Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Work in progress: Training and certification

'SIMA is working on multiple fronts to improve the employment conditions in the industry. Our approach includes solutions that require dedication, skill and a bit of grit.'

By Martin Tirado, CAE
The last few years have seen major changes and challenges in the snow and ice management industry. But one issue remains constant and pervasive, and it has nothing to do with weather. It’s the difficulty in finding dedicated, hard-working people willing to commit to the work required to safely and professionally deliver service. 

SIMA is working on multiple fronts to improve the employment conditions in the industry. Our approach includes solutions that require dedication, skill and a bit of grit.

Sales and Management: Our Certified Snow Professional program has been the standard for excellence in business for the last 10 years. We have 180 CSPs today, but we believe a key reason limiting the industry’s uptake of the CSP is testing delivery. To adhere to above average standards, we have required testing at a qualified testing center approved by SIMA. In response to feedback regarding test delivery, a program review, and our successful rollout of online testing for the Advanced Snow Management program, we have moved forward with online delivery of the CSP exam. We anticipate a heavy increase in the interest and use of the CSP program as we pilot online testing. Learn more at

Changing the testing delivery is only one part of changes you’ll see for the CSP. As our signature certification program, we are revamping the entire CSP program. You will hear more over the next 8 to 12 months as we progress through the review process. 

Our vision is that more owners, salespeople, operations managers, and financial and administrative leaders will become certified. Together we can present a united, professional face to the consumers in the marketplace. 

Operations Management and Leadership: The Advanced Snow Management certificate program is our No. 1 priority for growing the skill and competency of snow operations management professionals. We have awarded over 1,000 certificates for the program’s four courses. We recently passed our annual ANSI audit, which guarantees the courses are relevant, fair, and effectively verify knowledge and skill. 

We piloted ASM University this spring and had a great class of individuals earn their full Advanced Snow Manager credential. The next ASM University will take place this fall. Enroll at In April, we also launched the Advanced Snow Management Handbook, an interactive training tool provided to ASMs to help them become training champions for their organizations.

Administration: This area of the business is essential, and we are developing a new training initiative related to service verification and documentation. Our goal is to deliver quality best practices, tips and real-world policy examples to professionals charged with organizing billing, data collection, production management and office infrastructure - all key elements in quality verification of snow services.

SIMA is employing these strategies to help build a workforce in the industry, but we can’t do it alone. The Board of Directors has directed SIMA to work on collaborative partnerships to make service industries like snow and ice more visible. SIMA will share current approaches to that strategy soon, but we value your input and encourage you to reach out to share your thoughts.

Beefed-up training for your team
In addition to SIMA’s credentialed programs, we have amped up our offerings to help you effectively, efficiently and affordably train your team:
  • Training Commitment: The SIMA Training Commitment offers a $200 discount toward one person earning their CSP or ASM designation. Each year of renewal triggers a new $200 training commitment, enabling members to build their employee’s skills and marketability over time. Learn more at
  • Online Training: SIMA’s vision is to help make the snow industry more visible and a place where people can earn a good wage and do work that matters. That is a long-term strategy, but in the short term we have worked to make it as easy as possible to onboard and train new operations personnel. SIMA members can access training courses, guidelines and best practices to help. Learn more about available courses at
  • New Videos:  SIMA is unveiling our new safety and training video program in mid-summer. Visit to learn more. 
Martin Tirado is SIMA’s chief executive officer. Contact him at

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Building your network

SIMA peer groups build relationships in non-competitive environment

By Phil Harwood, CSP
Imagine you are trying to solve a dilemma or are facing a difficult decision in your business. You have been agonizing over this for days and have been losing sleep over it. Wouldn’t it be great if you were able to reach out to a group of trusted friends in the industry who completely understood your situation and who could give you sound advice? That’s the value of building your network. 

Perhaps you are trying to decide whether to add another key person to your team or how to compensate them. Maybe you are unsure about how best to set up a new truck. Or you may be working on a budget or updating your pricing matrix and you aren’t sure what gross margin you should be trying to achieve. Ask your network. They probably have the answer or at least can provide guidance. 

