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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I failed some of my clients. I didn’t have service proposals for snow done yet this year - we got hit early/learning to father/ had an unplanned trip out of state we had to make last week- but many rightfully assumed they would be covered. 2nd night in my freshly replaced transmission (2nd in this truck this summer) started rattling and my backup is still in the shop. Rather than drag people along with a “hope to be back by date” i notified I couldn’t be depended on for snow and offered to help facilitate finding a new provider. As some of you could probably guess, this was not enough for everyone. I dont do deposits (everyone is generally either pre paid for the year or month of service) and didn’t take any payments so refunds are not necessary.

I’m pretty down on this. Generally speaking I am not afraid to fail, but the personal criticism and expressions of feeling mislead are really doing a number.

anyone have any thoughtful courses of action I could take to try and remedy the situation or just plain old “fail this way” advice? This obviously won’t kill me but if I could at all learn from it I absolutely would love to hear it.
 

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I am curious how you worded your informing the clients of the situation and what kind of negative responses you are getting.
As business owners, many of us expect perfection from ourselves, which of course is never possible 100% of the time.
I am often amazed at how much perfection I expect out of my business while I watch other successful companies cut corner after corner in all different aspects of business, but still remain in business.
You call it failure, which is a pretty strong word, I would call it a mistake of commitment. As with all mistakes, look at what you could have done differently and do that next time. Maybe you knew a few months ago that it was a little dicey to commit to plowing given that you have two trucks with a history of issues and should have let your clients know then, but didn't want to disappoint them?
Don't make things worse by getting all self pity or self destructive about. Get over it and move on and use it to become a better company. Sometimes saying no as soon as you can is the best business practice.
Sounds like you made an offer to help secure another provider, which is more than most would do.
 

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What happened was beyond your control, you can control weather right? You can control the inner workings of your transmission right? People are brain dead and whine a lot, don't let it get to you, just be honest and tell them like it is and move on. Maybe rent a truck? If not, that was the best you could do, except maybe carry a shovel and go at it.....
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I am curious how you worded your informing the clients of the situation and what kind of negative responses you are getting.
As business owners, many of us expect perfection from ourselves, which of course is never possible 100% of the time.
I am often amazed at how much perfection I expect out of my business while I watch other successful companies cut corner after corner in all different aspects of business, but still remain in business.
You call it failure, which is a pretty strong word, I would call it a mistake of commitment. As with all mistakes, look at what you could have done differently and do that next time. Maybe you knew a few months ago that it was a little dicey to commit to plowing given that you have two trucks with a history of issues and should have let your clients know then, but didn't want to disappoint them?
Don't make things worse by getting all self pity or self destructive about. Get over it and move on and use it to become a better company. Sometimes saying no as soon as you can is the best business practice.
Sounds like you made an offer to help secure another provider, which is more than most would do.
I was apologetic and let them know why. Let them know I had a course of action but felt it was “unfair to keep moving the goalpost on them”. I didn’t want to say “yeah I’ll be back up and running in a week” when last time this shop had it (warranty repairs since the new transmission was purchased in may) it was gone for 2 months. Didn’t put any blame on anyone but myself as I am not one to point the finger over my shoulder.

I do have a real “problem” with high expectations. It has costed me willing employees in the past, that’s something I have been working on a lot with my dad working with me.

i agree I “should/could” have seen it coming. After I got the second transmission installed I did the 500 miles then another 250 before towing anything at all it had performed flawlessly up until now, I believe it’s the torque converter bolts which is an easy fix but opening it up now could void my warranty. In the future, two trucks available per job means two trucks available- not one and the other “home soon”.

honestly I will be back up and running in a few days and I am wondering if maybe I should have just said that instead?

What happened was beyond your control, you can control weather right? You can control the inner workings of your transmission right? People are brain dead and whine a lot, don't let it get to you, just be honest and tell them like it is and move on. Maybe rent a truck? If not, that was the best you could do, except maybe carry a shovel and go at it.....
I considered renting a truck but decided setting the precedent could be more harmful if the repair(s) were not handled somewhat quickly.

I did offer to shovel the parties that were upset but was told I was either making excuses or rejected flatly.

