Keeping the Cash Flowing Through the Off-Season
Edina, MN-based JLM Landscape, a company specializing in residential hardscapes and planting, viewed winter as the off-season. For 29 years, the company spent the cold winter months catching up on paperwork and business tasks put off during the summer.
Fischer says, "No matter what the job, Ziegler Rental plays a part – from skid steers to wheel loaders to dozers. The flexibility it gains me is huge – it helps make our snow removal program one of the best in the Twin Cities."
“In 1999, we received a call from a local company wondering if we’d be interested in a couple residential snow removal jobs,” says Roger Kingsley, production supervisor at JLM Landscape. “The jobs were close and we didn’t have to trailer the equipment. And, the addition of four snow removal jobs meant the cash could keep flowing through the winter, enough to cover overhead.”
JLM Landscaping employs five, year-round foremen, capable of running the snow removal routes. According to Kingsley, getting JLM Landscaping’s equipment snow-removal-ready was simple: winterize the machines – including two Cat® 252 skid steers – and purchase snow plow attachments.
During the summer, JLM Landscaping runs a fleet of two Cat 252 skid steer loaders, an additional Case skid steer, an ASV tracked machine and attachments, including forks and buckets. JLM also rents attachments to meet specific jobsite needs. Earlier this year, JLM Landscaping added a Cat 277B multi terrain loader (MTL) tracked machine to their fleet.
“The ASV gave us a taste for having a tracked machine. I needed another tracked machine, but we held off purchasing because of the cost,” Kingsley says. “We chose the Cat MTL because they seem superior to the other equipment. The MTL saves us more because it can get in sites – even wet sites with all the rain we’ve had – and do the job in places where the other machines can’t. I hope it will work as well for snow removal and get better traction for clearing the difficult, steep driveways.”
Finding the Delicate Balance for Sure Bet Flexibility: Rental
According to a quick review of the Farmer’s Almanac, our region is in store for a “snowy and stormy winter 2005-2006." While difficult to predict, weather is the key to appropriate resource allocation.
“There’s definitely something to those acorns,” Andrew Fischer joked, and he should know. With over 27 years experience in the snow removal business, Fischer, a divisional manager with Talberg Lawn and Landscape, has worked through unseasonably cold to unseasonably warm winters and everything in between. While Fischer has theories, he still hasn’t found a sure bet for accurately predicting the upcoming season or seasonal resources.
While the company was established in 1979 – 26 years ago – their customers benefit from more than 260 years of collective staff experience. Each year, as summer breezes into fall and fall drifts into winter, Talberg Lawn and Landscape transitions from summer property management experts to snow removal specialists. Fischer says, “Snow removal takes quite a bit of resources, a lot of people to make it happen. It’s delicate every year.”
Just as retaining the appropriate numbers of human resources requires flexibility, Fischer has come up against challenges identifying the right mix of equipment to service Talberg’s 130 commercial snow removal accounts.
“Different customers have different requirements for snow removal,” says Fischer. “Our customers rely on us for plowing, shoveling and removal – but that’s just one element. Timely chemical applications and attention to detail make it right the first time – our goal is zero customer service calls. It gets extensive when you put all the pieces together. Some jobs need to be blown out or hauled off. No matter what the job, Ziegler Rental plays a part – from skid steers to wheel loaders to dozers.”
Typically, Talberg’s snow removal fleet includes six skid steers, six to seven wheel loaders and two rented Cat D5 G LGP dozers, plus attachments. Renting equipment allows Fischer to scale his fleet to meet demand over the season.
“We’re looking to convert everything (to Cat); we want to marry things up,” Fischer says. "We’ll be renting more machines this season. Lance Kaiser and Bruce Knight at Ziegler are always there to meet my equipment requirements. The flexibility it gains me is huge – it helps make our snow removal program one of the best in the Twin Cities.”
Snow removal offers contractors, companies – even farmers – the opportunity to grow some green during the traditional off-season. What does your business do to stay profitable during the winter months? Email the Editor to share your comments and ideas.