It’s A Small, Small Word

Features - editor’s note

July 29, 2021

Whether we like it or not, we’re a cog in the machinery of a much larger global society.

Since the Internet transformed the ways business is conducted, we’ve witnessed the world get smaller and smaller. Although, many in the snow and ice management industry believed they were insulated from this revolution. The core business takes place over five, maybe six months, of the year. You drop plows and get to work.

However, the pandemic served as the first glaring example of how an incident halfway across the global could have eventual consequences in small-town USA. And it’s not just COVID. Consider these scenarios that could impact how you do business:

  • A cargo container ship runs aground in the Suez Canal and shipping traffic grinds to a halt for days. As a result, parts vital to the manufacturing of heavy equipment impacts the number of units being produced, and snow pros may not have the skid-steers and tractors they need to service their clients
  • A world-wide shortage of semi-conductor chips drastically reduces the number of work trucks being assembled. As a result, dealer lots are bare and contractors must make do with their battered and aging fleet for another winter.
  • Flooding along the Mississippi River prohibits barge traffic. As a result, rock salt sits on docks and container ships wait their turn to take the trip to Northern ports.
  • Political unrest in countries that mine deicing materials temporarily stops the flow of product. Prices for these materials skyrocket as snow contractors begin to preseason prep.
  • Russian and Chinese hackers exploit a glitch in popular, commonly used software to target small businesses with ransomware attacks. The effects are costly and devastating.

Now, while all of these are very real examples, I don’t want to come off as a Chicken Little professing that the sky is falling. My point is businesses owners and managers in 2021 must keep close tabs on global events and begin to connect the dots on how emerging trends taking place elsewhere around the globe could impact your winter snow and ice management operations.

Your contingency plans must extend beyond whether this will be an unseasonably warm or highly active winter. The number of variables used to calculate whether you’ll have a profitable winter have now expanded exponentially and you need to make preparations for worst case scenarios. Many of these may seem farfetched until they happen to you and you’re left with panicked thoughts about how you’ll meet your obligations to your clients and to your employees.

My recommendation is to set aside 15-20 minutes everyday to get a handle on world events. Talk to your peers and get a sense for emerging trends. Keep an open line of communication with suppliers and dealers and keep tabs on how their businesses are performing and what issues they’re facing.

Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It turns out this is as true today as it was when old Ben made the quote.