I am probably taking it harder than I should be because I’ve worked with them for several years now, just hate to think all this time they had thier doubts
 

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The world won't end.
But lesson learned. As with anything, not being prepared can turn into a disaster. Even being prepared things can go south.
Question for you, do you plan on doing snow yet this winter once you get back on track?
If so, you also need to network with a couple other plow guy's.
If they hit a bind, you cover them, if you hit a bind they cover you.
As you being solo you have zero fallback. I don't do snow, but the guy who plows my yard has another company that can help out in true emergency. And I have been on his call list to jump in one of his plow trucks if there's sickness or family emergencies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
On a sidenote why did it take 2 months to fix it? After a week I would have been on them calling every day.
To my understanding- since the original replacement transmission failed internally they needed to send it out in order for the warranty to reimburse them and then they had a hard time getting a second. It’s a 96 k3500 so I tried to be understanding and it was over the summer /I had my other backup so I didn’t “need need it”. I usually am the guy frustrated with repairs so tried the opposite this time around. Lol, didn’t help.

Can you get them done with a snowblower?
I use my walkers with snowblowers so yes. Unfortunately ATM I’m down to c3500hd and my wife’s mini van- the truck gets stuck on flat ground this time of year and with the new baby I didn’t feel comfortable not having a vehicle at home for her in case of an emergency.

was considered but again, setting the precedent could have been dangerous for that many clients (never mind the ten or so gravel drives)

i did buy a second walk behind blower yesterday tho just in case it is really bad and I need to borrow a relativesvehicle. Unfortunately I am generally the guy with a truck you can borrow in my circle.

The world won't end.
But lesson learned. As with anything, not being prepared can turn into a disaster. Even being prepared things can go south.
Question for you, do you plan on doing snow yet this winter once you get back on track?
If so, you also need to network with a couple other plow guy's.
If they hit a bind, you cover them, if you hit a bind they cover you.
As you being solo you have zero fallback. I don't do snow, but the guy who plows my yard has another company that can help out in true emergency. And I have been on his call list to jump in one of his plow trucks if there's sickness or family emergencies.
I do plan on doing snow again once this shakes out completely. I am still doing my clients on my street and I’m my neighborhood as I can pop between them quickly on the walkers

I absolutely am going to put more effort into networking this year. Tried with a few local companies previously but had a hard time with finding “people you can trust”. The company I worked for for a few winters doing snow before taking it on my self had to cut back this winter, I made the mistake there of not checking in. They would have helped if they could. I offered to help them recoup some of their losses as well but for the time being we are both in a bind.
 

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To my understanding- since the original replacement transmission failed internally they needed to send it out in order for the warranty to reimburse them and then they had a hard time getting a second. It’s a 96 k3500 so I tried to be understanding and it was over the summer /I had my other backup so I didn’t “need need it”. I usually am the guy frustrated with repairs so tried the opposite this time around. Lol, didn’t help.


There's a difference between being understanding and getting walked all over.


Back to the snow removal. You may want to spend a couple winters subbing for a large company. We have some pretty big landscape companies around here that sub a lot of their work out to individuals. You'll need to be fully insured and all that good stuff, but it takes the onus of you, and it gives you good experience of what you can handle and what you can't. On top of that if you break down you don't have to worry about your company's reputation being tarnished because of it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
To my understanding- since the original replacement transmission failed internally they needed to send it out in order for the warranty to reimburse them and then they had a hard time getting a second. It’s a 96 k3500 so I tried to be understanding and it was over the summer /I had my other backup so I didn’t “need need it”. I usually am the guy frustrated with repairs so tried the opposite this time around. Lol, didn’t help.


There's a difference between being understanding and getting walked all over.


Back to the snow removal. You may want to spend a couple winters subbing for a large company. We have some pretty big landscape companies around here that sub a lot of their work out to individuals. You'll need to be fully insured and all that good stuff, but it takes the onus of you, and it gives you good experience of what you can handle and what you can't. On top of that if you break down you don't have to worry about your company's reputation being tarnished because of it.
trust me, I’ve seen both ends of the stick and unfortunately the whole 2mo thing was just water under the bridge in comparison.

