EDITOR'S NOTE: Prepare And Prosper

Wow. Was that a crazy winter or what?

As the cover of this year’s State of the Industry report exclaims: Snow’s Back!

If you were fortunate to be located in one of the snow belt regions that received record-breaking amounts of snowfall than you’ve probably only recently caught your breath from this whirlwind winter. It pretty much started in mid to late November and didn’t let up until late March. Heck, South Dakota snow fighters caught a late, late, late season blizzard that wrapped up many areas of the state for a couple of days in late April and early May.

Meanwhile, many snow fighters in the Mid-Atlantic are lamenting the few inches of accumulation that fell over five months.

And while the season in its entirety might not have been the windfall that some snow contractors fondly remember from winters at the start of this decade, it was an improvement on the lackluster snow totals from the past few years.

So while you are occupied with your summer business operations, you need to reflect on the most important lesson winter has taught the industry: Be prepared for anything.

The fact is, many snow fighters approached last winter with a glass-half-empty attitude. According to 2008 State of the Industry research – which can be found in this issue starting on page S1 – the majority of snow removal contractors (nearly 56 percent) anticipated Winter 2007-08 business conditions to be the same or worse than the previous winters. Less than 10 percent predicted the above average winter conditions that many regions of the U.S. and Canada experienced.

This just goes to show you that Mother Nature still has it in her to impress.

So how can you best prepare? For starters, know your numbers. Calculate your profit margins and identify the biggest factors influencing profit and loss.

Next, find out what your clients really think of your service. Send everyone a postseason survey and have them evaluate your performance. Then, follow up with each client personally and address any outstanding issues.
Then, address your fleet issues. If you’re coming off the winter season on solid financial footing, consider making the necessary investments into new snow removal equipment. And make sure to retire those pieces that you’re not 100 percent certain will make it though a tough winter.

Finally, determine how your generating new business and attack. For example, if it’s word-of-mouth marketing, then start a client-referral program.

Remember, you can never be too prepared, but you certainly can be under.

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