If you approach your snow and ice budget with the goal of saving money, you're on a slippery slope.
Sure, you can reduce the cost with a few tricks: close off a parking lot here, a sidewalk or doorway there, or limit the bags of ice melt used on your site.
But are you willing to take the risk?
Leslie Herndon, Vice President of Operations at Greenscape, Inc., tells why snow management isn’t the place to try to trim your budget.
“It isn’t about how to avoid blowing your budget on snow and ice management,” Herndon says. “It’s about not budgeting enough.”
The Predicament Of Predictions
“Predicting your snow and ice budget year to year can be fairly difficult,” Herndon says. “Here in North Carolina, we tend to be heavy on ice, but light on snow most years.” Even neighboring areas can have different conditions, she says.
“A property manager can have one property in Durham and one in Holly Springs and they might have completely different conditions,” Herndon says. “There may be two more inches of ice in Holly Springs or 4 more inches of snow in Durham.”
Plan For The Worst, Hope For The Best
“I tell customers to plan for the worst storm they've ever experienced,” Herndon says. “In North Carolina, snow and ice is completely unpredictable. We could go all winter and have absolutely nothing. But contractors still have to be prepared for anything.”
“Plan for the worst, then if we get minimal winter weather, you’ll have extra money in your budget for other things, like enhancements,” Herndon says.
“Snow in our market is over by early in the fiscal year. By March 30 you'll know if you’re below budget and can spend that money on something else.”
The Risk Factor
Herndon talks a lot about risk factor — how likely is it that someone will slip and fall on your property in the winter? And if they do, what are the repercussions for you?
“I can't tell a client what their risk factor is — only they know that,” she says. “If it’s a hospital, they face a huge cost if there’s a slip and fall accident — at least four times or more than what we charge for snow removal.”
That cost can include legal costs, medical costs, potential insurance rate increases, plus workers’ compensation if an employee slips.
“How much are you willing to risk?” Herndon asks. Every client’s definition of risk and their tolerance is different.
“If you've never had that happen to you, it’s hard to really understand it,” she says. “But we have clients who have had it happen, and they’re the ones who say, ‘I don't care what it costs — do whatever you need to in order to keep it safe.’
“They know that’s still cheaper than what they would have to pay for a slip and fall injury.” Every business has its own unique situation, Herndon says. “And they have a high level of trust with us as their contractor, to have the integrity to do what is in their best interests. This is key.”
Limiting Costs, Increasing Liability
“Some property managers choose to limit their snow removal cost by closing off some of their property, like one of their parking lots,” Herndon says.
A customer can choose exactly what services they want and what they don't, she says, but all those details have to be outlined in the snow removal contract.
Do you want your sidewalks pre-treated before a storm? Your parking lots treated with brine?
Your lots plowed? Your sideways shoveled by hand?
“When you sign a contract with a snow removal company, in many cases you are moving the liability off onto the contractor’s insurance.” she says.
“If a customer wants to tell us to do less, they assume the risk back,” Herndon says. “A customer can say, ‘Don’t spread more than 50 bags of ice melt’ or ‘Don’t spend more than this many hours plowing.’ If they say, ‘Don't plow this lot,’ then they’re responsible for any slip and fall injuries that happen there. I let them know, this is fine, but what you sign up for is what we deliver. If you want limited service, we can provide that, but you have to sign off that you’re assuming the risk.”
Choose Your Tier
Greenscape Inc. offers two tiers of snow removal service.
Tier One puts you at the top of the snow removal list — you’ll get serviced first.
Tier Two customers wait longer — sometimes until the day after a big storm.
“Some customers automatically want that higher level of service,” Herndon says. “Hospitals, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, some retail customers. They have a higher need.”
Ponder Your Priorities
Herndon says she sees it all — from customers who put their snow and ice budget at the top of the priority list to those who shove it to the bottom.
“One customer said they would only spend under $3,000, and it was a huge hard surface space,” Herndon says. “We had to decline to do the snow work here. There was no way we could make that property safe for that amount.”
More often, she says, she sees the other extreme.
“Most people say, ‘Do everything you feel you need to do,’” she says. “Professional property managers know the risk. They have to keep their clients safe.”
Think about all the repercussions, Herndon says.
“If your employees can't get to work, what will that cost the business if you have to close?” she says. “And if your tenants are unhappy about snow and ice management, they may have concerns at lease renewal time.”
Plan Your Snow Removal Now
“Have a conversation with your landscape company or snow contractor early,” Herndon says. “You cannot wait until there’s an ice storm and say, ‘Uh oh, we need do something about this.’ By then, it’s too late. We have our routes, plans, subcontractors, and supplies all set by then.
“We start planning for snow in August,” she says.
“If you have questions, your Client Relations Manager will be glad to come talk it through with you. But we need to do that in September or October — not in January.”
Trust Greenscape, Inc. With Your Snow Removal
At Greenscape, Inc., we know how crucial it is to have safe, clear parking lots and walkways at a commercial property.
We provide reliable snow and ice removal for our current landscaping customers. Clients with a signed snow removal contract have top priority.
Questions about your snow removal budget? We’re happy to help.
We’ve been meeting the full-service landscaping needs of commercial and residential customers in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary areas for more than 35 years. We offer landscape management and lawn care, design and build services, irrigation, landscape lighting and more. Call us at 919-552-7742 or fill out our online form to request a free consultation about snow removal or any of our comprehensive services.
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