I subbed for 2 years prior but they were only doing commercial at the time (which was great because I only do residential so we didn’t have any conflicts of interest). I am fully insured and was profitable last winter even with all of the little expenses/repairs. In retrospect I took a gamble and like @Hayduke said, I should have seen it coming. Genuinely just didn’t expect people would attack my character over it, not one to leave a trail of dead bodies (unhappy clients)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
@RigglePLC i have not offered salt previously. I was asked if I salted for my insurance and said no, I will
Call tomorrow and see how that may affect my rate /coverage. I do use the backpack for entryways and sidewalks during daytime cleanups for sure
 

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Genuinely just didn’t expect people would attack my character over it, not one to leave a trail of dead bodies (unhappy clients)
I have been in business for close to 20 years and always made customer satisfaction one of my highest concerns. I figured I would never have an unhappy client.
Until two years ago. I had a whole cul de sac of 4 clients I served doing everything from seasonal maintenance to large installation jobs.
Unfortunately I had a bad experience with one of the clients, and ended up dropping the whole cul de sac. I couldn't go back there, nor would my employees. I haven't looked back, actually quite grateful not to have to go back to there.
Just never thought one bad client could taint the whole neighborhood. It hasn't affected my reputation or success.
 

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trust me, I’ve seen both ends of the stick and unfortunately the whole 2mo thing was just water under the bridge in comparison.

I subbed for 2 years prior but they were only doing commercial at the time (which was great because I only do residential so we didn’t have any conflicts of interest). I am fully insured and was profitable last winter even with all of the little expenses/repairs. In retrospect I took a gamble and like @Hayduke said, I should have seen it coming. Genuinely just didn’t expect people would attack my character over it, not one to leave a trail of dead bodies (unhappy clients)


People suck. Lots of them are unhappy and will take any reason to bring you down. At least you know who to cut now.
 

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Is your main plow truck a 1995? If so and you are going to plow a truck that old, you should be able to replace a tranny yourself in a couple hours.
At this point I would be dropping all customers that complain. I have been plowing driveways over 25 years and have been where your at now more than once. I am sure things are different around here. There are not enough contractors for plowing and most of the lawn guys don't plow. We had our first plow last week and my 1 commercial has carpenters working on the building and was chatting up one of the workers about getting the lot plowed. First thing I told him was I ain't gonna do a nice job here today. Got a flat tire shortly after that and pulled a nail out of a tire.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Is your main plow truck a 1995? If so and you are going to plow a truck that old, you should be able to replace a tranny yourself in a couple hours.
At this point I would be dropping all customers that complain. I have been plowing driveways over 25 years and have been where your at now more than once. I am sure things are different around here. There are not enough contractors for plowing and most of the lawn guys don't plow. We had our first plow last week and my 1 commercial has carpenters working on the building and was chatting up one of the workers about getting the lot plowed. First thing I told him was I ain't gonna do a nice job here today. Got a flat tire shortly after that and pulled a nail out of a tire.
Yeah I do not plow with the truck, it tows my trailer for the walkers. If I had a garage/access to a lift- I may have taken on that endeavor but honestly the price of an installed transmission with a 50k mi warranty hurt a whole lot less than the headaches that surely come with any driveway swap of that magnitude.

I have been continually working to build a plow truck out of my old ford for awhile now- that truck is absolutely a driveway swap. Locking 4wd, short wheel base, 3/4 ton axels/body - just need to notch the frame up front still and then start mounting the newer mount. Unfortunately I’m not super proficient with electrical so it’s getting its blinkers and taillights sorted out at the moment.

yeah I took a good breather last night and regardless how the truck shakes out (not coming out of pocket for the repairs if it ends up needing them) I am pretty grateful to know who to cut. I had a few folks waiting to get back into the fold so this isn’t all bad

Bummer on the nail. When I did building trades I had so many flats I couldn’t even put a good number on it lol 😂- especially roofing. Guys at discount tire hated me I’m sure - always kept a full-size spare
 

