(Another) Snow Removal Story from Winter’s Past: The Winter of ’99

Snow Pile

The theme for this winter: snow, snow, and more snow!

With winter in full swing, it’s hard not to be reminded of some of my most memorable seasons as a snow & ice contractor.

One season I’ll never forget is the winter of 1999. The Midwest was hit pretty hard that year. During one storm we got 14 inches of snow in just under two days—a showstopper for the Cincinnati metro and surrounding areas to say the least. The only saving grace for us was that it occurred over the New Year’s holiday, which bought us a little time, since many of our clients were closed.

Falling Behind

As the storm rolled in and progressed, we did our best to keep up. It grew increasingly more difficult to make headway, and every 12 hours the storm got worse. We were getting killed, and we simply weren’t equipped to handle these conditions. Thirty-six hours into the storm it became clear that we had to make a serious business decision.

We had more than a foot of snow on every parking lot we managed, and 1-ton trucks were no match for the weather conditions we were facing. We needed to rent larger construction equipment, and we had to get our hands on it before it was gone. We went into action mode and hired as many companies with equipment as we could find, along with renting several loaders, backhoes and operators to run them.

Fortunately, the added manpower and equipment did the trick. We got a jump on it, and within a day and a half we opened all of our lots. We had a fairly large business at the time; we were doing about $5 million in revenue and serviced around 200 lots, so this was quite a task. Plus, due to the holiday we had to make these decisions without first consulting our clients, which was risky.

Playing Catch-up

We had some big costs involved, so this wasn’t a small gamble. We worked for four days around the clock and spent a lot of money to get the job done, so we certainly wanted to be paid more than what we had spent for our efforts.

When it was all said and done, we had several meetings to explain the invoices to our customers. Overall they were pleased we made the decision to move forward over the holiday so we could have their sites ready for business.

Relationships Made the Difference

I would have never made the decision to deploy all of the extra resources if I didn’t expect to get paid for it. And I expected to get paid because I knew my customers, and they knew me. We believed our customers would be happy that we added the extra service to keep them open for business.

Luckily, today it’s easier to stay in constant communication with your clients, which takes the burden off the contractor to make decisions like this. But it’s important that you develop relationships and build strong communication with your customers so you can confidently make business decisions when needed.

Good luck out there this season. Keep your crews safe and your customers happy!

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2014 issue of Snow Business.


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