Friday, November 7, 2014

Taming the Big Storms

Tom_Canete_LeadershipTom Canete has been in the snow industry a long time.  The started-in-middle-school kind of a long time.  Over the years, he picked up invaluable knowledge on how to handle the giant snowstorms and the unique properties.

Getting Ready
Canete and his snow crew consult a pre-storm list that details everything that needs to be reviewed, checked, completed and accounted for in preparation for the storm.  In addition, each plow truck has its own list that outlines what needs to be checked and what equipment should be loaded on board.  Likewise, all drivers and shovel crews are contacted two days prior to an event to make sure they're ready and healthy for when the snow begins to fall, Canete says of his pre-storm procedure.  Lastly, before the snow event is under way, customer call sheets, containing particular storm notes and client comments or requests are distributed to drivers.  In addition drivers are given clipboards with pens tied to each to ensure checklists are completed.

The Storm
As soon as snow begins to accumulate, plow trucks are out salting client properties with rock salt.  Canete believes salting is most effective until snow accumulation reaches about 1.5 inches, at which point it just wastes resources.  At 2 inches of accumulation, Canete's crews start pushing snow according to their assigned routes.  While on site, drivers must complete a thorough checklist of duties, which includes in-and-out times.  Once a property is clean the driver radios Canete Snow Management headquarters with a status report before leaving for the next job site.

One important detail is drivers must mark "a.m." or "p.m." on their checklists.  Failing to meet this requirement is one of Canete's pet peeves.  "We've had to include a big note that reminds everyone to write down 'a.m.' or 'p.m.'" he says.  "Doing this has helped us defend against some past slip-and-fall claims because we can definitively prove when we cleaned a client's property."

Once a site is cleaned, the company dispatches one of four quality control chiefs, which includes Canete, who inspects the property.  Canete expects perfection.  Site inspectors make sure there is no snow against curbs or on sidewalks, parking spaces are clean and there is not ice and snow piled in front of dumpsters or fire hydrants.  Likewise, any special service needs are checked and any potential property damage is noted.

Post Storm
Like during pre-storm preparation, Canete relies on a post-mortem checklist to review the recent snow event.  Each driver's checklist and property forms are collected.  "I dont' want my guys disappearing after a storm and their forms not complete," Canete says.  The day after the storm, five employees come in and go over each truck and piece of equipment with a fine-tooth comb.  Everything is power washed, thoroughly cleaned, inspected and inventoried.

This post-storm procedure includes a detailed inventory of not only all of the heavy equipment, but also the tools, materials and items each plow truck was outfitted with when they left to fight the storm.  "We take a strict account of what's in each truck and what should come back with them after a storm.  If we didn't do this, you'd be amazed with the number of shovels and tools would suddenly go missing from the trucks after a snow," says Canete.

As for client relations, after a storm subsides office personnel fax service slips - detailing the event's activities - to those clients that request them.  Other clients are billed at the end of the month.  In addition, any site damages incurred during snow removal are reported to the client.

Canete admits no one system or set of procedures is perfect, and his are always being honed and tweaked to improve his business and better service his clients.  However, having solid systems and procedures in place is invaluable.  "If we hadn't come up with these systems and procedures we probably wouldn't be in the snow plowing business today," Canete says.

To learn more about Tom Canete and his business, watch his 2014 Leadership Award acceptance speech here.

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