There's No Biz Like Snow Biz
by Diana Barnum
Snow removal service has some unusual characteristics like bizarre hours, emergency hours and organization and coordination difficulties, according to Tom Beyer, owner/operator of Snow Biz, Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio.
"There's no business like snow business," said Tom Beyer. "You either love it or you hate it."
Snow Biz has been in operation since 1978 in Northeast Ohio. They are a full-service snowplowing and de-icing company with 24-hour radio dispatch service. Their areas of specialty are commercial, industrial and retail accounts including shopping centers, malls, plazas, hotel and conference centers, medical buildings, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Being an authorized Blizzard Snow Plow Dealer, Snow Biz, Inc. mainly uses their own Model 810 Power Plows, engineered for 3/4 - and 1-ton trucks.
"The Model 810 wings extend to 10 feet with the switch of a button," explained Beyer. "And pivot forward so that it gives you a bucket-blade position. It's quicker and saves labor costs."
With the philosophy that bigger is better, Snow Biz offers the Model 8611 Municipal Power Plow for cleaning wide, snow-covered areas at large shopping malls and other commercial parking lots. The Model 8611 offers a compact width of 8'-6" for plowing in tight places and can expand to an impressive 11' WidePass position. The wings also pivot forward to produce a super efficient 9'-7" scoop, compared to the 9'3" scoop position of the Model 810.
Beyer shared his success strategies for handling the coordination difficulties, bizarre and emergency hours. He communicates with his crews via 2-way radio. All drivers are subcontractors with their own insurance; Snow Biz maintains a blanket insurance policy.
Well before the winter season begins, Snow Biz personnel drive around to get familiar with their clients' parking lots and where to put the snow. They take photos and distribute albums to key drivers so that everyone can become familiar with the areas before the first snowfall.
Next they designate an initial meeting place and set up run schedules. Dry runs are scheduled in September or October so that everyone knows where to go, depending upon the time of day. Some drivers weed themselves out at this point. It takes serious commitment to get up at 3 a.m.
To help handle finances and paperwork, Tom Beyer uses Quickbooks on his personal computer.
Does his strategy work?
"I have no complaints and I'm pretty hard to please," said Laura Hocevar, operations manager at Gateway Safety in Cleveland. "They automatically come and plow by 5 a.m. and throughout the day as needed. I don't have to call them." Snow Biz has serviced their location for five years.
How about during bizarre snow situations?
"Every snow event is like a snowflake - unique," said Beyer.
Sometimes he turns to places like SIMA (Snow and Ice Management Association, Inc.). Snow Biz is a member of SIMA, where members unite and host a cooperative forum. They help each other with all types of industry issues like bidding procedures, contract writing and marketing before the season begins with an association brochure, "How to Find a Winter Service Provider." Members also receive Snow Business magazine, a quarterly publication with cold weather management tips, stories, case histories, profiles of successful contractors, product reviews and SIMA updates. And SIMA has a website where visitors can locate contractors and find resources like books and tapes in their online store.
"We're just under six years old and have over 1,000 members," said Tammy Higham, executive director of SIMA. "We represent all aspects of snow removal from private to facility managers, government operators, manufacturers, and suppliers."
Tom Beyer offered these helpful tips to others in the biz:
* Join an organization like SIMA (Snow and Ice Management Association, Inc.) to swap ideas with others in the industry, especially if you're new. Attend their annual symposium.
* Never pass a snowplow on the right - if you want to live.
* Any snow plower who goes to bed during a snow event is a quitter. You can't stop until it's over. (Do arrange to bring fresh guys in if it gets too bad!)
For more information about snow business, contact Snow Biz, Inc. at 2409 Montclair Ave, Cleveland, OH 44109. Call: (866) 24-7-PLOW; or fax inquiries to: (216) 741-6731. Visit online at www.snowbizinc.com. Learn more about SIMA at 1903 West 8th Street, PMB 150, Erie, PA 16505-4998. Call: (814) 835-3577 or visit them online at sima.org