While many areas of the country experienced a mild winter this past season, that was not the case for CAM Services, a Denver, Colorado-based snow removal and property maintenance company.
“Denver has a very unique snow removal market. We could get 6, 8 inches of snow at night and two days later it’s all melted and it’s 60 degrees outside,” says Hunter Hartman, vice president.
“They’ve predicted 6 inches before and it ended up just being a bust, but this past winter was actually heavy.”
Founded in 1999, CAM Services is family owned and serves commercial and industrial clients. The company aims to be a one-stop shop for property managers with services ranging from power washing to sweeping to maintenance work and, of course, snow and ice removal.
Crews handle a few storms with up to 6 inches of snow during a typical winter. This past winter, there were three events with more than 12 inches of snow each and one was at least 20 inches.
Because of the reliability of snowfall each year, snow removal work is a large part of the company’s business, encompassing roughly half of annual sales.
That’s $12 million at CAM, which is short for Common Area Maintenance. Contracts begin Oct. 1 and run through April or sometimes May, Hartman says.
“The last three years we’ve had significant plowable snows in May. I’ve pushed snow on the last two out of three Mother’s Day holidays,” he says.
Next year’s contracts are discussed right after that last spring snowfall, Hartman says.
“We like to try to start talking about snow while it’s still fresh on our customers’ minds,” Hartman says.
Developing training tools.
Employee training typically begins in September at CAM Services and is conducted in house.
They use training materials offered through the Snow and Ice Management Association alongside their own.
“We’ll have the guys come in for a full day and we spend half the day in a classroom setting watching videos and doing classroom work, and then the second half of the day is out in the field, hands on with equipment – how to take plows on and off, how to inspect your truck,” he says.
For the past two seasons, Hartman has been compiling video via dashboard cameras on the trucks and using drones to take aerial shots and video.
“We’re in the process of making our own training videos that are on our properties with our equipment and our people,” he says. “We’re trying to make it a little more personalized.”
About 30 percent of the fulltime employees at CAM Services are cross-trained, running plows, skid steers, loaders and other equipment and hand shoveling. The remaining staff members are trained in one primary function.
“The majority of our hand laborers just hand labor,” Hartman says.
“We do have a select group of guys as backup drivers and operators, and they come in and do hand work if someone has an emergency and has to leave.”
lending a hand.
While the company has about 75 full-time employees year-round, the head count bumps up to 400 to 500 people during the winter with the addition of subcontractors.
Hartman says he hires both individuals who run CAM Services equipment and hand shovel, and small companies that have their own snow removal equipment. However, subcontractors are never on a property alone.
“If we put a subcontractor on a property, we have one of our trucks on the property as well,” he says.
“We like to have our equipment and our people there so there is a presence of CAM Services. We don’t like unmarked trucks (alone) out on our property.”
Many of the subcontractors have been working with CAM Services for a decade or longer. Subcontractors are found via word of mouth, Craigslist and social media.
“One hundred percent of our company works snow when it snows,” Hartman says.
“Our peak season is year round. They know they’re not going to get laid off in the winter.”
About 75 percent of CAM Services’ contracts are priced on the time spent on a property and the cost of materials.
The remaining quarter are monthly contracts are monthly up to a certain inch amount or certain number of pushes.
“We’re very big proponents of time and material because you never know when it’s going to snow or how much we’re going to get,” he says.
If a season is light and there is little snow, the customer can pay for service they don’t use, which isn’t appealing, Hartman says.
“If it snows a ton, the contractor is just losing money left and right because it snowed so much,” he adds.
But Hartman won’t rule out a seasonal contract. "If a big customer with 10 buildings comes out and says we’re going to do a seasonal contract and you want to bid it or not, we’ve got to bid it if we want to be in the door with them,” he says.