Even though the snow hasn’t started flying yet, it’s a sound business practice in the snow and ice management industry to begin preparing for the upcoming winter. Part of this preparation involves partnering with other great area companies to make sure we have the equipment and labor force to tackle winter the right way.

Every year, we incorporate subcontractors into our team to bolster our snow fighting numbers and to allow us to work with a wide variety of equipment. While this practice is common throughout the snow removal industry, many property managers and owners don’t understand why we use subcontractors. In fact, they are fearful their level of service will be affected when we bring in additional outside partners.


So, we’ve developed educational points to address these misconceptions about snow and ice subcontractors with our clients.

Why does the industry use subcontractors?

Some properties require more plow trucks, while others with more pedestrian areas like sidewalks, ramps, stairs and paved walkways require smaller equipment or even good, old snow shovels. Partnering with companies that have access to different types of specialized equipment helps us prepare for the unique challenge each winter brings.

Altogether, enlisting subcontractors is not unusual. For example, during the landscaping season, there are times when we partner with other companies that help address issues and special requests on properties we service. No one is surprised when an irrigation professional is called upon for an install, or when concrete contractors build complex structures like patios and hardscapes. So why then are people taken aback by snow subcontractors?

Is this a service shortcut?

Just like the mowing routes we follow during the growing season, we have winter plowing routes. However, the way we go about completing those routes is very different. Mowing is repetitive and happens on a schedule. Each of our locations can service our 100-plus properties several times per season with about 30 trucks.

On the other hand, when a snow storm hits, our action plan is to service every single property immediately and judiciously. Preparation is everything. There are no do overs for a snow storm, so things have to be done right the first time. This means more labor and equipment is required to service the same number of customers in an efficient manner. Furthermore, having smaller routes per vehicle means our crews can circle back and service the same properties again the same day if the snow fall is particularly heavy. All of this requires more boots on the ground, and that’s what the snow subcontractors help accomplish.

Lastly, snow removal subcontractors help control costs, a savings that is passed on to customers. For example, leveraging other contractors’ equipment means we don’t have to invest in machinery someone already owns. And making use subcontractor equipment that otherwise might go idle during the winter helps those local business owners. In the end, the customer benefits, the snow removal company benefits, and the subcontractor benefits.

Are all subcontractors equal?

What’s the saying about one bad apple? Unfortunately, some snow removal companies have a reputation for passing off contracts to other companies when they can’t handle the workload, essentially walking away from their responsibilities.

Ensure the client that you stake your reputation on your subcontractors’ performance. Highlight the fact you’ve partnered with them for years (Schill has subs with us for over 15 years), and you make sure their people are trained properly and follow the industry standards. Therefore, your service level shouldn’t change when snow subcontractors come into play.

How are subcontractors used?

Ultimately, subcontractors don’t manage the client’s property. Ensure them that your trucks and your supervisors are on site observing all the crews, monitoring their efficiency, and following up with all requests or issues. This is how every reputable snow and ice management company handles their snow subcontractors.

Where do you find snow partners?

Make clients understand that you only work with companies with excellent reputations who can work safely and efficiently. Between intensive snow training, the initial interviews, and reviewing the references of potential subcontractors, it quickly becomes clear who does and who doesn’t have the makings of a good partner.

Further, every subcontractor has the same level of insurance as we do. This protects us as the second party as well as our clients from many legal vulnerabilities.

“Subcontractor” is not a bad word in any industry. A good snow and ice management company makes sure the client’s property receives the service it deserves, no matter who is behind the wheel of the plow truck.

The author is president of Schill Grounds Management in Ohio.