Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best practices matter in the snow industry

By Phill Sexton
How can consumers and providers of snow & ice management services identify those that are industry professionals versus those that are not, particularly when there is no mandated industry education or licensing? As a way to help snow & ice management professionals, SIMA has developed the Best Practices Checklist, which can be found at   

Why do best practices matter in any profession? By definition, a best practice is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark. In addition, a "best" practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered. SIMA’s Best Practices Checklist addresses specific criteria related to safety, liability and risk management along with the planning, execution and quality of services. Granted there are many potential best practices in the industry, but we've identified a set of basic, core values that are key:

Health, Safety and the Environment – Companies that encourage a safe and healthy work environment as a best practice are proven to be more successful and profitable than those that do not. Safe companies invest in programs that include educating & training employees on personal health and protection, proper reporting of incidents, the awareness of salt conservation and salt’s impact on the environment.

Insurance – Much of the unfair pressures of competition and downward pressures of pricing are related to people and companies that don’t include the proper insurance as a cost of doing business. Having the proper insurance coverage is a critical best practice to include as a cost of providing the service. Don’t offer the service if you aren’t willing to be properly insured.

Cycle Time – Knowing a particular site and client’s expectations for when they expect to be safely ‘open for businesses’ is the true best practice of how to define cycle time. You can’t determine the capacity of resources necessary for a particular client or route without first being able to define how soon your client expects safe conditions in any type of storm scenario.  

Capacity  – Many snow contractors sell their services as almost 'snow insurance', meaning their customers pay for the ability to respond and manage risk when a storm hits. That readiness is really a capacity issue. Capacity has several factors, including labor, equipment, materials and cash flow.  Snow & ice management services are sold in several different models, but no matter what price model is agreed upon, the same level of service expectations and direct costs exist to provide a minimum and constant state of readiness. No matter how the contract is sold, a best practice for providing dedicated capacity is requesting customers make minimum payment(s) to recover the costs of overhead. This is particularly true in time and material markets where it may not snow at all in a given year and where clients expect you to be prepared for every type of snow & ice scenario.

Snow Site Engineering and Response Planning – Snow professionals develop plans on how to prioritize areas, which define areas that should be cleared first, second, third, etc. This is a particularly helpful best practice when responding to heavier storms or blizzard conditions. When identifying priority snow removal areas, pros include items such as the location of wheel chair access ramps, fire hydrants, emergency exits, emergency egresses, and access to utilities. Snow site engineering plans also identify where the snow is to be located and piled relevant to line-of-site issues, handicap parking areas, and drainage locations.

Experience and consistent implementation of these best practices and others are some of what define the best in the industry. For more information on best practices training and tools, visit Download the Best Practices Checklist at no charge by linking directly to

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Martyn Church, CSP, talks green snow removal

By Brian Birch
Martyn Church, Certified Snow Professional, shares some thoughts on how he is positioning his snow removal business to be eco-friendlier, as a strategy for growth. Watch the video below, then check out the full article from Snow Business magazine here!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hire a Pro means business

By Phill Sexton
As the new season begins, SIMA is focused on how our industry is viewed by the public and those who purchase snow management services. SIMA’s board and staff leadership have identified outreach to consumers of snow & ice management services as the single most important objective for the association to achieve. One of SIMA’s goals is to provide our members and their customers access to basic criteria that are essential to providing quality, reliable and professional snow & ice management services.

Some of the criteria that define a snow & ice management professional include:
Insurance - Much of the unfair pressures of competition and downward pressures of pricing are related to people and companies that don’t include the proper insurance as a cost of doing business. That cost should be passed on to their customers. This is a critical best practice guideline for consumers to measure. 
Capacity  - It is commonly understood that capacity includes labor, equipment, materials and even cash flow resources required to complete a job or route. No matter what price model is agreed upon, a state of readiness (insurance) is required and should merit some type of contractually agreed upon deposit or guaranteed minimum compensation from the customer.
Cycle time vs. client expectations - Experienced snow & ice managers understand cycle time and the estimated costs necessary to manage unpredictable events while meeting client expectations. Consumers need to understand realistic expectations related to timing, conditions and budget. When those budgets don’t match expectations, it is the snow & ice manager’s responsibility to educate the customer and create solutions that work for both sides.
Snow site engineering and response planning - Identifying priority snow removal areas, such as the location of wheelchair access ramps, fire hydrants, emergency exits, emergency egresses and access to utilities, is important. Snow site engineering plans also identify where the snow is to be located and piled relevant to line-of-sight issues, handicapped parking areas and drainage locations. Much of the information above is standard knowledge among industry professionals and needs to be fully communicated to the decision-makers who purchase snow & ice management services.

