Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why don’t snow professionals value training like other industries?



'Strategically, SIMA is working to shake the industry up and build a better, safer, and more efficient workforce.'

By Brian Birch, CAE
As SIMA has grown, we've built and launched many training events and products over the years. Recently we launched the Advanced Snow Management program, after literally years of project work and discussion.

The thing that has surprised me is that many snow professionals don’t necessarily value training in snow all that much.  Our surveys over the years clearly indicate that a great number of companies do very little formal training specific to snow each year.

The reasons for disinterest in training are many, and are not to be taken lightly; the cost of training is high, the challenge of keeping good employees is high, and often times the perception of the industry is low in general. And don’t get me wrong, there are many examples across North America of companies training well in snow and ice. But I do think that training and building key skills in the industry is something that can be strengthened over time. Strategically, SIMA is working to shake the industry up and build a better, safer, and more efficient workforce.

In late 2014, SIMA staff and a group of key volunteers known as the Stakeholder Advisory Group went through a strenuous process to apply for ANSI accreditation for all four Advanced Snow Management courses. After one full year of preparation, over 30 pages of documentation, $10,000+ in application fees and preparation expenses, 60+ documents, and countless hours, SIMA’s application was submitted in early December. Our application is under review until mid-January, and then the next step will be to have two ANSI auditors complete an in-person program audit.

So the question is; why did we invest so much time and effort into this process? The answer is quite simple; we are seeking to build the industry’s most powerful training verification program. We aim to set a new bar for professionals in the industry, one which empowers companies across North America to train key personnel to become safer, more efficient, and more skilled. We seek ANSI accreditation for our programs so that we can show those insurance and commercial facilities management folks that snow professionals mean business.

Snow professionals don’t value training as much as they should because they haven’t been given a good reason to do so – and you can help us change that. What action can you take to help? Here are a few thoughts:
  • Take a look at the Advanced Snow Management program and consider investing in a stronger, more powerful training program for your key managers.
  • Download the SIMA Best Practices Checklist and start checking items off the list.
  • Email Ellen@sima.org and tell her what a great job she has done getting SIMA to this point in the ANSI application process, and tell her to keep pushing hard.
  • Email Jason Case, CSP, SIMA Board President, at jcase@casesnow.com and share your thoughts for training in the industry and how SIMA can help make training a game-changer for you.
SIMA Action Alerts are designed to challenge the membership at large to take action and be informed. Please share any thoughts on Action Alerts with Brian@sima.org, or in the comment section below.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Help define the future of the snow industry











'The future can be full of promise provided we come together as an industry to fight for the greater good and protection of snow professionals.'


By Jason Case, CSP
The last few years have been very exciting and challenging in the snow industry. We have all seen record-breaking snowfall, salt shortages and insurance issues, but have persevered despite a struggling economy. Today is a new day, as our industry has evolved and is now being taken seriously by property owners, legislators and the general public. So, what is the future of snow & ice? How will the laws enforce and govern change? And who will be there to help guide us through the unknown?

Risk Management
When I think of the challenges contractors will face in the immediate future, risk management is the first thing that comes to mind. The insurance industry is frightened by the nature of the snow business, and it seems like contractors take on all the risk, even when they do everything possible to get the job done. How can we defend ourselves in a litigious world? SIMA understands these issues, and with your help we are collectively developing and publishing industry standards, best practices, salt application rates, and education through the Advanced Snow Management (ASM) and Certified Snow Professional (CSP) programs. 

Contract reform also needs to be considered, as well as legislative change that helps defend contractors from frivolous lawsuits. The future can be full of promise provided we come together as an industry to fight for the greater good and protection of snow professionals. 

Environmental concerns
Environmental concern is continuously on the rise. A salt shortage correlates to the amount of product distributed into the environment. Are we over applying? Many contractors feel the more product they apply the faster snow & ice melt. Multiple applications help achieve bare pavement, meeting consumer needs and reducing the risk of slip and falls. Recent studies funded by SIMA will demonstrate that contractors can achieve acceptable results with less product. 

We all have a responsibility to help protect our watershed areas. SIMA is the go-to resource to help contractors understand that spreading fewer chlorides means being environmentally responsible. By utilizing new technologies, coated rock salt, liquids, advanced equipment and training, we can help preserve our environment and still provide safe and accessible vehicle and pedestrian ways.

Look to the future
Leadership is the future of our industry. It's because of pioneers like Alan Steiman, CSP, and Brian Akehurst, CSP, that I can stand proud to be a snow & ice contractor. These mentors helped guide me and encouraged me to get involved, think outside the box, and become a snow & ice professional. Through my past 10 years of involvement with SIMA I have met some remarkable people. Everyone has something to offer this industry and the SIMA organization. When I joined, I never thought I would be writing this article as SIMA's chairman of the Board of Directors. Now I challenge you. It's time to come together as an industry and get involved beyond paying your membership dues. Help make a difference, become a leader, and mentor the younger generations to build a sustainable snow & ice industry.

