Mowers and sprinklers have been winterized, gardens have been put to bed and the last weeds have been pulled. In preparation for the first snow, landscape professionals in colder climates have put the finishing touches on equipment and lawn maintenance until spring arrives again next year.
For companies not located in the sunny south or southwest, winter weather is an unavoidable obstacle that halts business for several months. In order to combat the slow season, keep employees busy and continue adding to the bottom line, many landscapers have added snow removal to their list of services. While they’re unlikely to earn any design or style awards for clearing driveways and parking lots, snow removal has become a crucial piece of many landscape professionals’ business models.
While the most obvious benefit of offering snow removal to clients during winter months is to sustain business during the off-season, many companies experience other, less-obvious benefits. Moving snow allows companies to:
1. Continue employing seasonal workers.
According to Ashby Graham, JCB’s product specialist for skid steer and compact track loaders, the cycle of rehiring seasonal workers year after year can be a burden for landscape contractors. It’s not uncommon for larger landscape companies to employ more than 100 seasonal workers during the busy seasons. Offering year-round work retains dozens of these employees and boosts overall workplace morale.
“Landscapers who’ve purchased our equipment (and) add snow removal services don’t always foresee the benefit of keeping their seasonal employees working all year, but in hindsight it’s a win-win. Employees are happy to have work year-round, and business owners don’t have to rehire employees in the springtime,” says Graham.
Landscapers who employ a year-round workforce also experience greater dependability and trust with their employees, Graham adds.
2. Maintain relationships with landscape customers.
Maintaining client relationships is another pro to conducting business year-round. Most landscape companies offer snow removal to existing clients instead of providing snow services as an a la carte option. This allows landscapers to focus on what they do best while keeping in touch with current customers.
“Clients appreciate working with a company they already trust,” Graham explains. “Landscapers have also expressed that it’s a smoother transition into landscaping work again after having worked with customers throughout the winter.”
Graham suggests contractors use their winter downtime for spring planning with current customers in order to get a jumpstart when snow melts. It’s especially helpful to take this proactive approach with commercial clients for large locations like business parks or campuses and homeowner associations.
3. Get more mileage out of equipment like skid steers and utility terrain vehicles (UTVs).
There are some pieces of landscape equipment, like mowers or string trimmers, that can’t make the transition from fall to winter for obvious reasons. Skid steer loaders or UTVs on the other hand are versatile multi-tasking machines that are handy through the four seasons.
“It’s important for landscapers to invest in equipment that can handle a variety of jobs from moving dirt to digging to pushing snow,” Ashby says, “And skid steer or compact track loaders are taskmasters for all of the above.”
With buckets, blades and snow blowers available for skid steers, there’s an attachment that can handle just about any snow removal task a contractor needs to accomplish. JCB offers 31 attachments for added skid steer versatility. Skid steers are also more compact than trucks, allowing operators to clear snow in tighter spaces like driveways or small parking lots.
Landscape contractors might also own a UTV or two for hauling and moving materials during the green seasons that can be just as valuable in the winter.
“UTVs outfitted with a blade attachment make it easy to plow snow in smaller areas and clean up in areas not suited for trucks,” says John Sketchly, aftercare development manager for JCB utility products. “Contractors just need to keep in mind their buying the right model and outfitting their UTV with correct tires for traction.”
UTVs are also available with heaters, full cabs and front glass. “The choices for customization are vast, and add-ons like heaters and glass go a long way in improving operator comfort in cold conditions,” says Sketchley.
Landscape contractors who add snow services to their menu of offerings aren’t giving up on their main source of business or passion for landscape maintenance and designing; they’re just making the most out of Mother Nature’s unavoidable wrath. Most contractors already have resources at the ready for a transition into winter weather, including trusted employees, established clients and the proper equipment. These resources also extend the benefits of operating during snowy months beyond just making money.