Not every winter will be a particularly white one, and even if you’re located in a region that does get hit with winter storms, it doesn’t guarantee your specific service areas will see any of that snow.
So, instead of holding your breath for Mother Nature to come through and consistently cover your customers’ properties in a blanket of snow and ice, it’s important to have a game plan for those dreaded low-snow seasons.
There are typically three routes you can go when dealing with a low-snow season and all require different levels of preparation.
Staying in your wheelhouse
The first option will require the least amount of preparation, as this is opting to do jobs that are services you already provide or could easily add on in the winter.
In many regions like the Northeast, if there isn’t snow, there is an abundance of leaves to remove. Other jobs during this slower season include cleaning flowerbeds, mulching and pruning shrubs and trees in the late winter.
For some companies, they have chosen to forgo snow removal services entirely and focus on hardscaping services during this time period instead. One company that has done this is Summit Hardscaping, based in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Cara Doyle, vice president of Summit Hardscaping, explains that none of their employees cared for snow plowing, but instead they spend November and December prepping the ground for more hardscaping projects and then they are off for the month of January.
“I’m not just thinking about the bottom line for us,” says Dave Doyle, president of Summit Hardscaping. “We’re really conscious of what our employees think, is this in line with where they want to be and just taking good care of them.”
Another service you can focus on during the winter is getting caught up on design work. If there are clients who are wanting to have their project installed first thing in spring, you can already have the designs fleshed out and discuss any concerns with them well before your crews break ground.
Thinking outside the box
The second choice when it comes to finding non-snow related winter revenue requires creativity and a willingness to do just about anything.
These additional winter services can vary greatly, and they should be tasks that your crews are on board with doing. Offering brainstorming sessions with your staff will help you come up with more specific types of jobs that your employees are open to performing.
Eric Schultz says that in the early days of his company, Schultz Industries, based in Golden, Colorado, in order to keep his workers employed throughout the year they did a number of odd jobs.
“We delivered phone books in the winter time,” Schultz says.
For some landscaping companies that want to keep their crews out of the cold, consider house maintenance jobs like painting, plumbing and installing insulation.
There’s even the option of buying and flipping houses, but in order for these side jobs to be successful, you need employees who have the proper skill sets to avoid disastrous mistakes.
Taking a breather
The last option can be combined with one of the first two plans or be your sole goal. This strategy is to intentionally work and save up enough money so you can afford to take off during the slower months.
In order to properly be covered for your winter months, you need to calculate your costs for the months you’re planning to shut down and then work during the rest of the year to accrue this amount.
If combined with other winter services, you can rest at ease knowing that your overhead for the winter months are covered, and the additional incoming revenue is just gravy.
The slow months are also a prime time to give your fleet some much-deserved attention. Maintenance can often fall to the wayside during the busy season, so take advantage of this free time to give your equipment a thorough checkup.
Don’t forget there is nothing wrong with taking a break. Crews appreciate having some downtime, so don’t feel like you have to work them hard during one of your slower months if you simply cannot find something meaningful to fill their time.
“We also give them some time off in the winter time,” Dave says. “They certainly appreciate having that downtime. It’s a real recharge for them.”
Enjoying your time off and spending time with family can also prevent you from becoming burnt out if you’re often overworked for the majority of the year.