Michael Weiss, ASCA-C
Weiss Commercial Property Services
In an industry known for being historically unsophisticated, anything we can do to set ourselves apart from the plow jockeys and afford our customers and clients the peace of mind that comes with dealing with true professionals is a giant step in the right direction. Over the past several years, we have all witnessed birth of “competition” with the increasing unemployment situation throughout the U.S. Differentiation is key to keeping business focused on service as well as profitability. The squeezing margins affecting the service industry has made it tougher and tougher to ensure “professionalism” in the ranks of the well-established snow and ice management contractor. Some who rely on our ability to deliver a safe environment truly believe “anybody can do it”. As we all know, this could not be further from the truth.
Participation in any activity which promotes the professional snow and ice management contractors’ ability to set them apart from all the rest is a good thing. This does not just pertain to one individual within an organization, but higher level commitment must be a company-wide activity, if it is to permeate the consciousness of the company culture. Developing that culture takes time and considerable effort. Any company which has been in business 25-plus years can become a bit “long in the tooth” as old habits become entrenched over decades of repeating strategies that have worked well over time. I don’t want my company to become fragmented and stagnant. That alone takes considerable time and effort. And, as I must admit to myself, it is easy to become complacent because the old tried and true procedures have served me well over time.
How can a company fight such stagnation, previously thought of as being inevitable as companies mature and age. Becoming part of a new and emerging business acumen whereby snow and ice management companies are no longer “plow jockeys” is one such way, and incredibly difficult to accomplish. Realizing we are no longer guys who just plow snow is something that cannot happen overnight. It comes with hard work and an attitude that we cannot keep the status quo if we, as business people, are to survive in this new world where technology and competition are out distancing our ability to remain wrapped in a cocoon of old-school philosophies.
Certification is certainly one way to achieve this differentiator when it comes to the customers’ viewpoint of one snow and ice management contractor vs. another. The Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) has made it surprisingly easy to achieve the ASC-Certified designation, as long as you have a computer and access to the internet. Easy to accomplish, harder to implement. It became apparent something dramatic was needed in my own company in order to begin the process of change.
To that end we created our own internal incentive program to affect needed change, from within. The first step is ensuring our management staff would view education as necessary in our organization. So important to our ongoing success, I believed it was necessary to take a stand and make it clear I was committed to change. You see, management staff often cannot see the light unless the owner develops a way to get everyone going in the same direction. As such, we offered a monetary incentive to push our senior staff in the direction I knew we truly needed to take to affect meaningful change.
We made it clear to all we wanted to go down this path to enlightenment and education. The company paid the testing fees for all who committed to pursue the “team accreditation.” We awarded a $1000 bonus to the first person in our snow and ice division to pass the certification process. This was achieved by Michael Soltys ( District Supervisor) a few days after we announced the program. This was followed by site supervisor John Murphy who received a $750 bonus. Then site supervisors Peter Nieman, and Stephen Hanson achieved their certification status and a $500 bonus. The last three to achieve certification status were myself, my brother, Paul, and my mother, Elaine. Elaine has been with the company since its inception in 1985, and knows as much or more than anyone who works in the field during storms.
The team effort has energized our company. Knowing we worked this process in a team atmosphere generated considerable camaraderie and an attitude of “if we can do this, we can attack anything.” A nor’easter, and blizzard or an unscrupulous contractor targeting our customers can all be successfully addressed. We addressed these issues before, but now we will do it knowing we are a better educated team.
Certification is more than a piece of paper to hang on the wall. It is the fuel that allows us to continue educating ourselves as to industry best practice in use across North America. It will differentiate our company (and our employees) from the plow jockeys trying to portray themselves as something they might not be. From this flows a level of professionalism which translates into our ability to provide top quality service at an affordable price to discriminating customers who desire safe environments for those who visit their sites, vehicular and pedestrian. In our case, certification sets our company apart from all others inasmuch as we no longer have one certified person on staff. We have a team of Certified Staff ready to provide our clients with the ultimate in dedication to our craft – and we can prove it, as a team.