Networking events
There are many ways to build your network within the snow and ice management industry. If you plan to attend the 20th Annual Snow & Ice Symposium in Montreal, you will find a variety of networking opportunities. The Symposium schedule shows nine distinct networking events - receptions, snack and chats, and others - designed to bring together snow pros and build your network. 

For some people, the thought of attending a networking event brings hesitation or even fear. It can be intimidating for some to walk into a reception, for example, without knowing anyone, while it appears that everyone else has known each other for years. The good news is that there are other opportunities to build your network. One of these is to join a SIMA Peer Group.

Shared goals and support
Joining a peer group is probably the most effective form of networking available today. This is because peer groups are comprised of members having the same goals and desires as you do - one of which is to be part of a closed and confidential group of snow pros who are dedicated to supporting each other, giving and receiving ideas, gaining new perspectives, learning from each other and challenging each other at times to reach higher. This is where deep relationships are formed over time.

SIMA Peer Groups are formed with SIMA members from noncompeting markets. They meet in person and by conference call or GoToMeeting on a regular basis throughout the year. An overview of the SIMA Peer Group program and an interest form is available at

New groups are being formed this spring for a June 1 kickoff. In addition, current groups are seeking new members to expand their groups, which range from six to eight companies. 

Is this a good fit for you?
Is a SIMA Peer Group right for you? If this article has piqued your interest, you likely are a good candidate for a peer group. 

Building your network is a key part of becoming a professional in your industry. It is my hope that you take advantage of the many networking opportunities afforded by SIMA, whether by attending the 20th Annual Snow & Ice Symposium, serving on a SIMA committee and/or by joining a SIMA Peer Group. 

Phil Harwood, CSP, is a managing partner of Pro-Motion Consulting Inc. and the SIMA Peer Group facilitator. Email him at

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wanted: Policy standards that enable practice standards

'While progress is being made, if salt reduction is really going to be a priority, snow contractors cannot do it alone.'

By Phill Sexton
The past several years have seen increased finger-pointing at the private snow and ice management industry for the environmental woes resulting from the over-application and misuse of deicers. While snow removal contractors play a role, my research over the past year has led me to realize that faulty practice is only part of the problem. As complicit in this trend, and perhaps more so, are forces that are beyond snow contractors’ control.

The bottom line is the lack of comprehensive understanding about our services is hampering the evolution of standards of practice. Those who have taken the time to educate themselves on this topic know reducing salt use is better for the environment and can reduce costs while delivering the same level of service if properly managed. However, trends driving the snow industry are counterproductive to this concept. 

Policy cracks
Snow contractors are bound by policies at the client and legislative levels that drive an overly cautious approach to ice management. Slip and fall liability is a major factor that drives how clients define the level of service. In addition, a growing litigious society has moved slip and falls to the forefront. No one wants to be sued, and given that current contracts require snow contractors to shoulder the majority of the liability, the “more salt is safer” mentality is understandable.

While liability plays a role in salt use, according to my research and industry surveys, contract structure-related LOS and revenue/profit are actually the most heavily weighted drivers in salt use. 

From the client side, LOS tied to quality perceptions (more salt = better service) and budgetary pressures (salting is more efficient that plowing) drive salt use. From the contractor side, four of the five most common contract types incentivize the use of more salt. Snow companies whose business models focus on salt as a profit center have no financial incentive to use less salt.

Building on sound practice
Snow and ice management professionals are taking steps to reduce salt use by implementing better standards of practice (calibration rates, tracking, better equipment, adherence to best practices). 

SIMA and several members have spent the past five years funding and/or participating in research that led to the formation of our Sustainable Salt Initiative program and Salt Use Best Practices, both of which are designed to educate snow contractors on successful salt reduction. We have partnered with and engaged in conversations with groups in Minnesota, New York, New Hampshire and Ontario (to name a few) to see who we can work together to move the needle.

While progress is being made, if salt reduction is really going to be a priority, snow contractors cannot do it alone. All stakeholders – service providers, clients, suppliers and manufacturers, insurance, trade associations, environmental agencies and governmental bodies – need to work together to facilitate change.

