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 www.sima.org/hireapro, 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 www.sima.org/hireapro 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 Phill@sima.org.

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