Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Building your network

SIMA peer groups build relationships in non-competitive environment

By Phil Harwood, CSP
Imagine you are trying to solve a dilemma or are facing a difficult decision in your business. You have been agonizing over this for days and have been losing sleep over it. Wouldn’t it be great if you were able to reach out to a group of trusted friends in the industry who completely understood your situation and who could give you sound advice? That’s the value of building your network. 

Perhaps you are trying to decide whether to add another key person to your team or how to compensate them. Maybe you are unsure about how best to set up a new truck. Or you may be working on a budget or updating your pricing matrix and you aren’t sure what gross margin you should be trying to achieve. Ask your network. They probably have the answer or at least can provide guidance. 

Networking events
There are many ways to build your network within the snow and ice management industry. If you plan to attend the 20th Annual Snow & Ice Symposium in Montreal, you will find a variety of networking opportunities. The Symposium schedule shows nine distinct networking events - receptions, snack and chats, and others - designed to bring together snow pros and build your network. 

For some people, the thought of attending a networking event brings hesitation or even fear. It can be intimidating for some to walk into a reception, for example, without knowing anyone, while it appears that everyone else has known each other for years. The good news is that there are other opportunities to build your network. One of these is to join a SIMA Peer Group.

Shared goals and support
Joining a peer group is probably the most effective form of networking available today. This is because peer groups are comprised of members having the same goals and desires as you do - one of which is to be part of a closed and confidential group of snow pros who are dedicated to supporting each other, giving and receiving ideas, gaining new perspectives, learning from each other and challenging each other at times to reach higher. This is where deep relationships are formed over time.

SIMA Peer Groups are formed with SIMA members from noncompeting markets. They meet in person and by conference call or GoToMeeting on a regular basis throughout the year. An overview of the SIMA Peer Group program and an interest form is available at

New groups are being formed this spring for a June 1 kickoff. In addition, current groups are seeking new members to expand their groups, which range from six to eight companies. 

Is this a good fit for you?
Is a SIMA Peer Group right for you? If this article has piqued your interest, you likely are a good candidate for a peer group. 

Building your network is a key part of becoming a professional in your industry. It is my hope that you take advantage of the many networking opportunities afforded by SIMA, whether by attending the 20th Annual Snow & Ice Symposium, serving on a SIMA committee and/or by joining a SIMA Peer Group. 

Phil Harwood, CSP, is a managing partner of Pro-Motion Consulting Inc. and the SIMA Peer Group facilitator. Email him at

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wanted: Policy standards that enable practice standards

'While progress is being made, if salt reduction is really going to be a priority, snow contractors cannot do it alone.'

By Phill Sexton
The past several years have seen increased finger-pointing at the private snow and ice management industry for the environmental woes resulting from the over-application and misuse of deicers. While snow removal contractors play a role, my research over the past year has led me to realize that faulty practice is only part of the problem. As complicit in this trend, and perhaps more so, are forces that are beyond snow contractors’ control.

The bottom line is the lack of comprehensive understanding about our services is hampering the evolution of standards of practice. Those who have taken the time to educate themselves on this topic know reducing salt use is better for the environment and can reduce costs while delivering the same level of service if properly managed. However, trends driving the snow industry are counterproductive to this concept. 

Policy cracks
Snow contractors are bound by policies at the client and legislative levels that drive an overly cautious approach to ice management. Slip and fall liability is a major factor that drives how clients define the level of service. In addition, a growing litigious society has moved slip and falls to the forefront. No one wants to be sued, and given that current contracts require snow contractors to shoulder the majority of the liability, the “more salt is safer” mentality is understandable.

While liability plays a role in salt use, according to my research and industry surveys, contract structure-related LOS and revenue/profit are actually the most heavily weighted drivers in salt use. 

From the client side, LOS tied to quality perceptions (more salt = better service) and budgetary pressures (salting is more efficient that plowing) drive salt use. From the contractor side, four of the five most common contract types incentivize the use of more salt. Snow companies whose business models focus on salt as a profit center have no financial incentive to use less salt.

Building on sound practice
Snow and ice management professionals are taking steps to reduce salt use by implementing better standards of practice (calibration rates, tracking, better equipment, adherence to best practices). 

SIMA and several members have spent the past five years funding and/or participating in research that led to the formation of our Sustainable Salt Initiative program and Salt Use Best Practices, both of which are designed to educate snow contractors on successful salt reduction. We have partnered with and engaged in conversations with groups in Minnesota, New York, New Hampshire and Ontario (to name a few) to see who we can work together to move the needle.

While progress is being made, if salt reduction is really going to be a priority, snow contractors cannot do it alone. All stakeholders – service providers, clients, suppliers and manufacturers, insurance, trade associations, environmental agencies and governmental bodies – need to work together to facilitate change.

If we are truly serious about this issue, it will require members of every stakeholder group commit to self-regulated standards of policy that enable standards of practice. Creating easily understood, accessible and affordable guidelines with all stakeholders’ input will have a better chance for broad adoption and successful implementation. 

Success starts with us
The first stage of sustainable salt use is measuring. Visit to learn how you can properly estimate the right amount of salt to use, automate tracking of your salt output and benchmark your improvements with other companies participating in the Sustainable Salt Initiative. 

Do your part to reduce salt use by following the Best Practices Guidelines for Sustainable Salt Use. Download now at

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Site Engineering Sell Sheet

'This marketing piece visualizes the critical importance of site engineering in a way that is easy to understand for prospective and current customers.'

By Brian Birch, CAE
Since SIMA revamped what it means to be a member of the association last fall, the staff has been hard at work creating new and better resources for our members. With that in mind, SIMA recently released the Site Engineering Sell Sheet that members can download and reproduce as an educational and planning tool. 

This marketing piece visualizes the critical importance of site engineering in a way that is easy to understand for prospective and current customers. It can also serve as a quick training reminder for your field employees. The Site Engineering Sell Sheet features high-quality graphics and consumer-friendly language to help your customers understand the important, often overlooked details on their sites. It also offers best practices for hiring professional snow and ice management service providers. 

Areas of consideration include building entrances, curbs, drainage, snow pile storage, steps and ramps, and potential for damage. The information used was compiled from SIMA’s vast well of training and best practices information and reviewed by the Best Practices and Education Committees. SIMA members can download this free sell sheet online at

Brian Birch is SIMA’s Chief Operating Officer. Contact him at