Editor's Note: Stop Using Subcontractors

Departments - Editor’s Note

The transition from “subs” to “service provider” is another mile marker for the snow and ice industry on that long road toward legitimacy.

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April 30, 2019

A trend is developing in the professional snow and ice community and I believe it’s important for the industry to run with it, too. Gradually, over the last year, I’ve noticed a preference for the word “service provider" over “subcontractor” when identifying the contracted winter workforce.

Frankly, it caught me a bit by surprise at first. However, I talked to a few industry insiders about it, and I’ve concluded this change in vernacular really is a positive move for the snow industry.

More and more, industry professionals have stopped using “subcontractors.” No, we’re still contracting with outside winter help. Instead, snow professionals are reevaluating the role these outside contractors play in their seasonal success, and this transition to this new moniker reflects that outlook.

Recently, I ran this observation by a few insiders, including Philly snow fighter and 2013 Leadership Award recipient Stephanie Sauers-Boyd because outside service providers make up the bulk of her winter workforce. Having made the switch in vernacular herself, she says the transition to “service provider” reflects the importance the one-time “subs” now play in the company’s overall success.

Stephanie agrees this e transition is gaining momentum because contractors, herself included, want to include service providers as part of something bigger, as important facets of the organization and as key players on the winter services team. Labels like “subcontractor,” or more commonly “subs” have negative connotations, as if they are somehow “less than” the average snow professional. “Service provider” instead alludes to a worker you can count on to show up and perform, and who will provide the service promised when the contracts were signed.

I agree with Stephanie and other industry professionals but would add that this relatively minor change in semantics has other major ramifications.

When I came on board as Snow editor 15 years ago one of, if not the major struggle the industry was working to overcome was to shed its “plow jockey” persona for that of the small business professional. The industry could barely trace is roots back a half century, with a surge toward professionalism (the modern era) beginning in the 1970s. And not so long ago, the commercial snow industry, long overshadowed by its municipal and highway-bound cousins, were unsung “service providers,” too.

Only over the last decade has our trade taken major strides to establish itself not only as a professional industry, but as a legitimate emergency service. More companies brand themselves as snow firms who do landscape instead of the other way around. We’ve gained a voice in legislative circles at the state and federal levels. And with the advent of written Industry Standards and the addition of ISO 9001/SN 9001 certification, this industry has begun to receive the nod of approval by allied industries.

Therefore, the transition from “subs” to “service provider” is another mile marker on that long road toward legitimacy. And with each subsequent step we’re getting that much closer.