Hire Your Way to an Unfair Advantage in Snow & Ice Management

Competitive advantage in snow & ice management
  • June 7, 2024

Smart snow and ice management contractors are always looking for a competitive advantage.  We have to be.  There’s so much purchaser-perceived similarity in what we do.  It often has to be the little things that set us apart and makes us stand out to our prospects and clients.  We’re always searching for that little edge that will actually be noticed, will win us more business, earn us more referrals, and drive up our client retention rate.  Prospects and clients don’t usually recognize the same incredible chasm, between you and your competitors, as you and your team proudly profess.  Ouch.  I know.  I’m sorry.    

As for the dollars and cents of snow and ice management, it can be a very lucrative service offering.  You already know this, or you wouldn’t do what you do.  But it's also a very expensive-to-produce service offering.  The price of trucks, plows, salters, and all the various other equipment necessary still astounds me.  Unless you operate a snow-only firm, the seasonal changeover twice a year costs a fortune.  Smart contractors are always looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing service quality.

How about material costs?  Not only are these products inherently expensive, but for most of us, trying to predict exactly how expensive they’ll be from season to season comes with only a little more certainty than flipping a coin.  This salt industry reminds me a lot of a casino.  The house always wins, and you and I aren’t the house.  But that’s another rant for another article.  When considering all the costs associated with anti-icing and deicing materials, we mustn’t forget about delivery costs, storage costs, financing costs, and inventory shrinkage.  So naturally, smart snow and ice management professionals are always looking for ways to minimize material costs and eliminate waste.              

No discussion about the tremendous costs of a snow and ice management operation would be complete without diving into our most grand expenditure: labor.  Labor costs in most markets have skyrocketed and will continue to.  Furthermore, many in the snow and ice management workforce command some type of premium pay for being on-call around the clock and working in very difficult conditions.  And rightfully so.  Snow Fighters earn every single penny.  Still, snow and ice management leaders have to keep a very close eye on labor costs, or else their bottom-line dwindles quickly. 

All of this - be it a differentiating competitive advantage that our prospects and clients can perceive, or reducing operating costs without sacrificing quality and efficiency is an important effort to gain an edge.  Be it an edge that drives sales, an edge that boosts the bottom-line, or an edge that keeps us both price-competitive and profitable; in business, we’re looking for a cumulation of these little discovered pieces that will hopefully add up to something big.  We’re all clearing snow and ice, providing safe conditions, and mitigating our liability, as well as that of the clients who entrust us.  We’re all doing at least this, right?    

So, we’re always looking for that competitive advantage, an edge over our competition.  That’s why we scour trade show floors for the latest and greatest equipment, the newest piece of technology or software, and the new inventions that promise to make us more efficient, effective, and profitable.  Our pursuit of this competitive advantage is why we sit through seminars, webinars, and the countless other educational opportunities afforded to us through our industry associations.  All of this is great, and all of this does, in-fact, offer opportunities for a competitive advantage. 

The Unfair Advantage

But what if there was a way to gain an unfair competitive advantage?  Not a small edge, or a little advantage here and there, but something game changing?  Something huge!  What if there was a way to have such an advantage, that it seemed unfair to the others competing in your marketplace?  I’m here to share that such an unfair advantage does exist.  And it’s super simple - but not so easy. 

Here it is.  Are you ready?…  If you build the best team, you win. 

I’m not talking about a good team.  A good team wins some of the time.  I’m not even talking about a great team.  A great team wins a lot of the time.  I’m saying to build the absolute best team possible, and you win.  Think about the importance of draft-day in professional sports.     

I told you it was simple, but I also warned that it wasn’t easy.  It’s also not fast.  This isn’t something that can be done overnight.  You’re not going to do it in a year, and you probably won’t even be able to get there in five years.  Fortunately, this isn’t one of those, “be patient and it will pay-off” promises.  This is something a business leader has to constantly work on.  But, here’s the super cool part: You’ll start to notice results right away, and your unfair advantage will grow exponentially greater the better your team becomes.  The greater the team, the greater the unfair advantage you’ll have.

I’ll go so far as declaring that if a business leader were to decide to wear only one of their many hats, their job as Chief Recruiter would reap the greatest results, hands-down.  Anybody can eventually procure that new fancy snow pusher that promises to cut lot clearing time by ten-percent.  Anybody can get their hands on that new piece of software that makes routing and tracking a breeze.  Equipment, gadgets, and technology is great.  I love it all.  But if your competitors can get their hands on it too, how much of a competitive advantage is it really?  It’s not.  At least not for long. 

People, however, are different.  No two individuals are exactly the same.  Equipment manufacturers produce some pretty awesome stuff, but they do so in mass cloned quantities.  There’s only one of each and every one of us, and we’re not the same as anyone else.  Each human being is distinctly unique, and that’s where the unfair advantage comes from.  If you recruit the absolute best person for a given seat on your bus, you’re now the only one with that weapon in your war chest. 

There are no two teams anywhere in the world exactly the same.  By building a dynamic team that gives you an unfair advantage, that’s how you win.  Your differentiator is your people.  And this isn’t one of those “feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy, your people are your greatest asset” kind of concepts either.  If you have a crumby team, they’re not your greatest asset; they’re your greatest liability.  Similarly, a great person stuck in the wrong seat on the bus isn’t your greatest asset either.  He’s a lead-weight around your organization’s leg in the swimming pool.  You’re going to drown.

The best person for one team might not be the best person for another.  We have to consider fit, culture, our objectives, and the role in question.  We’ve all witnessed the guy who changes teams and seemingly overnight becomes an all-star.  Right guy, wrong team.  It happens all the time. 

Always be recruiting.  There’s always a seat open on the bus for the right person.  Be committed to building the absolute best team.  There is no task before you that’s more important, or that will provide greater results.  The best teams are the best because they have the best people.      

Great strategy comes from the minds of great people.  Creative concepts come from the minds of great people.  Whatever it takes, refusal to fail, driven to win - comes from the hearts and minds of great people.  All of the other pieces are driven by the team members who wear our colors.  An organization is nothing more than the sum of its team members.  Nothing more.  Nothing less. 

Making smart decisions is synonymous with success in leadership; however, none of us can make the right decision every time.  You’ll hire the wrong person.  You’ll put people in the wrong seats on your bus.  You’ll come to realize that someone on your team just isn’t a good fit anymore.  And when you do, you must act quickly.  The consequences are too grave to sit on your hands one minute too long.      

I don’t believe you can make the wrong people right, but you can make the right people better.  As you stack your team with unbelievable talent, what’s next is to allow them to thrive in a culture of continuous improvement.  What’s great today, won’t be tomorrow.  Complacency and the status quo have killed many a once successful team.  If you build the best team, you win.  If you continue to develop your team, you’ll continue to win!

     

BR1 Blog

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