Monday, February 25, 2013

Lessons from Nemo (The storm not the fish)

By Phill Sexton
Now that the snow has settled after Nemo, a huge Nor’easter that hit New England earlier this month, we have an opportunity to learn from yet another crippling ‘storm of the century.’ Since starting in the snow & ice management industry over 20 years ago, my own personal study proves these types of life altering, business halting events occur much more often than is discussed in the national media. Think about the history just since 1993. It includes ‘100 year’ type events that have been called ‘Blizzard of ’93, ’96,’99, 2001…2004…, Snowpocalypse 2010 and 2011, Snowmageddon and now Nemo. When I look back over the last 20 years, these types of major snow or ice events have happened almost every year somewhere. Major storms like these can reinforce the same lessons that are in the Best Practices checklist, which service providers and consumers can both learn from.  

Budget and plan for the worst (and save the money when it doesn’t snow). Many times, consumers of snow & ice management services ‘roll the dice,’ particularly in typical low snow markets, only to end up spending more money in one or two large snow events than they would have if they had paid a reasonable readiness / preparedness fee or seasonal fee with ‘floor and ceiling’ price protection. Paying for snow & ice management should be similar to how insurance is purchased.  

Storm response planning. What if it snows more than the average? In the case of winter storm Nemo, I was plowing myself non-stop that Friday night and all day Saturday.  Around 4:30am Saturday I started receiving calls from SIMA members in New England closer to the coast looking for help because plows just couldn’t handle the volume of snow coming down any more. I had conversations with quite a few contractors, and the same questions kept coming:
  • “Where can I find a loader (or 2… 5… I heard a request for 10)?”
  • “How much should I charge for a larger loader?” 
  • “Where can I find more hand labor?”
  • “The people I have worked two shifts and are too tired to keep going, where I can find more people?”    
These are questions that need to be proactively discussed and answered in partnership with clients before the season begins, not after the first 15 hours of what might be a 30+ hour historic and crippling snow event. Many times, discussions about preparedness don’t normally happen because of reasons like these:  
  • “It doesn’t usually snow like that around here”   
  • “My boss will never allow me to budget that way”
  • “You’re crazy, that is more than double what you charge me per hour for a plow” (because we didn’t explain it would take less than half the time with larger equipment therefore less costly).
I’ve lived and heard all of these excuses so I appreciate and understand the challenge. Now I beg you go try again right now…tomorrow, before you and the clients forget how bad it was and how much less it would have cost if they had agreed to a worst-case scenario plan. How do all of you out there in the industry start this difficult discussion with your clients and prospects?

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SIMA goes to Capitol Hill

By Martin Tirado, CAE
On March 18-19, Phill Sexton (SIMA's Director of Edu and Outreach) and I will be in Washington, DC, to meet with our elected members of Congress during American Associations Day. This event provides us the opportunity to not only be an advocate for associations in general, but to also put SIMA and the value of the services its members provide on the map.

Being in Washington DC for this important event is part of SIMA’s strategic vision to increase awareness of SIMA, and be a resource to consumers, the general public, and legislative and regulatory entities, both locally and nationally. This winter’s
Impact of Snow Campaign, led to SIMA being covered in several news channels, such as radio shows in Ithaca, NY, Baltimore, MD, coverage in the Wall Street Journal and more (full reporting on the “Impact of Snow” will be provided in the future). We have also continued to build our relationships with the consumers of snow and ice services, with information published by SIMA appearing with the International Parking Institute and the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association, as well as numerous other initiatives in the works.

The next step is to participate at the national level, in Washington, DC, and continue to be a voice and advocate for the snow and ice management industry. Phill & I will certainly deliver our message on the value of associations on issues such as the important role that non-profits play in the economy and their impact of  governmental policies, like recent health care reform for example. We will also advocate on the issues of importance to SIMA members as provided to us in our
Fall 2012 legislative survey.

I personally am thankful that Phill is coming to DC with me; the industry could not ask for a better, more passionate, and more qualified advocate. Phill has worked in the snow/landscape/tree care industries for several companies over the years, and can share his direct experiences to key DC contacts. Certainly, it will be an informative and enriching experience for Phill and I, and for SIMA. I look forward to reporting on outcomes later this spring.

If you have any thoughts on key topics or issues we should discuss with the folks on Capitol Hill, please share them here or email me at

Martin Tirado, CAE is the CEO for SIMA.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

SIMA takes steps to strengthen Certified Snow Professional program

By Ellen Kobach
At the beginning of 2013, SIMA and its volunteer Certification committee rolled out some key changes to the pre-requirements for taking the Certified Snow Professional exam. These changes were made to simplify the pre-requirements and to strengthen the program to ensure that CSP candidates are well-qualified in the snow industry. 

