What to do when it doesn't snow

Snow plow
Mark Borst (shown) says that snow removal services are important to his business but there are other ways they stay busy in the winter.
Borst Landscape & Design, Inc.

When landscaping companies rely on snow removal for off-season revenue, a lack of the white fluffy stuff can become concerning. While some snow seasons just end up being a bust, it doesn't mean that there aren't other ways to stay busy and even bring in some revenue. Mark Borst, president of Borst Landscape & Design in Allendale, New Jersey says it's something that they've dealt with many times and he's learned to adapt.

Obviously, a good snow season is always optimal. In fact, a strong snow season can account for as much as 15 percent of the company's total revenue. But sometimes the weather just doesn't cooperate. When that's the case, Borst says they shift gears.

"In the past, if we've entered a winter without a lot of snow, I would get stressed," Borst says. "I would worry, 'How are we going to make payroll?' But what I've learned is that if we don't get a big snow year, we can stay busy doing more construction work throughout the winter."

Winter hardscaping

Borst says that getting hardscaping work underway early typically pleases the client and keeps the company busy. Oftentimes when it doesn't snow, it's fairly mild and construction is entirely possible. Of course, if the ground is frozen, there are going to be some tasks that cannot be completed. Sometimes, it could mean just doing a project out of the typical order if the weather isn't being cooperative. 

"If we don't already have the footings dug or a patio base installed ahead of time, it can be difficult to work with a frozen layer of ground," Borst says. "What is most successful is selling this work in the fall and prepping the site. Then, we can complete the rest of the work over the winter. Homeowners are happy that their project is done and ready to use come spring." 

Winter maintenance

As far as landscape maintenance work, the dormant season obviously grinds most work to a halt. But Borst says this is actually a great time for winter pruning. They'll also aim to get an early start on mulching. 

"We've started mulching as early as February some seasons," he says. "It's just a good time of the year to get some services moving when we aren't as busy. It has benefitted us by not needing as much overtime in the spring because we got the work done early." 

Projects around the shop

While not revenue drivers, the other way that Borst keeps crews busy in the off-season is with projects around the shop. In fact, he says that during a busy snow season, there are sometimes in-house projects that don't end up getting done.

While they have to prioritize profitable services, things like painting, shop and yard clean-up, and equipment maintenance are all good winter projects when there is time for them. 

While it doesn't bring in any immediate profit, it does help to kick off the spring season.

"Anything that we can do to get the spring season off to a great start is beneficial," Borst says. "We want everything ready to go." 



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