Sneller Snow & Grounds MI Box Plow

Should I care if my Snow Removal Contractor only does Commercial Properties?

Using a Commercial Snow Removal Contractor for your commercial property is about saving you money and headaches.  Whether as a business you need to show profits for investors or as a not-for-profit you need to maximize benefits to beneficiaries, you need to save money.  Choosing the right snow removal contractor is similar to wise investing, it is not flashy, but in the long run you reap the rewards.

Organizations with larger properties often find themselves ahead when they work with a snow removal company dedicated to commercial properties.

You don’t have to take our word for it.  We had a chance to talk to Kevin Gilbride, Executive Director of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA), about the differences between commercial and residential snow removal and why the average client should care about those differences, why you want a dedicated commercial snow removal company.  ASCA is a leading association for professional snow removal companies.  Here are some of the things Gilbride shared with us.

Commercial and Residential Snow Removal are Two Different Animals

Many successful snow removal companies start like everyone else, providing snow removal to anyone willing to sign on the dotted line.  As the company grows into a stable company, many realize they have two entirely separate snow removal operations running at the same time.  Gilbride shares, “You end up with different kinds of route management, different kinds of equipment, different training, policies, and procedures.”

Gilbride summed it up, “You are running two different companies.”

Both residential and commercial clients want a property clean of snow for the smallest dollar amount with the job done “right,” but the model is very different between the two types of clients.  Everything from the traffic on the property to how far you have to push the snow pile is different.  With residential snow removal, one or two guys might handle dozens of residential properties in a single storm.  Yet with a commercial property it might take a dozen team members on a single property for the exact same storm.

It is common for many growing snow removal companies to take a step back and ask, “do I best service my customers trying to be all things to all people?”  The answer is often “no” because of what it takes to clear a home versus what it takes to clear a larger lot.  Rather than trying to be all things to all people, over the years, many snow removal companies have decided to specialize in either residential or commercial snow removal services.

What is Special About Residential Snow Removal?

For the residential providers, the name of the game is client proximity.  In order to keep costs down, clients need to be close together because eliminating time and distance between jobs keeps people and equipment moving snow.

Many residential properties can be done in mere minutes, and since contractors only get paid for moving snow, driving between jobs is a waste of time and money.  These contractors will generally use a plow on a small pickup and they will be in and out as quickly as they can.

What residential customers don’t typically worry about is liability.  There is lower exposure to a home owner because there are less people on the property and even if someone does slip and fall on a homeowner’s property, there is less potential for a lawsuit.  Most residential clients look out their window and if there is still a blanket of white on the driveway, then they give their snow removal team a call. If the driveway is clean, they go about their day happy.  No more thought is given to what it took to make the property safe.

ASCA Accredited Snow Contractors Association

What is special about commercial snow removal?

For the commercial client, eliminating risk is the name of the game.  Gilbride shares the biggest concern is because, “commercial clients have the highest risk of liability.”  With more pedestrian traffic and deeper pockets, lawsuits are more likely to hit a commercial client.  Risk does not just stop with lawsuits by visitors.  If an employee falls you could find yourself paying their medical bills, wages for lost time, and other expenses.  The risk also extends into lost business when a potential customer goes to a competitor just because your lot or walkways are not cleared properly.

Risk can also extend to equipment.  Everyone knows the hospital needs to have a clear path for an ambulance, but any facility that has trucks arriving for shipping and receiving also needs to keep a clear path so the vehicles can safely drive on your property.  To get a truck stuck at a loading dock can be costly for the shipping firm and for the property owner.

More Snow Means Different Equipment

There are other factors to costs.  Commercial properties have a lot more snow to move and often the snow has to be pushed over longer distances.  In order to move snow fast and economically, you want a contractor that is going to use equipment like skid steers, end loaders, and other machinery in addition to larger trucks because they can move large amounts of snow quickly.  Most commercial contractors will even dedicate equipment to your property for the season, parking them on site ensuring they are always ready to go.

The difference in preparation and documentation is even more striking than the difference in equipment.  A commercial property will often require a researched and documented snow removal plan ahead of time, higher levels of employee training, documentation, and even a document retention plan.  A commercial snow removal company will take a considerable amount of time preparing a plan for your property as well as preparing your property before the snow starts flying in order to provide you the service you need.

Keep People Safe and Don’t Get Sued

With a commercial property, the idea is first to keep the property safe for everyone who steps foot on the property. The snow removal plan and the high level of employee training go a long way to keeping a property safe.  The next piece is to keep the snow removal contractor, the property owner, and the owner’s insurance company from getting sued which keeps costs down for everyone.

Gilbride shared that this is why commercial snow removal contractors have been pursuing the ISO/SN9001 standard.  “Everyone comes back from conferences and seminars all fired up with the great things they are going to implement, but then life happens and they never get it done.  Getting the ISO certification holds your feet to the fire to do what you know will be best for your client and your company.”

The ISO SN9001 Standard

The commercial snow removal contractors who have been certified to the SN9001 standard delivers real value to their clients.  Clients win because they know the contractor is going to deliver on the plan since the contractor is audited by a third party showing the contractor does what was promised.  The contractor wins because the contractor has a quality management system in place ensuring nothing important falls through the cracks.  Everybody wins because the risk of Liability goes down.


Gilbride shared these numbers from last year:

Winter related slip and fall Lawsuits dismissed:

Industry Average = 35% dismissed

SN9001 Certified Companies = 70% dismissed

Industry Avg. Payout = over $15,000

SN9001 Certified Company Avg. Payout. = only $4100


Between the higher number of cases that get settled rather than dismissed as well as the higher payout, you have almost eight times the exposure using the average snow removal professional verses the SN9001 certified commercial snow removal contractor.

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