SIMA is helping to define what quality service and reliability means in snow & ice management and why it’s important to hire a pro. We’ve created the Hire a Pro web pages at, which contain three high-quality videos focused on three pillars of good snow service: professionalism, reliability and risk management. We are sharing those pages with consumers and asking our members to put the SIMA Member badge on their websites.

Our next step will be to build the resources at for consumers asking for SIMA’s help. In September 2012, I attended the Professional Retail Store Maintenance (PRSM) Mid-Year Show and spent time with retail facilities management professionals from across North America. Listening to their perceptions about snow & ice management and sharing information about SIMA and our industry, I learned that many retail consumers want to learn best practices in our industry and how to qualify and measure them.

As of this month, we are proud to offer to anyone the first Best Practices Checklist for the snow & ice management industry. Produced and refined by SIMA, the SIMA Outreach Advisory Committee and other industry leaders, these guidelines are basic criteria necessary for snow & ice management planning. Stay tuned for a blog post early next week announcing the checklist.

Thanks to Pro-Tech Manufacturing & Distribution, whose sponsorship support of the Hire a Pro campaign provides SIMA with the financial support needed to market the message to consumers. 

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

SIMA truck discount means business

By Brian Birch
As a relatively young trade association, SIMA has had its share of successes and challenges. And there are always moments we can point to in the past where we can say that the association took big steps forward in our growth and maturity as the only non-profit trade association in snow. This history informs and guides us as we move forward, and we are pleased to announce a new resource to the membership that I think is another big step for all of us involved in SIMA.

Starting this month, SIMA members have access to a new discount through our SIMA Savings program, an exclusive offer to the snow removal industry from Chrysler Group. During the past year, SIMA and Chrysler corporate have discussed and fine-tuned a plan that includes this discount to the membership, along with a lasting commitment from Chrysler for sponsoring, advertising, and exhibiting with SIMA over the next two years. The deal includes these great values for members:

  • SIMA members receive a $500 cash allowance on truck purchases
  • SIMA members  receive up to $1500 cash allowance on ON THE JOB incentives

The folks at Chrysler understand the challenges of snow management, and the need for tough, durable equipment to get the job done. They want to support those in the industry who do this work every season, and they are willing to put skin in the game to build relationships with SIMA members across North America. 

One of the challenges of managing a non-profit association is describing the tangible values of membership. We now have one more solid piece to add to the equation, a quality, tangible discount that you can leverage as a member. Coupled with the 25 other current SIMA Savings offers, membership definitely can pay for itself and more!

We are excited that a large, diverse entity such as Chrysler is investing time and energy into our niche market, and we feel this is yet another milestone. We hope you will honor their commitment to the industry and take advantage of this new member benefit, you can get more information here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Becoming a CSP in 2013

By Elly Kobach
The Certified Snow Professional program has undergone some big changes in the past year and a half, and we think it's time for an update for you all. The first major change came over a year ago, when SIMA announced that the CSP exam is now available to take online at testing centers across the US and Canada. Candidates can sign up for an exam date/location at any time throughout the year, making it widely available to people. While this was a positive change, it has been a challenge for some to commit to a test date without the structure of preset exam dates under the previous in-person testing model.

With that in mind, this year we developed a study calendar for CSP candidates to follow, with informational webinars, application deadlines, and a study review session at the 16th Annual Snow & Ice Symposium. Following the calendar plan will allow candidates to easily get all the information they need to apply and take the exam, with the ultimate goal of being certified by late summer/early fall 2013.

Dates for webinars, deadlines, and the study session are:
  • Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 2pm EST - Free webinar to welcome those interested in becoming a CSP in 2013
  • Monday, April 1, 2013 - Applications due to the SIMA office
  • Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 11am EST - Free webinar to discuss setting an exam date and available study resources
  • Friday, June 21, 2013 from 9:15am-1:15pm - Study session at the 16th Annual Snow & Ice Symposium in Minneapolis, MN
  • Monday, July 22, 2013 - Goal date for tests scheduled
We hope this will provide some good structure and study review for those wishing to become a CSP in 2013. For more information or to get on a reminder email list, visit here or email

 Elly Kobach is the Certification & Communications Coordinator for the Snow & Ice Management Association and can be reached at