If we are truly serious about this issue, it will require members of every stakeholder group commit to self-regulated standards of policy that enable standards of practice. Creating easily understood, accessible and affordable guidelines with all stakeholders’ input will have a better chance for broad adoption and successful implementation. 

Success starts with us
The first stage of sustainable salt use is measuring. Visit to learn how you can properly estimate the right amount of salt to use, automate tracking of your salt output and benchmark your improvements with other companies participating in the Sustainable Salt Initiative. 

Do your part to reduce salt use by following the Best Practices Guidelines for Sustainable Salt Use. Download now at

Phill Sexton is Director of Outreach for SIMA. Contact him at

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Site Engineering Sell Sheet

'This marketing piece visualizes the critical importance of site engineering in a way that is easy to understand for prospective and current customers.'

By Brian Birch, CAE
Since SIMA revamped what it means to be a member of the association last fall, the staff has been hard at work creating new and better resources for our members. With that in mind, SIMA recently released the Site Engineering Sell Sheet that members can download and reproduce as an educational and planning tool. 

This marketing piece visualizes the critical importance of site engineering in a way that is easy to understand for prospective and current customers. It can also serve as a quick training reminder for your field employees. The Site Engineering Sell Sheet features high-quality graphics and consumer-friendly language to help your customers understand the important, often overlooked details on their sites. It also offers best practices for hiring professional snow and ice management service providers. 

Areas of consideration include building entrances, curbs, drainage, snow pile storage, steps and ramps, and potential for damage. The information used was compiled from SIMA’s vast well of training and best practices information and reviewed by the Best Practices and Education Committees. SIMA members can download this free sell sheet online at

Brian Birch is SIMA’s Chief Operating Officer. Contact him at

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Contract clauses are new benefit

By Mike Mason, CSP

In December 2016, a stakeholder group comprised of snow and ice management professionals and experts in the legal and insurance industries put the final stamp on a project that created a set of advanced contract clauses.

Contract templates are a popular benefit for SIMA members. As part of its mission to deliver increased membership value, SIMA decided to complement these contracts with a glossary of advanced clauses that can help further protect the contractor in terms of risk management and liability. 

After an extensive collection and review process, the stakeholder group settled on clauses that related to payment terms, snowfall limits and measurements, property conditions and damage, employee protection, liability, reporting, ice management, service restrictions, subcontractor management and insurance. 

We’re not lawyers, of course, which is why we enlisted the aid of an attorney and insurance expert to review the clauses. It was an eye-opening experience since they were able to offer improvements that made the clauses more defensible or suggested we remove those that would be difficult to uphold. 

Some of the clauses may work in one market and not in another or only for certain types of customers. All the more reason to ensure your attorneys and insurance people review all contracts for legality and defensibility. 

The goal is to review these clauses and make additions or adjustments as needed, at least once a year. We encourage input and suggestions on how we can improve the tool and make it the best resource possible. Members can download the clauses here. Anyone with suggestions can email Cheryl Higley at

Mike Mason, CSP is vice president of The Lawn Pro in Louisville, KY. He is a former SIMA board chair and served as a stakeholder expert for the project. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Symposium turns 20, heads to Montréal

For all the details on this year’s Snow & Ice Symposium, June 20-23 2017 in Montréal, visit, and check out reasons to attend below!

7 Reasons to join SIMA in Montréal

1. Network, network, network: Attend the show and you’ll have the opportunity to learn and share ideas with attendees from markets across the United States and Canada. Have an issue you can’t resolve? The odds are high that you will connect with someone with the same experiences or someone who found a way to resolve that issue in their company.

2. Trade show hours extended: The show floor will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday and 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday. You get 3.5 more hours to learn about and shop for the latest equipment and services in snow and ice. View the interactive trade show floor to see who is exhibiting in 2017 at

3. Top-notch keynotes and education: We are extremely excited for this year’s professional keynotes. During concurrent sessions, you will also learn from great minds and leaders from outside (and within) the snow and ice industry.

