per-event pricing structure, you are not going to have to pay much in low-snow years, but you will pay out big when you get that huge snowfall winter.
I then introduced him to the weather insurance concept and advised him to investigate that option on his own. I also encouraged him to find a snow and ice professional in his market who understood everything we discussed because if he did, then he would be working with an educated professional. In the end he thanked me for the information and my time and that he now had a fresh perspective on what he needed to do.
As the upcoming sales season approaches, we’ll never know what winter has in store for us. However, as snow professionals, it’s vital to communicate to your clients – both existing and would be – that you’re selling winter services based on value, not price. And for property owners, the return on that investment is partnering with an educated professional who now only knows the business of snow and ice management, but also has their best interests in mind as they establish a safe environment for property owners and their clients to conduct business.
Kevin Gilbride is the Executive Director of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA).