Thursday, April 2, 2015

Why do SIMA members need peers to hold them accountable?



'Sharing best practices with others leads to effective group learning, business growth, and establishes a relationship of friends you can count on to help you.'

By Martin Tirado
Growing up in the 80’s, I recall the catchy song “Talkin’ Baseball” by Terry Cashman. It felt right as when you’re a kid, during summertime, hanging out with friends, it doesn’t get much better than chatting about a sport you love. So now that we have businesses to grow, sales to make and strategies to develop, can we do the same with our snow and ice businesses? SIMA hopes so, and a great place to do this is with facilitated peer groups.

Peer groups are not a new concept. Yet, they have stood the test of time as a result of the value they bring. Some of these are:
  • Professional facilitation so the critical successes, challenges, and growth opportunities are brought out through thought-provoking questions and answers.
  • Like-minded participants, in the same industry, with the same goals who can share in a small group setting where all information remains confidential.
  • Sharing best practices with others leads to effective group learning, business growth, and establishes a relationship of friends you can count on to help you.
SIMA’s involvement in forming peer groups is to help you focus on your snow and ice business. Peer group participants can get into the details of all the things we love (and hate) about the business that other exterior maintenance service providers don’t bother with. Contract types, anti & de-icing methods, using liquids in different ways, finding a market niche, maintaining your best employees year round and finding seasonal employees, are just some of the different topics a SIMA peer group can work on. Another feature is that the topics are directed by you and your group. You decide the most critical topics to work on, help each other, then move onto other topics you select. The facilitator is there to help identify root cause issues, ask the more challenging questions and help the group find peer-developed solutions.

In 2013, SIMA conducted a membership satisfaction survey where 81% of respondents indicated that “interacting with professionals” was critical or important to their decision to join SIMA as a member. There are ways this interaction is created, such as at the Snow & Ice Symposium snack and chats, the SIMA Advisors program, and informally through contacts made at SIMA events in person and online. Participation in a peer group will take this interaction to a higher, more strategic level. 

Snow and ice peer groups are forming today. Let us know your willingness to participate by Friday, April 17 so that group formation and meetings can be achieved in 2015, just in time for your 2015-16 winter season. Here are ways you can take action on peer groups:
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.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Certification as a marketing asset






'A well-managed, well-respected certification program can add significant value to an individual’s credentials and help differentiate them in a tough market.'

By Ellen Lobello
Earning your Certified Snow Professional (CSP) designation is a major accomplishment that reflects personal and professional growth. The commitment to apply for the exam, study the material, pass the test, and then maintain the certification is not to be taken lightly. Over the past year, SIMA has taken significant steps to help ensure insurance providers and commercial facility management professionals don’t take it lightly either.

A well-managed, well-respected certification program can add significant value to an individual’s credentials and help differentiate them in a tough market. The key is to invest time and effort not only in the process of earning the certification, but also in the long-term marketing and communicating of the achievement. Whether you are communicating to your current insurance agent or to a potential client, the integrity, longevity and visibility of the certification program must be clearly communicated at the outset.

SIMA recently rebranded the entire CSP program. At that time we took the opportunity to create new marketing and communication resources for those who earn their certification. We created the CSP Marketing Toolkit, which is a sharp-looking package that includes a USB drive with a variety of ideas and tools on how to market the designation. CSPs can use it themselves or share it with a staff person or marketing firm to promote the certification in marketing materials, on websites and more.


















SIMA is dedicated to helping CSPs find ongoing value and marketing opportunities with the certification, and the toolkit is a great step toward this effort. By marketing their designation on print materials, websites and social media, CSPs can share their commitment to safety and professionalism with a wide audience to help grow their business. 

SIMA is now taking applications for the 2015 calendar year for those qualified to earn the designation. Visit www.sima.org/certification or email Ellen@sima.org for more information.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why SIMA Killed the Saturday Snack & Chat






'SIMA underwent a thorough review of the show’s structure after June of last year, and we set a goal of simplifying access and registration to the show and its key events.'


By Kaitlyn Herbst
The Snack and Chat roundtable discussions at the Snow & Ice Symposium are typically one of the most important pieces of the annual show, especially on Thursday and Friday. If you aren’t familiar with Snack & Chats, they are a special event at our annual Symposium where snow & ice management professionals come together during a casual networking lunch to discuss some of the most current, interesting and relevant topics in the industry. 

SIMA underwent one of the most thorough reviews of the show’s structure after June of last year, and we set a goal of simplifying access and registration to the show and its key events. After much debate, review of attendee surveys, and observation of attendance history, SIMA has officially decided to remove the Saturday Snack & Chat from future Symposiums. 

Ultimately SIMA has set a goal of empowering more members and event attendees to access training and best practices. With that in mind, this year we decided to include Snack & Chats in the cost of a full registration or day pass (for Snack & Chats on the date registered), as opposed to them being a separate cost to attendees as they have been in the past. If we were to keep the Saturday Snack & Chat, registration fees would have increased to an amount we were no longer comfortable asking you to pay. 

Although change can be difficult, we are very excited with the 18th Annual Snow & Ice Symposium schedule of events. By including Snack & Chats for full registrants and day pass registrants, it allows more folks in the industry to attend, and streamlines the registration process for all – no more purchasing of tickets for these events, just a quick click of a button to RSVP while registering! The more snow & ice professionals in one room, the more wisdom shared regarding best practices in our industry. We hope to see you over lunch in June! 

