The year-round snow business

May 12, 2017 -  By

“There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” – Morpheus, The Matrix

I’ll just say it. Every snow business should be a year-round snow business—a “snow-only” business, if you will. I believe that with all of my heart. Let me explain.

To be performed optimally, the professional snow and ice management business (snow business, for short) is a full-time, year-round endeavor, with specific tasks to be performed each month of the year. It’s also a highly profitable endeavor, unless mismanaged, and should never be degraded by the unnecessary distractions of a low-margin business unit.

There are three common models for snow businesses. The first is for the snow business to be an operating division within a larger company with two or more divisions. For example, a full-service landscape contractor may have several divisions: maintenance, construction, irrigation, tree care, lawn care and snow. In this model, the snow business is often neglected for several months of the year due to the demands of the other divisions.

The second common model is for a snow business to be established as a separate legal entity but to coexist with one or more other legal entities for other services under an umbrella of common ownership. In practice, this portfolio strategy often functions the same as the first strategy by failing to provide year-round attention to the snow business.

The third model is for a snow business to truly operate as a “snow-only” business, without interference or restrictions from other divisions or entities. There are many successful examples of these companies throughout North America. In the words of Morpheus from the movie The Matrix, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” These firms are walking the path.

The interesting thing is that in each of the three models outlined above, the snow business could be operated as a year-round “snow-only” business. It’s not about the structural model; it’s about seeing the value of devoting sufficient resources to the snow business throughout the year. It’s about optimizing the snow business and never allowing other divisions to restrict investment or attention—especially if the other divisions are lower margin divisions.

The Snow & Ice Management Association has created many helpful tools to help snow professionals with their snow businesses, including a number of best practice checklists and guidelines. A quick look at these tools will clearly indicate the need for a year-round, all-in approach to operating a snow business at a high level.

The snow business has come a long way, baby. Back in the day, anyone with a four-wheel drive vehicle and a plow was in the snow business. Today’s snow professional is a highly-trained expert; is educated in snow and ice science, equipment, technology and best practices; and has a commitment to continuing to elevate the industry.

The days of a snow business being a way to make a few extra bucks in the “off-season” are long gone. For today’s snow professionals, the “off-season” begins in the spring. It’s a year-round business, whether you realize it or not. The sooner you recognize the opportunity afforded by taking this approach, the more prepared you will be to compete with those players who have already made the commitment. How much longer will you treat your year-round snow business like a hobby?

Now is the time to get on board. The train is leaving the station.

Photo: ©istock.com/VioNet

Phil Harwood headshot

About the Author:

Harwood is a Managing Partner with GrowTheBench and Pro-Motion Consulting. Reach him at Phil@GrowTheBench.com. He is a Landscape Industry Certified Manager, NALP Trailblazer, NALP Consultant, and Certified Snow Professional. Harwood holds a BA in Marketing and Executive MBA with Honors from Michigan State University.

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