Every snow contracting business owner should, from time to time, take an introspective look at how they are doing business. One of the things that can keep you up at night is: “What can sink my business?” All owners think of this on occasion. It’s the same for small contractors and those who have been around for decades and measure their revenues in tens of millions of dollars.
So, what can go wrong? Unfortunately many things. Top of the list is cash flow. It’s not a lack of profit that sends companies to bankruptcy or closure — it is a lack of cash. When you run out of cash and cannot pay the bills, it’s over before you know it. It actually sneaks up on you and startles you when it occurs.
We talk about liability issues all the time. And snow contractors often fear the inherent liability that comes with being in the snow business. However, it’s much easier to protect the company from liability than it is from cash flow problems. Proper and diligent documentation is a great hedge against the inevitable lawsuit that plagues our industry.
But the best hedge against your business tanking is — wait for it — education. Education is so readily available to everyone in our business that there is no excuse for being ignorant about business issues, be they financial, liability or managerial. There is a very poignant colloquialism that says: “You can’t fix stupid.” That might be true, however, most who venture into the snow business are not stupid. They may be ignorant as to what it takes to run a business. The definition if ignorance is “lack of knowledge or information.” The good news is we can fix ignorance.
There are many avenues to combat ignorance: Trade associations are dedicated to educating snow contractors (and their staff) about business, insurance, documentation, technology, equipment — the list is almost endless.
I have spoken to snow business owners who have told me, “I’m too busy to go to an educational session.” On the flip side, I have a client who, in the span of four years, grew their snow business revenues from $300,000 a year to $3 million a year. Profits grew 100 fold. This contractor has over $1 million in the bank, purchased a $1.5-million facility, has profit sharing with the long-term employees and paid off all the company’s outstanding debt. This contractor makes no bones about it — success came from education.
Attending snow industry trade shows, becoming members of both snow trade associations, going through the ISO SN9001 certification process and attending four to six educational events per year at Snowfighters Institute made all the difference. Of course, applying what one learns is paramount. Trusting those who provide such education helps, too.
In my humble opinion, the largest and most dangerous liability issue facing snow contractors (large and small) is ignorance. And, it can be overcome. Seek out knowledge. And apply what you learn. Rub elbows with successful contractors. Don’t be afraid to take chances, and do not fear failure.
My favorite quote from Michael Jordon is: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”