TIPS FOR SELECTING THE BEST SNOW CONTRACTOR
- Make sure the Contractor has insurance; it’s a big part of his expense and reflects in his bid. If a bid is too low, he will not have the insurance you need to protect your business. Require that he indemnifies you and your business from liability for the work he performs. 1 or 2 million in liability insurance should be minimum amounts
- The right equipment is needed to do the operations efficiently. What causes the most problems for you is when a contractor has committed that same equipment to others. Some low bidders are just middle men. They find a subcontractor to work for them for $50 per hour, charge you $70 and collect the difference. They might have management in place to watch each subcontractor or not. From the subcontractors viewpoint, if they are getting $50 to plow your site and they are getting $70 per hour on their own sold sites, you know who gets preference. If you have to call him, most likely he is on another job. Require an equipment list from the contractor and specify which equipment is to be committed exclusively to your facilities operation. It is a good idea to look at his equipment, as well. You may be surprised to find he does not have it.
- Ask the contractor for references from other businesses the same size as yours. If the references check out good and the contractor is not out plowing lots himself (as a one man operation), he is running the business well and is a better choice. We have 2 people “On the Board” before and during all snow events” They spend their day watching weather reports, taking in thousands of bits of information and updates and watching each piece of equipment in real time GPS so we have accurate record keeping protecting both the customer and ourselves. We also have dedicated roamers who do nothing but drive around quality checking while the work is being done. We also have a dedicated office staff of 2-4 people on full time during the winter months. It means we are not the cheapest, but means we’re often the best choice.
- For large operations, the contractor needs to assign an Account Representative to manage it and to stay in contact with you. If he does not, it will most likely result in you babysitting his operators and spending time trying to get the contactor on the phone.
- Contracts and Specifications. Work with your contractor on your specs. You might have an old specification contract or even a template, but there’s nothing like decades of experience to make sure everyones interests are covered and the clients are happy. It’s ok to have them submit a bid on your form and ask for one using their specs. You might find one or two gold nuggets you can use going forward.
One of the biggest reason for dissatisfaction is a poorly thought out trigger depth. We had a contract come in a long time ago with the customers specs to be used. We plowed it on time and well within deadlines, but between snowfalls, they would call and complain about ice and snow. This happened a few times and the customer was exasperated. We finally took a close look at the account and realized it had 2 retail shops in a commercial building, one that opened at 6 am! The account was considered a downtown warehouse and as such, the customer didn’t ask for snow removal to start until 2” was reached, so snow accumulated each time we had snowfalls below 2”. We simple changed the specs to a ½” trigger and an auto salt, and things have been great ever since with them.
- When you have found a contractor that works well with you, pay them on time. Good contractors like ‘bread and butter’ accounts, and will accept less compensation in lieu of being paid on time and having a multi-year contract.
- Ensure that someone visits your property in person. This is the only way to determine the scope of the snow removal and the proper price.
- Check in with the Better Business Bureau. They can help you find out if any complaints have been made about a particular snow removal contractor. Check with HomeAdvisor or Angies List
- Ask for references. Then make sure to follow up with them.
- Get it in writing. Your snow removal contractor should provide you with a written agreement that clearly spells out all the expected services. A few of the issues you’ll want clarity on include:
- Will you be charged a fixed price all season or will you be charged by the amount of snowfall for the season?
- What time can you expect the snow service to clear your driveway? (If you report to work at the crack of dawn, it’s definitely worth asking.)
- Are walks and steps included?
- Is the cost of sand and/or salt included?
- What is the snowfall threshold to trigger the snow removal services?
- Is there an extra charge if the snow removal contractor has to come back the same day?
- Is there an extra charge for large snow storms?
- Are there any other potential additional charges?
- Is the contractor insured and bonded to cover any damage they cause to your property in the course of removing snow?
- How can you terminate the agreement—and is there a charge to do so?
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