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What happened was beyond your control, you can control weather right? You can control the inner workings of your transmission right? People are brain dead and whine a lot, don't let it get to you, just be honest and tell them like it is and move on. Maybe rent a truck? If not, that was the best you could do, except maybe carry a shovel and go at it.....
You can't control weather, and getting hit early is a risk, but you can control having backups and proper equipment for the jobs you have assumed.
I do plan on doing snow again once this shakes out completely. I am still doing my clients on my street and I’m my neighborhood as I can pop between them quickly on the walkers
What has to shake out? You need a truck and a plow or just a pickup to haul the machines? I would get on that instantly, but if money is an issue and your business cannot afford to get yourself and your customers handled, then that is a separate discussion.

It sucks that snow came early and that your truck broke, but you made the decision to not service the accounts going forward rather than attempting to not let this happen again and push on. You weren't ready for the early snow and that happens in the biz. And trucks break down in the biz as well. You are in control of all of this as every decision you make leads to it. In my experience I get about twice as much bad luck as I do good luck. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

I think you did it right by telling them you can't be depended on, but ultimately you have just given up the work due to equipment issues and if that was your best move then really you haven't failed anything.
 

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You can't control weather, and getting hit early is a risk, but you can control having backups and proper equipment for the jobs you have assumed.


What has to shake out? You need a truck and a plow or just a pickup to haul the machines? I would get on that instantly, but if money is an issue and your business cannot afford to get yourself and your customers handled, then that is a separate discussion.

It sucks that snow came early and that your truck broke, but you made the decision to not service the accounts going forward rather than attempting to not let this happen again and push on. You weren't ready for the early snow and that happens in the biz. And trucks break down in the biz as well. You are in control of all of this as every decision you make leads to it. In my experience I get about twice as much bad luck as I do good luck. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

I think you did it right by telling them you can't be depended on, but ultimately you have just given up the work due to equipment issues and if that was your best move then really you haven't failed anything.
I would agree 100%- the OP let a lot of people down, and it may not be easy for them to find someone else. You have to be ready Nov 1st. No reason not to be

how much snow experience do you have ? I think it’s foolish to not have a back up option. Doesn’t matter if that’s a second truck, rented truck or a good friend that you trust.

fix what you need to, but it sounds like you need more experience and would benefit from being a subcontractor for a larger company.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
You can't control weather, and getting hit early is a risk, but you can control having backups and proper equipment for the jobs you have assumed.


What has to shake out? You need a truck and a plow or just a pickup to haul the machines? I would get on that instantly, but if money is an issue and your business cannot afford to get yourself and your customers handled, then that is a separate discussion.

It sucks that snow came early and that your truck broke, but you made the decision to not service the accounts going forward rather than attempting to not let this happen again and push on. You weren't ready for the early snow and that happens in the biz. And trucks break down in the biz as well. You are in control of all of this as every decision you make leads to it. In my experience I get about twice as much bad luck as I do good luck. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

I think you did it right by telling them you can't be depended on, but ultimately you have just given up the work due to equipment issues and if that was your best move then really you haven't failed anything.
buying a 4th truck right now seemed like a gamble I wasn’t willing to make. By shake out I meant wait to hear from dealership that holds the warranty or hope the electrical gets sorted out on the ford (the backup) but that’s already been a longer wait than expected.

Definitely dropped the ball on being ready on time- I didn’t keep logs a few years ago so honestly looked at my books this spring and said “ok mid November I’ll switch two machines over” next year it’ll be October.

I would agree 100%- the OP let a lot of people down, and it may not be easy for them to find someone else. You have to be ready Nov 1st. No reason not to be

how much snow experience do you have ? I think it’s foolish to not have a back up option. Doesn’t matter if that’s a second truck, rented truck or a good friend that you trust.

fix what you need to, but it sounds like you need more experience and would benefit from being a subcontractor for a larger company.
Yes lots of people expected to be able to get service and definitely let them down on that aspect. Intentions were to have the backup back home awhile ago, I did consider going to get it but no blinkers and brake lights isn’t kosher either. Not checking in with the company i anticipated handing my client load over to if there was an emergency was also a big no no. I definitely can and will make better decisions about how I approach the change over.
 
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