Friday, May 31, 2013

Why I get butterflies before the Snow & Ice Symposium

Witnessing SIMA staff and volunteers build up to the show, manage through it effectively, and come out stronger on the other side is one of the most satisfying things about working at SIMA.

By Brian K. Birch, CAE, Chief Operating Officer, SIMA
Okay, I admit it. I get the butterflies every year around this time, right when we move from May into June and we all realize that the Snow & Ice Symposium is right around the corner. All of a sudden, I realize that I'll be gone for 10 full days, the equivalent of a marathon for us as a staff in our work at SIMA. Over the next few weeks, our staff will have to prepare our family and friends for the simple fact that we will not be available to them for over a week, unless there is an emergency.

But this nervous energy isn't a negative thing; its just the anticipation of the culmination of a full year's worth of work by our staff and volunteers. This will be my 8th year in a row of butterflies before the show, and I think I'm able to communicate now the simple reasons why we get geared up and excited (and a little nervous) for the show;

Good people
The show is the one time each year when we see all of our customers together. These relationships sustain our energy and passion throughout the following year, long after the show has passed. I know that all of us are continuously thankful that we work with an industry composed of good, down to earth professionals who do good work, know how to have fun, and engage in professional dialogue and peer education. I don't think all industries are as rich as ours is in terms of the quality of the people within it; I firmly believe there is something unique about our industry.

A market in action
Its always been fascinating to me that the SIMA show, as the only national trade show and educational symposium for snow professionals/contractors, is a microcosm of the snow industry and market as a whole. All of the major elements of our market are at the show, including contractors (big, small, and in between), suppliers, educators, business partners, and even some consumers. It's exciting to hear new ideas, challenges, and innovations each year.

Hard work
Ask any of our staff or our volunteers/board members and they will tell you, putting on a show like this each year is challenging. From signage to registration, trade show to educational sessions, committee meetings to receptions, and everything in between, there are literally hundreds of action items to manage and implement pre-show, onsite, and post-show. Witnessing SIMA staff and volunteers build up to the show, manage through it effectively, and come out stronger on the other side is one of the most satisfying things about working at SIMA.

Perhaps the most important reason I get butterflies before the show is for this reason; we are all proud of our industry and our show, and we want everyone who experiences it with us to feel good and be proud too. We hope if you join us at the show, you will.

So don't worry too much about me, I am nervous for all the right reasons. Hope to see you at the show, more info at

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Growing snow management return on investment...

How do I invest in education and relationships professionally, while not sacrificing too much time away from my home and family?
-Brian K. Birch, CAE, Chief Operating Officer, SIMA

Over the past 9 years, I have traveled and spoken with hundreds of snow professionals in my role with SIMA. I've learned so much from these folks, and have been truly humbled by the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our industry.

One thing that I have heard consistently over the years is that the world is changing rapidly, and adapting to such change is a major challenge. In our industry that seems to be the case - liability is up, costs are up, and competition is too. Even the most efficient snow professionals are challenged in this environment. Even more so, a recent survey we conducted indicated that the single biggest personal challenge snow pros face is balancing work vs. home. So the basic question comes to mind; How do I invest in education and relationships professionally, while not sacrificing too much time away from home?

These central questions helped to frame SIMA's planning of the annual Snow Strategies Forum for 2013. 

Our dream is to build a high-quality, time-sensitive event targeted at snow professionals AND facilities/property managers. We are actively attempting to create a safe, collaborative place where these two groups can learn together and talk more effectively, in the space of about 48 hours.

There are numerous snow-specific events this year available through a number of private companies and groups, and SIMA is excited that snow professionals have so many options to choose from this year. I honestly feel that we have created the most well-balanced snow-specific event of the year. I truly think that the Snow Strategies Forum: Growing Snow Management ROI, will offer the best return on investment, both in money and time, for these reasons:

Leadership matters
We have created an environment at the forum that rewards and recognizes leadership in the snow industry. We'll be honoring the 2013 CEO of the Year at the forum this year, and we'll also be working with attendees to brainstorm and influence the next Impact of Snow campaign, building on the wildly successful awareness campaign we conducted this past year. These networking events will encourage leaders in the industry, and hopefully leaders in the facilities management world, to continuously improve and grow.

Diversity matters
The challenge of identifying two audiences for the forum forced us to be more thoughtful about the educational component. I think you'll find this year's forum to be the most diverse in its educational lineup and array of speakers, including speakers from the US Chamber of Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and more. Our goal is to provide new insight and opinions to attendees; we feel the best way to adapt in a changing world is to understand new trends and information. Topics range from conflict resolution, to leading with values, to deicing and its impact on concrete, to best practices in snow management service, to building quality RFP's to manage snow removal costs, to the potential impact of climate change on winter weather in North America.

Location matters
The choice of Washington, DC this year was not only made due to the vast array of things a person can do there, although that is important. Its a symbolic decision tied to SIMA's growth as the only national non-profit trade association for the industry. 
For two years SIMA has been discussing and internally organizing itself to advocate more powerfully for our members and the industry, and holding our forum in DC is a commitment to our long-term goals in advocacy. But don't forget, DC is a great place to bring a family and make lasting memories tied to the history of the US and its place in the world.

We are actively working to create a space for leaders in the snow industry to meet and network together, along with a group of facilities professionals we hope will engage in this endeavor. Either way, please take a  little time to think about investing in the Snow Strategies Forum this year.

Special thanks to Ventrac and Meyer Products for sponsoring this year's forum, visit for more information on the 2013 Snow Strategies Forum.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why Volunteer?

I have been volunteering with SIMA for nearly 10 years, and have said countless times that I have received more from them than I could ever give back.

By Mike Mason, CSP
Anyone who has been involved with an organization that relies on volunteers to do most of the heavy lifting knows that 10% of the people do 90% of the work. I am on the board of our local baseball and softball league. We have over 900 kids in the program, and there are about 25 people who do probably 95% of the work needed. I am also involved in our local chamber of commerce as well as other local associations and I can say with certainty that the 90-10 rule holds true there as well. 

What’s so great about SIMA is that the ratio is much different. I can’t tell you what percentage of the membership actively volunteers, but I can say for sure that it is closer to 20% than 10%. I have been volunteering with SIMA for nearly 10 years, and have said countless times that I have received more from them than I could ever give back.

Volunteering has given me many opportunities to network with a lot of great people across North America. Through these networking opportunities I have forged many great friendships, affording me the opportunity to grow and gain perspectives that I haven’t been able to locally. Don’t get me wrong, the local chamber as well as some local associations have contributed to the growth of our company as well as my personal growth, but not in the same way that SIMA has.    

Being able to share struggles as well as victories with other members has allowed me to deepen a lot of these friendships and contribute to my personal growth. Coupled with this has been the growth and betterment of our organization. We have been able to add service lines, improve efficiency, better train our staff, and improve the administrative functions because of these relationships. 

So, as we put the plows away and wrap up another winter season, I hope that you will consider getting more involved with SIMA in 2013. The friendships and knowledge you will gain could quite possibly be what makes the 2013-14 winter season your best yet. 

SIMA’s annual call for volunteers is open now through May 15th. Visit to fill out a short form if you are interested in joining a committee for the 2013-14 season. Visit here to find out more about the committees – Outreach, Editorial, Symposium, and Education. Thank you to all of our current volunteers, and we look forward to working with our members in the next year!

Mike Mason, CSP is the Chair of the SIMA Board of Directors, and the Vice President and COO of The Lawn Pro in Louisville, KY.