With the help of our volunteers (all whom are CSPs), we reviewed the objectives of the CSP program, which include goals to create leaders in the industry, educate others about the industry, ensure professional competence, and more. After a thorough review of these objectives, the new pre-requirements were drafted to bring them into better alignment with these big picture objectives. The new requirements focus on real snow & ice experience as well as snow-specific knowledge before taking the exam. A brief explanation of the 2 paths to becoming a CSP:
  • Option 1: Direct snow management experience – In the last 5 years, applicant has 3 or more consecutive winter seasons of direct snow-specific experience in the industry as an owner, co-owner, or CEO OR 5 or more consecutive winter seasons of direct snow-specific experience as a supervisor/manager.
  • Option 2: Snow-Specific Training, Experience, and Education – If an applicant does not fall under Option 1 requirements before testing for the exam, the applicant must have the following: 15 snow-specific education credits, at least 2 consecutive winter seasons as a supervisor/manager in any industry-affiliated organization, a post-secondary education degree, and a reference letter.
We want CSPs to be well-versed in all aspects of the industry, and to have the knowledge to back up and use the designation. These changes are just one more step towards the constant improvement of the CSP program as a whole.

For anyone interested in becoming a CSP in 2013, SIMA has created a study calendar that gives deadline guidelines and also includes a comprehensive study session during the Symposium in June. To learn more about this and the CSP program, visit or email

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ramp up your PR efforts...

By Brian Birch
SIMA has been focusing a lot on advocacy and PR lately, and we will be sharing more information about those efforts soon. 

But right now, I want to share with you some information related to one item that came from the Impact of Snow campaign (our advocacy/PR project); our newly created and released Public Relations Toolkit for SIMA members.

Our industry is invisible in many ways, most people just don’t think about the value snow removal professionals provide. They just want the snow and ice to be gone, period. However, as we in the industry know, running a professional snow business is a strange mix of gambling on the unknown (aka will it snow?), coupled with a military-like need for tactical organization (operations), and  rounded out by an adrenaline rush for getting out there, when no one else will, to do the hard work.

So in general, all of you snow professionals out there are part of a diverse, professional industry that adds value to many lives each year. And each of you has a unique story to tell in your area of influence, whether you serve one town or manage snow across a larger geographic area.

Our tool kit is designed to help you, as a SIMA member, get more media attention through some quality tips and templates. I know that when the snow flies, the last thing you are thinking about is getting in a newspaper, but you would be surprised out how powerful good PR can be for your business. And the key to getting good PR is being proactive and having a plan, and making sure that your messages tie into things that are of interest to your community. We hope our SIMA Member PR Toolkit will help you get there. Visit here to download the plan today!

Special thanks to Sheri Singer of Singer Communications for putting this together, and as always, to Pro-Tech Manufacturing & Distribution for supporting our Impact of Snow campaign!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Think Spring with the Snow & Ice Symposium

By Heather Carew
Yep, you heard me! While you are out pushing that beautiful white stuff, I want you to take a second and think spring. Well, to be more exact, think June and 16th Annual Snow & Ice Symposium. It’s hard to believe, but in just over four months The Best Show in Snow & Ice Management will be making its way to Minneapolis, MN for four great days of education, trade show, networking, and fun!

We hope our 2013 show will be our best yet with new events and some returning favorites:

  • Safety anyone? Start the conference off right by attending the Safety & Hands-On Equipment Demo Day, sponsored by Ziegler CAT. In this pre-conference workshop, attendees will spend the afternoon learning from a CAT Safety Instructor and demoing snow & ice equipment.  
  • Why have one keynote when you can have two? Dave Horsager will open on Thursday morning with his thought-provoking session “The Trust Edge.” Attendees will learn how they can gain faster results, deeper relationships, and a stronger bottom line. Moving to Friday, marketing expert Judy Guido will help kick off the day with her keynote address “Building a Sales Strategy That Will Create a Sustainable Competitive Advantage.”
  • Coming soon: The Trade Show. This is the show you don’t want to miss with 2 days of snow-specific equipment, products, and more from over 100 exhibitors. Stop by the SIMA booth each day for mini-educational sessions and don’t forget the free beer on Thursday and free lunch on Friday.  
  • Did I mention we have educational sessions?  With 20 concurrent sessions, attendees will get the opportunity to hear from knowledgeable industry professionals in four main tracks: Sales & Marketing, CEO to CEO, Operations & Equipment, and Management & Leadership. Pay special attention to our Sales & Marketing Workshop “Stop Wasting Time and Improve Your Close Ratio” featuring Kirk Armstrong & Neal Glatt, CSP on Saturday morning.  
  • It wouldn’t be a Symposium without snacks. Back by popular demand are the Snack & Chat roundtables. Select your seat and discuss some of the most important and relevant industry topics with other snow & ice management pros from around North America.  
  • I’m on a boat! The 2013 closing event, sponsored by CAT, will take attendees to historic and scenic Excelsior, MN.  After some time to sight-see (or eat ice cream), guests will hop on the Queen of Excelsior to cruise down beautiful Lake Minnetonka and enjoy time with friends.  

The SIMA staff is working hard to make this show one for the record books. Register today and don’t miss out!  Visit for more or contact me at See you in June!