Here are three simple ways you can help SIMA continue to improve Snack & Chats and the Symposium:
  • Email Kaitlyn@sima.org suggestions for Snack & Chat table topics, Symposium schedule comments, or any thoughts about the Symposium overall.
  • Email Kaitlyn@sima.org to express interest in volunteering during the show as a Snack & Chat facilitator, SIMA booth representative, ticket taker, or other volunteer opportunity. 
  • Register today for the 18th Annual Snow & Ice Symposium by visiting www.sima.org/show. Be sure to RSVP for Snack & Chats and receptions when you register, as this is very helpful for planning purposes.
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.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

5 years of snow & ice industry stories





















'
It is always fun to read all of the different submissions, and all of the challenges, triumphs, and unique stories that are just waiting to be shared.'


By Elly Lobello
For the fifth year in a row, SIMA and Snow Business are running the Greatest Story Never Told contest. It is always fun to read all of the different submissions, and all of the challenges, triumphs, and unique stories that are just waiting to be shared. In the past 4 years, the winners have had very different stories to tell:

2014 – Greater Texas Landscape Services (Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX)
The most recent Greatest Story Never Told winner comes all the way from Texas. Bryan Dubose shared how an unexpected winter event served as the catalyst for Greater Texas Landscape Services’ Dallas branch to step up and become a professional snow & ice management resource in a state unfamiliar with the concept of proactive storm fighting. Read full story here.

2013 – Henderson Corp. (Independence, IA)
Elliott Henderson, owner Henderson Corp., shared his story of how he was able to accomplish 2 life goals simultaneously – plow snow and serve his country. His story of the challenges of keeping his snow business running while serving as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan is both unique and inspirational. Read full story here.

2012 – Northwest Snow Removal, Inc. (Bridgeview, IL)
Maggie Downer, CSP, owner of Northwest Snow Removal, Inc. shared her story of starting a snow & ice management company in the tough market of Chicago. With a focus on balance, identifying quality leads, and building client relationships, this was a great story of what can make a business successful. Read full story here.

2011 – H.A.M Landscaping (North Randall, OH)
As winner of the first contest, Herrick & Lisa Mann told the story of managing their company through snowy winters while sailing to the Caribbean. With the help of technology, capable employees, and a stable client base, the Manns are able to sail midwinter and keep their business running. Read full story here.

What story will be on the 5th Greatest Story Never Told Cover? It could be yours! Submit at www.sima.org/mysnowstory by April 3, and you could win:
  • The cover story and feature in the in May/June 2015 issue of Snow Business.
  • A professional video shot to share with clients, colleagues, and friends.
  • Free registration (including all ticketed events) to the 18th Annual Snow & Ice Symposium in Schaumburg, IL, June 24-27.
  • Recognition at the annual Snow & Ice Industry Awards night.
Special thanks to Caterpillar, Inc., for sponsoring another year of great stories.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Reducing over-reliance on salt






‘There is a global push from an environmental perspective to hold the snow & ice management industry accountable for using salt more efficiently. Those who start now win.’
 

By Phill Sexton
Over the past 3 years, SIMA has helped lead an academic research study to help us understand best practice application methods and more precisely begin to calculate rates of salt that are both effective and efficient for facility-focused snow management – the initial results of the study are now available to members here. In partnership with Landscape Ontario and the University of Waterloo, SIMA has committed to an even broader leadership role moving forward. Over the next few seasons, the efforts of SIMA and our research partners will help identify how much salt the industry is currently applying, while deepening our understanding of realistic methods for salt reduction without impacting service.

As an industry, we can no longer turn a blind eye to the environmental effects of salt. The economic impacts have become clearer, particularly after last season’s challenges with supply and demand for salt. These recent fluctuations, and their significant risk potential for snow professionals, are symptoms of an over-reliance on salt within our industry. Yes, salt will always be an essential component in the snow management toolbox, but it can’t be the only one.

Societal perspectives have shifted over the past 15-20 years. Contractors are faced with higher-than-ever expectations for performing the work, while being forced to absorb more and more liability. These undeniable trends have led to a dramatic increase in salt output within our industry over time. Like it or not, these increases can have negative effects on the environment, particularly fresh water resources, which we as a human race rely on more than any other resource on earth. The current trends for salt usage in our industry will not continue without scrutiny.

There is a global push from an environmental perspective to hold the snow & ice management industry accountable for using salt more efficiently. Those who start now win. Those who continue to turn a blind eye and decide it’s ‘just a phase’ will eventually lose…. lose their credibility, lose their clients, and lose their business.

In this next phase of SIMA’s salt research we are working with a small group of members and the University of Waterloo to validate practical application rates by contractors, and then we will compare the results with those documented in a control study at the University of Waterloo. SIMA is also employing help from other research experts to lead a separate study for benchmarking current salt usage to compare with future usage as an industry. SIMA’s goal is to further develop and refine efficient application rates that can be more easily understood and implemented by snow professionals.

Ultimately we are working towards developing a standardized method for determining the most efficient salt application rates that provide the least impact to the environment, are defensible against slip and fall liability, and mitigate the risk of over-reliance on salt for business continuity.

Here are three simple ways you can help and take action:
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.

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.