Last February, the Chicago area received roughly 21 inches in 22 hours, the third worst snowfall for a 24 hour period on record (February 1-2, 2011) . Two days of school, business and road closings, not to mention the major problems caused by some 80,000 power outages. Two days later, I could still see 4 and 5 foot drifts against the patio doors.
Why not develop a business plan from this? All medium to major metro areas contain shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, schools, and municipalities that often sub-contract some of their snow removal. I’ve spoken to exactly such an entrepreneur and he indicates that he is able to charge major hotel chains upwards of $40,000 per season, snow or not. There will be serious contract issues and some very long hours during heavy snow, but if with a couple of employees on staff, the coverage and income potential is very high. I know of some firms that have turned this into a million dollar seasonal business. Also to consider are insurance costs: Cars and buildings struck by your equipment will need repair or replacement, but a good insurance broker will be able to offer many options, including high-deductible umbrella coverage policies and similar.
The secret is to build a good base, start small, create a positive reputation for yourself, and expand as possible or desired. A reliable employee base is also key: Drivers that do not show up or are not able to do the job, are not good for a business, especially a start-up. Have feedback forms available for the clients and ensure the contract language states specifically how much snow requires removal, timing and placement of the piles. Also ask if the customer wishes to have salt or sand spread as well. This may provide a nice add-on business.
Remember the golden rules of entrepreneurship: Find a problem, develop a solution, and generate profit while creating a win-win for all parties involved.
Oh, and bring lots of steaming hot coffee in your truck: Many long nights are possible. On the plus side, once April rolls around, the next six to eight months are your time.
By Dion D. Shaw
Dion Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs
Homepreneurs. New Day. New Opportunities.