4. Practice your French...if you want: Montréal is a crossroads of European and North American culture. Most citizens speak French and English, so it isn’t hard to fit right in. Plus, its multicultural population shapes the local flavors and culture. Interested in learning more French during your visit? Download the Google Translate App for a handy tool.

5. Your U.S. dollar will go a lot further in Canada: U.S. visitors will get about a 30% discount on purchases due to current currency exchange rates.

6. Double the celebration: SIMA is celebrating its 20th anniversary while Montréal celebrates its 375th anniversary ALL. SUMMER. LONG. The city will be alive during your visit, so bring your friends and family!

7. You want to be inspired to kick snow in the teeth during the 2017-18 season!

Get your passport today!
Is your passport valid for summer of 2017? Montréal is a short 39 miles (63 km) from the U.S. border. By plane, the city is only two hours (or less) away from many major cities, such as Toronto, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. U.S. citizens who cross into Canada must show either a valid passport or other accepted documentation to Customs or Border Control. Visit for more travel and hotel details.

New hours this year
When you review the Symposium brochure in this issue, you’ll note that hours and dates have changed. This is due to the Quebec holiday, Saint Jean Baptiste Day. Education and kickoff events begin Tuesday. Trade show days are Wednesday and Thursday. All educational sessions and the closing event will be on Friday. Take note of the new start dates and times before you make your travel arrangements.

Visit for registration and details - we look forward to seeing you in June!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What’s in the cards for the next four years?

'SIMA will continue to lead the way as an advocate for the business success of the snow and ice management industry.' 

By Martin Tirado, CAE
A new president has been inaugurated in the United States, and there is no shortage of organizations, media and individuals expressing their thoughts on “what a Donald Trump presidency” means for them. In the snow and ice industry, there will be some effect since President Trump was elected based on his support of positions that starkly contrast those of former President Obama. President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will push for changes from the top down while state and local initiatives will affect our industry regardless of who’s in charge in Washington, D.C. 

Many issues may affect the business climate in the United States, such as the planned repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, a focus on deregulation and immigration reform, the promise of border taxes, and withdrawal from or renegotiated trade pacts. Specific to our industry, here are a few things to look for in the next four years:

Chloride’s impact on freshwater 
At all levels of government, there has been increasing awareness of the need to limit chlorides applied to paved surfaces. Despite a general sense of deregulation from the federal government, some of this momentum will continue to grow. SIMA is in the late stages of its Sustainable Salt Initiative research project, which hopes to define industry standards for application rates that are defensible in slip and fall cases.

H-2B and workforce development
The exterior maintenance industry is among those facing a labor shortage, and it affects businesses year-round. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the largest user of the H-2B guest worker program is the landscape industry. H-2B is not an immigration issue; it’s a workforce issue that allows businesses to hire seasonal workers from foreign countries. In the fall, Congress did not renew returning work provisions that would exempt certain H-2B workers from the non-immigrant visa cap, which stands at 66,000 for FY 2017. This could further tighten an already strained labor pool. Although not a winter issue, despite its green-industry focus, it would be naïve of SIMA not to advocate on behalf of our many members who use this program. We have supported the National Association of Landscape Professionals on this issue for several years and will continue to do so. But it is clear we need to explore ways to recruit more workers into the essential industry of snow and ice management.

Liability limitations
State legislators are starting to take notice of laws that put undue liability responsibility on the shoulders of snow and ice management companies. In August 2016, Illinois passed the Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act that voids provisions in snow removal contracts that shift risk solely to one party. Although it applies to both sides, typically snow and ice companies must accept most of that liability, even in the absence of negligence. SIMA is also engaging with and supporting initiatives such as New Hampshire’s Green SnowPro program. Contractors who successfully complete a training program become certified and obtain liability protection on slip and fall cases where proper documentation was maintained. These are positive steps toward easing the burden of risk on professional snow contractors. It will be interesting to see whether other areas of the country follow suit.

In talking with other snow and landscape industry leaders, there is a shared opinion: Expect the unexpected. But regardless of the politics in Washington, SIMA will continue to lead the way as an advocate for the business success of the snow and ice management industry. 

Martin Tirado, CAE, is SIMA CEO. Contact him at