Our pursuit of this competitive advantage is the reason why we sit through hours of seminars, webinars, and other educational opportunities afforded to us through industry associations and offer concepts and opportunities that, when applied, lead to a competitive advantage.
This tireless pursuit is critical to offset two of the greatest costs. The first are deicing materials, which are inherently expensive. For most of us, trying to predict exactly how expensive they’ll be from season to season comes with only a little more certainty than flipping a coin. For example, the salt industry reminds me a lot of a casino and the fact that the house always wins. You and I aren’t the house.
The other influential cost is labor, which most markets have seen skyrocket in recent years. Furthermore, many in the snow and ice management workforce command some type of premium pay for being on-call around the clock and working in very difficult conditions, and rightfully so. Snow fighters earn every single penny. Still, snow and ice management leaders must keep a close eye on labor costs or else their bottom-lines dwindle quickly.
Establishing some sort of advantage for your ops is necessary because there’s so much purchaser-perceived similarity in what we do. And so often, it’s the little things that set us apart to our prospects and clients. We’re always searching for that little edge that will be noticed, will win us more business, earn us more referrals, and drive up our client-retention rate.
But what if there was a way to gain an unfair competitive advantage?
Not a small edge or a slight advantage here and there, but something game changing? Something huge. What if there was a way to have such an advantage, that it seemed unfair to the others competing in your marketplace? I’m here to share that such an unfair advantage does exist. It’s super simple, but not so easy.
Here it is: Build the best team.
I’m not talking about a good team. A good team wins some of the time. And I’m not talking about a great team. A great team wins a lot of the time. I’m saying build the absolute best team possible. It’s a simple concept. Yet, it won’t be easy to achieve, and it won’t happen overnight.
You’re not going to do it in a year, and you probably won’t even be able to get there in five years. Fortunately, this isn’t one of those, “be patient and it will pay-off” promises.
In fact, you many never feel like you ever achieve this completely because it is something a business leader must work on constantly. But here’s the super cool part: You’ll begin to notice results right away, and your unfair advantage will grow exponentially greater the better your team becomes. The greater the team then the greater the unfair advantage you’ll have in your marketplace.
In fact, if you want to reap the greatest results for your snow ops, trade in your many management hats for one and focus on being your company’s chief recruiter.
Anyone can procure that new fancy snow pusher that promises to cut snow clearing time by ten-percent. Anybody can get their hands-on software that makes routing and tracking a breeze. Equipment, gadgets, and technology are great, but if your competitors can get their hands on it too, how much of a competitive advantage is it really? It’s not. At least not for long.
People, though, are different. No two individuals are the same. Equipment manufacturers produce some pretty awesome stuff, but they do so in mass-cloned quantities. Each human being is distinctly unique, and that’s where you can gain your unfair advantage. If you recruit the absolute best person for a given seat on your team, you’re now the only one with that unique weapon in their war chest.
No two teams anywhere in the snow and ice management industry are exactly the same. Building a dynamic team gives you an unfair advantage. That’s how you win. Your differentiator is your people. And this isn’t one of those “feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy, your people are your greatest asset” kind of concepts either. If you have a crumby team, they’re not your greatest asset; they’re your greatest liability. Similarly, a great person stuck in the wrong seat on the bus isn’t your greatest asset either. He’s a lead-weight around your organization’s leg, in the swimming pool. You’re going to drown.
The best person for one team might not be the best person for another. Consider fit, culture, objectives, and the role in question when evaluating an individual’s compatibility. Take, for example, the athlete who changes teams and seemingly overnight becomes an all-star. Right guy, wrong team. It happens all the time.
Therefore, you must always be recruiting. There’s always a seat open on the bus for the right person. Be committed to building the absolute best team. There is no task before you that’s more important, or that will provide greater results. The best teams are the best because they have the best people.
Great strategy comes from the minds of great people. Creative concepts come from the minds of great people. Whatever it takes, refusal to fail, driven to win - comes from the hearts and minds of great people. All of the other pieces are driven by the team members who wear our colors. An organization is nothing more than the sum of its team members. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Making smart decisions is synonymous with success in leadership. However, none of us can make the right decision every time. You’ll hire the wrong person. You’ll put people in the wrong seats on your bus. You’ll come to realize that someone on your team just isn’t a good fit anymore. And when you do, you must act quickly. The consequences are too grave to sit on your hands one minute too long.
I don’t believe you can make the wrong people right, but you can make the right people better. As you stack your team with unbelievable talent, what’s next is to allow them to thrive in a culture of continuous improvement.
What’s great today won’t be tomorrow. Complacency and the status quo has killed many a successful team. If you build the best team, you’ll win. And if you continue to develop your team, then you’ll continue to win.
Mike Voories, CSP is the Chief Operating Officer at Brilar, a commercial landscape & snow maintenance firm with locations across the Midwest. He is also a consultant to the service industries. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org