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Questions about starting a snow plowing buisness

Discussion in '<a href=http://www.plowsite.com target=_blank ?>Sn' started by John B., May 14, 2001.

  1. John B.

    John B. LawnSite Member
    Posts: 2

    I've done some research and have lurked in this forum for awhile.
    I just have a few questions/comments if you don't mind.
    I notice when a newbie member of this forum asks a question about starting up a snowplowing buisness, you seem to recommend that they work or sub for another company. I have to disagree with that, I've worked in many small service buisnesses and there's one common theme, THEY DON'T TELL YOU JACK ABOUT THE MANAGEMENT/SECURING OF CLIENTS portion of the buisness, which is the MOST important portion of the buisness, if you don't have clients, their aint no buisness...
    For example, when I worked for a courier service back in Illinois, I was hoping to learn about the courier buisness, instead they just told me to go from point A to poing B, you never learned anything about the buisness, it was just non-skilled labor. Also, you might say you need to know how to operate a plow, true, but anyone who can drive can operate a plow with enough practice(theirs exceptions of course), I was not very good at plowing when I used to work for my uncle clearing his 2 miles or road in his private cabin drive, but eventually I got the hang of it.
    I have zero interest in residential accounts because of saturation of the market by little kids/old timers/previous construction workers/people with snowblowers who will work for peanuts, plus, finacially, commercial is where the money is.
    From reading previous posts, $150 an hour seems to be the going rate with seasonal prefered because of being able to figure out your budget, but harder to get. The area I'm in is hartford suburbs.
    Anyway, now my questions:

    1)HOW DO YOU GOT ABOUT BIDDING for small companies like gas stations, small convience stores, condominium complex's ect? I want to start out with small companies to start, not wall marts. I'm assuming if I underbid everyone, I'll get the contract 50% of the time, especially with cheap propery managers? I'd have to underbid because I have no other competitive advantage to established companies with references and a history of doing a good job.

    2) Are advertisements in local papers a good means of getting buisness?

    3)The local competition apears to be STIFF and the market somewhat saturated, but not without opputunity, I looked in the yellow pages and their must have been 30 landscaping companies covering 10 towns, I'm sure at least half do snow removal. I still think if I underbid, I can capture a share of the market?

    4)I have limited capitol, so I'm thinking of upgrading my mini van with special springs and putting a plow on it as my backup truck.. LOL so if my f-350 breaks down I have something and this way I don't have to buy another truck. Do you think if I used a van to plow, I'd ruin my reputation and my clients wouldn't take me seriously or is all they care about price and quality service?

    I'm sorry this was so long, I really appreciate any intelligent responses,
    thanks ahead.
  2. Deere John

    Deere John LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 327

    I think that you can put yourself in a position, by underbidding your professional competition very significantly, that you can sell your F-350 and equip several cheaper mini-vans with K-mart plows and saturate your market with your highly manouverable K-vans. Good luck!:eek:

    JD PLOWER LawnSite Member
    Posts: 56

    John, the best way I've found to acquire clients is cold call, make personal visits, and advertise in the yellow pages ( this is where I get most of my clients). You may want to reconsider not working for some one else. Granted plowing is not brain surgery, however plowing private roads is not the same as plowing medium size parking lots (especially on a Saturday morning at your local supermarket). You may find that working for another contractor for just one year will give you the experience to handle the larger lots . Newspapers are usually not the place that commercial properties look for contractors. Underbidding others by a large margin is one way to get your foot in the door, but its also a good way to get it crushed. Remember, you will still be expected to do the same quality work regardless of price. Building a successful business takes a lot longer than most people think . The best advice I can give is to listen to the people on this forum and take things slowly and good luck!!
  4. HC

    HC LawnSite Member
    Posts: 55

    Jd Plower is absolutely right, cold call these companies and ask permission to submit a quote. Submit a professional looking quote and then follow up. Here is my take on underbidding for what it is worth. You will not attract long term clients, or desirable clients who place service 1st. You will get the ones who switch companies yearly and always select the lowest bidder. They are the ones that always grumble about how bad their service was last year but still choose this years cheapest quotation. My humble advice, price fairly, submit lots of quotes, start quoting early (now), join SIMA, DO NOT put a plow on your mini-van under any circumstance, do not advertise in the paper, wait one year for a yellow pages ad (expensive, in my area you need a business line as well), call the property management companies in your area and ask for a list of their properties to quote on. Another note on under bidding with property management companies: if all your quotes are underpriced and you are new on the scene you will NOT be taken seriously and probably will not be considered. This is also the 1st impression they will have of your operation and we know how important 1st impressions are. Good luck.
  5. John B.

    John B. LawnSite Member
    Posts: 2

    Great advice pat and everyone else, thanks, appreciated.
  6. Mike Nelson

    Mike Nelson LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 416

    John B,

    You also may want to join SIMA.There web address is www.sima.org

    Good Luck and welcome aboard.:cool:

    Mike Nelson

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