Thank you to all of the members, volunteers and SIMA staff who contribute to helping make a difference for all snow contractors.

Jason Case, CSP is president of Case Snow Management, Inc., located in North Attleboro, MA, and board chair of SIMA.

Friday, December 19, 2014

SIMA Annual Report

'In the annual report, you can view SIMA's total assets, total income, total expenses, and even see what our largest program-related expenses were.'

By Kaitlyn Herbst
Last year, SIMA generated its first State of SIMA Annual Report. This report is published and sent to members in order to provide transparency of our current financial position and the progress of goals set the previous year (view some of the goals SIMA accomplished in the graphic below). We know you're busy working in or on your business, so it can be difficult to follow every financial, strategic and operational aspect of the association. With that in mind, SIMA produces this report as a summary of the previous year and a look ahead to our goals for 2014-15.
























In the annual report, you can view SIMA's total assets, total income, total expenses, and even see what our largest program-related expenses were. Providing this information holds SIMA and the Board of Directors accountable in sharing the same vision, direction and goals of its members.

As members, you are making a huge difference with your passion for the industry and hunger for continued improvement. We could not do what we do without you. For that reason, we want your trust and to be your organization's continued partner in growing and earning respect in this ever-changing industry.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Training: The gift that keeps on giving










'Whether you're looking for training in business, operations or leadership, SIMA's robust resources can be applied to any organization for years to come.'

By Heather Carew
Each year around this time your mailboxes become crowded with catalogs filled with images and descriptions of products that are JUST PERFECT for the upcoming holiday season. You might just throw these away or never actually see them because your kids snap them up so quickly, but that's OK, because the best is yet to come!

The must-see catalog of the season is SIMA's new Online Training Catalog (download a digital copy here). Because quality training is essential to success, this handy piece gives snow & ice professionals a rundown of the training they have at their fingertips through SIMA's Resource 24/7 Online Training Center (www.sima.org/resources). Whether you're looking for training in business, operations or leadership, SIMA's robust resources can be applied to any organization for years to come.

Hot gift idea for your team members
The new Advanced Snow Management certificate program is the "must have" course for 2014. This self-guided, interactive program consists of four modules: Core Principles, Plowing Operations, Sidewalk Operations, and Ice Management. As the only operator-based training of its kind, show your trusted crew members you value them by investing in their industry education as a specialist or a designated Advanced Snow Manager. It will become the gift that keeps on giving, since this knowledge will enable you to market verifiable expertise to clients and insurance companies.

Gifts for all
Don't stop the giving this season! Consider training opportunities for your entire organization using SIMA's team training options. If you're interested in building team strength through education, SIMA will work with you to understand your needs and learn how to achieve them. Following a 15-minute call/demonstration of Resource 24/7, we will create a plan based on who needs to be trained in what area and submit a proposal to you. After the proposal is signed and returned, a training account will be set up and each individual will receive his/her own username and password to access the training.

Happy holidays from SIMA
With all these gifts you've been giving, wouldn't it be nice to get one for yourself too? As a thank you, SIMA would like to offer five free training vouchers to companies who start a team training account. These vouchers can be applied to any Resource 24/7 offering - ASM certificate courses, the Build a Bid estimating package, streaming training videos and more.

Contact Heather@sima.org for more information on team training.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Industry leaders focus on community service

'It is inspiring to see the work that our members do to give back to their communities, both locally and globally, and it is stories like these that make our industry great.'

By Elly Lobello
Snow Business has many great issues and special sections throughout the year, including State of the Industry, Snow & Ice All-Stars, CEO of the Year and more. One of my favorites, now in its third year, is the Community Service Initiative. This special section highlights three snow & ice professionals who are serving their communities for causes that are close to their hearts. It is inspiring to see the work that our members do to give back to their communities, both locally and globally, and it is stories like these that make our industry great. Special thanks to The BOSS for sponsoring the Community Service Initiative for the third year in a row.

SIMA and Snow Business are proud to share below the 2014-2015 Community Service Initiative participants - watch each of the short videos below, and click each of the titles to read the full stories on GoPlow.com

Lawn Butler: Many hands, light work


P & L Landscaping: A park for all to enjoy

Sauers Tree & Landscape Service Inc.: Turning grief into hope



Monday, November 10, 2014

Communication is the key to snow success



'Over the past three years, SIMA has undergone a complete marketing and communications overhaul.'

By Brian Birch, CAE
Over the years, I have managed many projects for SIMA. Even in situations where a small group of people is involved, I’ve always been amazed at how critical good communication is in getting things done. We hear it all the time, but communication is key. Nowhere is this more important than when SIMA and its members seek to communicate to the core stakeholders in our marketplace. Two of these audiences are facility management (FM) professionals who hire snow service providers, and the insurance stakeholders who insure those service providers.

Over the past three years, SIMA has undergone a complete marketing and communications overhaul. We identified many areas of improvement, and one critical area we defined related to how we were (or, in fact, were not) empowering our members to differentiate themselves to the FM and insurance industries. Both audiences are exposed to all aspects of the snow industry, and there are few tools available to help them critically evaluate and understand what a quality service provider looks like. However, we now have some solid resources available to members to help bridge this communication gap.

