September 28, 2000
Volume 2, Issue #02
Chuck's Snowplowing Newsletter
Finding AND Keeping Good Help
Finding good help is a common problem many of us face. Depending on how many employees you need, it could be a tedious task. The number one quality you want is experience. Even when it comes to shovelers. They might just be laborers, but their work is a major part of each account, since it typically takes longer to shovel walks, than to clear a driveway. This is often the case with commercial accounts as well, since they have so many walkways. An experienced laborer can clear the walks properly, without doing more work than is necessary, and without adding time to the task. They also can foresee work that will need to be done, instead of stopping and finding you to ask "Do I need to clear by those doors in the back?". They already know what has to be done much of the time, even if it's their first time at a particular account. They know to check the fuel in the equipment often, and about how far they can go on a tank full of gas. They know when a machine doesn't sound right while clearing snow, and will often stop before severe damage is done. They know to tell you they need their gas can filled to finish the route. All this helps your operation run smoother. We all know we have enough to worry about, and still double check items, but delegating authority is a large part of managing an operation.
If you are in need of shovelers and laborers, a good place to find them is at your local high school. Most high schools have a bulletin board that you can post jobs on. A lot of guidance counselors know of students that are seeking employment. Many of these students do not plan on attending college after high school, and need skills to find employment after they graduate. By starting working for a contractor, they can learn valuable skills they will need in the world of "blue collar" work. Also, the football coach will often know of dependable young adults that can use the extra cash, and are willing to earn it. Remember that they need to feel that they are being paid well for their efforts, while at the same time learning. They tend to do a much better job when they are compensated well. By that I mean most will do a much better job, and be more dedicated if you pay them $10 per hour, than if you paid them slightly over minimum wage. If you think about it, it's not much for you to pay, for the return you get. Money really motivates people of all ages. In fact, my shoveler for example gets paid $10 per house, and $20 per commercial account. For one of my commercial accounts, he gets paid $50 for clearing the walks. That $50 account has enough walks to keep him busy the entire time I am clearing the lot. It's one where I don't finish before him, so I can't help him with the walks. Knowing he's getting paid $50 really helps him "keep his chin up" when clearing all those walkways. I frequently ask him if he needs to use a bathroom between accounts, so he doesn't feel like he is holding us up, or "imposing" if he asks to use a bathroom. I make sure he is warm enough, and that his clothes are dry.
Another commercial account takes him longer to do the walks than it takes me to plow. I usually leave the site, and pick up coffee. Sometimes I get egg sandwiches too. One of the first things I ask employees after they are hired is if they drink coffee, and how they take it, and if they drink hot chocolate. I also ask about egg sandwiches, and how they like them. This may sound dumb, or insignificant, but you'd be surprised the difference in morale it makes. I also ask shoe size, so I can provide "over the shoe" rubber slush boots. I have rain suits as well, and they are somewhat one size fits all, along with reflective safety vests.
If you think these are "fringe benefits", try to remember when you were working for someone else, in bad weather, and they brought you a cup of coffee without you asking. The customer you did a one time job for, that brought out a container of ice water and cups for you and the crew when it was 90 degrees out. Even the weekly lawn maintenance customer that always offers a cold drink when you stop there to mow each week. Those perks went a long way, and still do.
If you haven't mailed out, or dropped off all your contracts and proposals by now, you are running behind, and need to do it ASAP. Make those calls to inquire about new accounts that you have been meaning to follow through on. Don't waste time. Run a small ad in your local paper if you are seeking new accounts. Pens are a great promotional item. My brother got a bunch of accounts by leaving a dozen or so pens on bank counters by the deposit slips, and at post offices. Giving them out at gas stations, diners, and other small shops really paid off. So did giving a few to current customers, both residential and commercial ones. A flyer with "tear off" phone number tabs on the bulletin board at local supermarkets and stores is another great way to promote your business.
Now is also a good time to stop by accounts you know you have. Give them a thorough inspection. Note any damaged pavement, chunks missing from speed bumps, and damaged sidewalks. If you can make repairs to the pavement and black top, write up estimates, and note that it will make clearing snow more efficient, and reduce the likelihood of further damage. The gas station where I get my fuel had a hidden surprise for me, one that I never noticed before. Last week when I gassed up, I noticed a new Handicapped parking space. None of the gas stations around here had Handicap spaces. I don't know why they do now, or who "made" them put them in, but at my normal fuel up spot, they made a Handicapped space right where I used to pile up snow. Now I need to find a new spot on the site to pile snow, and it's a small lot to begin with. I noticed all the stations in the area now have Handicapped parking spaces. Now if this was an out of the way account that I didn't normally visit, I would have a hard time moving a pile of snow I put there not knowing I couldn't pile it there anymore.
Now is the best time to ready your equipment. It also a good time to get those extras you've been meaning to get. Things like Halogen reverse light bulbs. They are great. Easy to install, and simply replace your existing reverse light bulbs, but give you a TON more useable light. A set of emergency tire chains. They are a great little tool to carry. It only takes a few small patches of ice to leave you stranded, 4wd or not. They slip right on, and are held in place by a strap. They are not meant to be left on for driving, but will easily get you off ice. The 10 minutes it take to put them on, is a lot less time than it will take for one of your other trucks to come to your rescue. They are a MUST if you are a 1 truck operation. I put together a list of items, with direct links to where you can get prices, and even buy them online if you want.
Snow Plowing Related Accessories@Chuck's Chevy Truck Pages.com
Buying a New Or Used Plow
I originally had a nice little article here on this subject. It compared various specifications of the major brands of plows on the market, along with prices. The problem is that it was much easier to display properly in a table, than as text in an e mail, so I put it on my website. You can read the comparison by going here:
Snowplowing-Contractors.com - Snow _Plow_Comparison
Usually, I have a ton of links here for you to read through. This month, I have too much going on to search out all the great links like in the past. Rest assured that the next issue will have the usual bunch of links to hot new info.
snowplowing-contractors.com - I expect all of you to register your company here to be listed in our Snow Plowing Contractor Directory. It's FREE, and only takes a few minutes to do. If you didn't register yet, please take the time to do so. If you have registered, the listing of contractors will be up by the middle of the month. I'd like to thank those of you that have registered already.
Snow Plowing Related Accessories Common items we can all use.
lawnsite.com - The Snowplowing Discussion is really starting to pick up here with winter approaching. Stop by and read posts, or even sign up (it's free) and post yourself!
National Weather Service Home Page -U.S. Government warnings & forecasts
If you don't have this site bookmarked yet, now is a good time to do it. I have a separate folder in my favorites, with all my weather resources in it.
Winter Weather Definitions
Another part of the NWS site.
Winter Weather Terminology
And yet ANOTHER part of the NWS site.
United States Radar Loop by Intellicast.com
Here's another good one. I like the US Radar Loop. You can see how a storm is moving, and react accordingly.
©2000 Charles D. Smith
All Rights Reserved
May not be reproduced in whole or in part in any format,
without the author's express written permission to do so.
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