Though it’s still warm outside and the kids have just gone back to school, it’s time to start thinking about snow and ice! Late summer/early fall is the ideal time for commercial property managers to procure snow management services for the upcoming winter season. Here are some top things to consider as you look for a provider:
1 – Experienced & Available
Availability is paramount. Snow and ice can be unpredictable – you need a company that offers early and late hours as well as 24/7 emergency response.
It’s also important to know that your property will be serviced by experienced and trained personnel. Here in the Midwest, our last several winters have been mostly mild, so newer technicians haven’t been able to gain much experience with different types of snow and ice storms. The best providers have personnel who have received training through the Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA) or other reputable industry organizations.
2 – Good Pre-Storm Communication
A good snow management provider will begin communicating their plan of action long before the first snowflakes or drops of freezing rain are falling. Look for a company that subscribes to one or more weather forecasting services and provides early and thorough pre-storm communication.
For example, Focal Pointe subscribes to two different forecasting services and communicates with clients 12-24 hours prior to a weather event. This lets customers know what actions are planned – pre-salting, snow removal, etc. – and when the treatments will be complete.
Choose a provider that works with you in advance to create a comprehensive “push plan” – a written response plan for both standard and emergency storms. The push plan should contain a map or aerial photo of your property denoting the proper paths for trucks and plows. The plan allows your provider to be aware of any critical points of entry or exit, and which areas are priority for clearing snow. The push plan also determines in advance where snow should be piled so it can be placed in the best possible locations to avoid disruption.
3 – Services Customized to Your Needs
Every property and every client are different. There is no “one size fits all” solution for snow management, so your provider should offer a wide variety of options and be willing to customize their services to meet your unique property’s needs. Some examples include:
- Major Equipment – all equipment should be appropriately sized for the property.
- Specialized Equipment – be sure the provider has the proper equipment for any special surfaces or areas of your property, for example, a rubber snow plow blade for parking decks or aggregate sidewalks.
- Liquid Solution Options – a variety of liquid solutions should be available depending on what is appropriate for the property as well as the individual client’s wishes. For example, certain solutions are required for sidewalks and parking decks; some clients prefer organic or “green” solutions.
- Customized Pricing Plans – choose a provider that offers a pricing plan that fits your budgeting needs, and one that prices their services appropriately. (Underbidding is a common practice that often leads to budget overruns as the season progresses.) Some examples of common pricing structures include:
- Seasonal pricing – one fixed fee that covers the entire winter season and remains constant, no matter how many times the property is serviced.
- Hourly pricing – hourly rates that are charged for every hour of service time.
- Per push pricing – a fixed fee that is incurred each time the property is serviced (typically includes a range of pricing that depends on the amount of snowfall).
4 – Good Stewards of Every Property
Choose a company that has proven themselves to be good stewards of their clients’ land. Look for a provider that is judicious with salt and chemicals, as overuse can damage plant material. Trucks and plows should avoid plant beds, shrubs, and other landscaping. Often, working with the same company for both landscaping and snow maintenance results in an excellent year-round partnership.
5 – Excellent Client Testimonials & Reviews
Sometimes client testimonials and reviews can be found online, but the best information comes from checking references. Ask your potential snow providers to list three to five client references that are relevant to your property type, and contact them all. Ask questions about timeliness, customer service, record-keeping/invoicing, overall level of satisfaction, and any other topic of particular concern. Hearing about another client’s experience first-hand can help you make the best choice for your property.