Tips for hiring a snow service provider 
We developed this piece to be a highly visual and impactful tool for FM professionals. It lays out simple techniques from the FM professional’s perspective to begin to evaluate a snow professional. This is an important difference because we found that previously our industry had tried to force-feed FM professionals the information we felt they needed. The feedback SIMA received through many FM industry channels was that we needed to help them simplify and understand the process of vetting and qualifying snow professionals. This brochure — free to download in print-quality format for SIMA members — will be a primary communication tool to help.

The brochure is usable as is by any SIMA member. For companies with Certified Snow Professionals and/or Advanced Snow Managers on staff, we created separate inserts for those designations that can be used as stand-alone marketing inserts or inserted into the overall brochure for maximum effect.

The brochure is the tip of the iceberg in our ongoing efforts to communicate critical, helpful information to the FM world.


Partners in success
Insurance in the snow industry is risky business, and the current state of affairs leaves contractors looking for quality, affordable insurance. At the same time, insurance stakeholders looking to insure snow contractors face a fragmented marketplace, with few resources to help them understand what good snow operations look like from a safety and risk standpoint.

Our Partners in Success brochure is a new insurance stakeholder communication tool that establishes realistic criteria insurance underwriters and agents can use to assess a snow contractor’s risk. It provides a simple list of core documentation that quality providers in snow should track (tied to SIMA’s Best Practices Checklist for Snow & Ice Management); discusses insurance-related contractual issues; and outlines the value of the CSP and ASM programs for snow contractors. 





















Case Study - Jim Turcan, CSP, Cornerstone Partners Horticultural Services Co., St Charles, IL
At the 2014 Snow & Ice Symposium in Columbus, OH, Jim Turcan picked up a copy of the Partners In Success insurance communication brochure from the SIMA booth and sent it to his insurance agent. The brochure sparked a conversation that helped Turcan’s agent really promote his company’s affiliations and certifications. 

“I had previously discussed with our agent the safety improvements we’ve been making for our crews and clients (grip tape on trailer ramps, safety talks, photo site documentation, etc.) but didn’t really have anything tangible or measurable to provide him with other than photos of what we’ve been doing,” Turcan explains. “The moment I got back from the Symposium, I mailed him the trifold brochure on insuring snow services. He reviewed it with the insurance underwriters and confirmed a significant discount on our coverage as a result of our association with SIMA, my CSP designation, and the safety-related improvements we are implementing here.”

To download a copy of either brochure, visit www.sima.org and log in to the member portal.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Finding sustainable salt solutions

'Coming into the 2014-15 winter, salt supply is limited and costs more. This combination has created challenges we’re not accustomed to facing.'

By Martin Tirado, CAE
SIMA just concluded the second of its two Salt Summits. More than 150 combined attendees learned about the use and effectiveness of liquids and brines, chemical application rates, and what other companies are doing to better manage their salt supply. Anytime a group of snow contractors meets and exchanges ideas, good learning experiences are generated with actionable takeaways received.

Simple questions, complex answers 
Coming into the 2014-15 winter, salt supply is limited and it costs more than in the past several winters. This combination has created challenges we’re not accustomed to facing. What the industry often asks in such times are simple questions, but the answers are complex. 

Sustainable solutions
The industry is asking you to discover sustainable solutions for ice melt. We need to look at the sustainable answers. Some of these answers are:
  • Consider using liquid applications, both applied to bulk salt supplies and as a pretreatment to reduce the amount of salt used and enhance its effectiveness.
  • Be diligent in training your operators on knowing how to properly calibrate spreaders, and know the optimal application rates needed to get the job done (use a chemical temperature effectiveness chart, one is available for SIMA members at www.sima.org).
  • Analyze your business model and change if needed. Consider the pros and cons of different types of snow contracts. Which types promote the greatest efficiency for the snow contractor and are most cost effective for the customer? Listen to what your customer truly wants and make it a win-win partnership.
  • Communicate with your property and facility managers on chemical effectiveness, air and surface temperatures and proper application rates. Overapplication is not a sustainable solution.
  • Maximize the use of truck and plow snow clearing.
  • Create a long-term partnership with your suppliers. 
  • Position yourself as the expert in your field. Get certified through the CSP (Certified Snow Professional) or ASM (Advanced Snow Manager) program.
Finding salt supplies
There are also steps you can take now to find product as the season approaches:
  • There is salt supply in the market. Suppliers on SIMA’s LinkedIn page are advertising that they have a supply. 
  • You may also need to contact as many people as you know to find a secondary market supplier. It may be expensive, differ in quality than what you’re accustomed to, and take more time and cost to have it delivered or picked up. These are short-term answers. The question that will help your company last longer, grow more, and enhance efficiencies is: What’s your long-term solution to having the salt supply your customers need? 
Martin Tirado, CAE is chief executive officer of SIMA. Contact him at martin@sima.org.