Business Smarts: Cultivating Successful Relationships with Snow Subcontractors - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Business Smarts: Cultivating Successful Relationships with Snow Subcontractors

Snow season will be here before you know it. While staffing up for the growing season is hard enough, snow work has its own set of challenges and hiring subcontractors is one way to help mitigate this labor challenge.  

Even if you have enough in-house employees, snow subcontractors can help bolster your company’s crew and fleet over the winter season when you never know what Mother Nature might have in store with the next winter storm.

However, not all subcontractors are created equal. Take the time to source and vet your season’s snow contractors now, instead of scrambling later in the year and settling for someone beneath your company’s usual standards.

The main methods for finding potential subcontractors are through word-of-mouth or job sites like Indeed and LinkedIn. Once you have some potential subcontractors to interview, there are a number of features to look into to ensure you’re setting the relationship up for success.

If you’re taking the time to interview your subcontractors, don’t skip the step of reaching out to their references as well. They are representing your company for better or worse, so do some research on their online reputation. Be mindful of any negative reviews on their profile and how they handled it, as this can indicate signs of a true professional.

Look for subs who are responsible, organized and efficient. They need to have a strong work ethic and integrity. Consider their plowing equipment and rates, as you don’t want to destroy your margins on overpriced subcontractors. When looking for partners, don’t forget the matter of accessibility. You need subcontractors who can be on your customers’ properties in a timely manner, so don’t settle for one out of your service area.  

Another major element you need to consider when reviewing your potential snow subcontractors is their level of insurance. This not only protects you but also your clients from legal vulnerabilities.

Once you’ve found your reliable snow subcontractors, you want to do everything you can to keep working with them year after year. Two of the main complaints snow subcontractors have when working with snow management companies are late payments and unclear expectations. By paying them in a timely manner and having clear expectations from the start, you can eliminate miscommunications and build a strong working relationship.

When hiring your subcontractors, have them sign an employment contract that includes:

  • The job description
  • Chain of command
  • Your expectations for performance on the job
  • Route sheets with budgeted manhours to be met
  • Details on payment for service
  • Service timing
  • The penalty for not showing up for a job
  • Reasons for dismissal

By laying out your written expectations, you can avoid certain issues, like when a subcontractor fails to perform the agreed-upon work but still expects payment. When you present the contract, review it with the subcontractors, so both parties understand the agreement upfront.

You should also provide standard operating procedures, so your subcontractors know exactly how you want the snow and ice jobs handled. Give them an opportunity to ask questions about these procedures as well.

Throughout the season, communicate with your subcontractors and keep them in the loop, so everyone is on the same page. Being open and transparent helps build trust and respect with subs and helps them feel like they are part of the team.

While you have subcontractors out on the job, you should keep your clients at ease by having supervisors monitor their efficiency and handle any issues that may come up. If there are areas where they can improve, constructively share that information.

If a particular subcontractor has been invaluable to your team, let them know. You can provide bonuses when they reach certain goals or exceed your expectations.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.