Is Winter A Profitable Time For Your Construction Business?
Good weather only lasts so long. Will your construction business still be bringing in solid revenue this winter, or will you be sitting around wishing your work wasn’t so seasonal? Just because traditional construction projects happen in warmer, drier months does not mean you and your employees have to take the “off” season off. With smart planning, you can keep working – and earning – all year long.
You simply need to diversify your offerings. Removing snow, for example, is not much different from earthmoving. But you will have to make some adjustments. So, what will it take to stay busy this winter?
Should you invest in winter operations? It will cost you more in overhead, equipment maintenance, and labor, so the question is whether you think you can turn a profit over the added expense. You’ll have to do the math. Remember that winter weather is unpredictable, and in spite of your planning and preparation, it might not snow much after all. Will you have enough cushion to “weather” that?
Think about crew availability and any contractual concerns. Will you need people to work odd or long hours – or be on call — if major, prolonged snowfall makes things get really hectic? Will you need to hire temps? (Will you be able to do that?)
Talk to your insurance agent to learn if your coverage is adequate for winter operations or if you’ll need to make changes.
What does your fleet look like now? Wheel loaders can lift snow as well as dirt and rocks, but do you have enough of the right machines to handle snow and ice removal? Are the machines in your current fleet sized to work safely and efficiently in tight residential areas as well as huge parking lots? (If not both, maybe you should specialize in jobs that fit the equipment you already have.)
Do your loaders have enough lift to dump snow into high-sided trucks? Experts recommend vertical lift for high trucks, radial-lift for mid-height or lower.
Will you need different attachments to move or remove snow and ice? There are blades, buckets, and pushers specifically designed for snow. You might also need V-blades, snow blowers, angle brooms or push brooms as well as salt/sand spreaders. If your crews will be switching out non-hydraulic attachments on the job, make sure their machines are equipped with power attachment systems. This is both safer and faster.
If you need to add machines, rental makes the most near-term sense. Renting enables operators to get a feel for the new equipment, and at season’s end, you can better assess whether purchasing your own new or used machine will be a sound longer-term investment.
If you’re going to add winter services, you have to get the word out as soon as possible. Use word of mouth, social media, email, and other marketing options to tell folks your crews will be available. Start by approaching existing clients to see if they will need your services. Ask for referrals.
Operating and maintaining machines and attachments can be different in winter. Now is the time to review relevant operator’s manuals with your service techs to ensure you’re following proper procedures and to check for changes in recommended fluids, etc. and other winterizing requirements.
Now is the time to invest some time ensuring operators
Review basic safety, too. Snow and ice make things slippery and can significantly hamper visibility from inside the cab. So:
- Face that machine and use both hand-holds and the actual steps for ingress and egress. Three points of contact, remember?
- Know what’s around you before moving any machine, especially if there are obstacles to avoid (common in parking lots and residential areas). If you’re pushing snow into piles, be sure operators know the appropriate location(s) for those piles. Don’t rely on exterior cameras, look in all directions first, especially before backing up.
- Make sure the machine is sitting level, lift arms are lowered, and blades or buckets are on the ground before turning the engine off and exiting.
Generating additional revenue in winter is entirely doable. The key now is to determine if it makes functional and financial sense for your company. If so, it’s time to get busy.