Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why Do Industry Standards Matter?

Troy R. Clogg leads Troy Clogg Landscape Associates in Wixom, Mich. He’s also an ASCA member.

When I talk to my snow colleagues about the need for industry standards it’s not unusual to get some initial pushback, or better yet…that blank stare.

“So, some Michigan plow jockey is going to tell me, a snow contractor in – pick your region – how to push snow?” This is typical of the kind of response I receive, followed by “Things are different in (______).” Believe me, I’ll be the first to admit I got to where I am by running my company my way, by listening to my clients, my team and my heart. I followed my beliefs and listened to my gut.

The ASCA’s industry standards are not designed to dictate how you should conduct business. Rather, they serve as an established baseline for a greater degree of professionalism for your snow removal operation. A level of service and standards that all of our clients deserve, and skills/procedures that all of our team members should be proud to achieve.

What initially attracted me to the concept of “industry standards” for professional snow contractors was my passion for finding a definitive answer for the baseless and frivolous slip-and-fall claims we battle every winter. The laws and the precedents set by our courts have made snow contractors prime targets for swindlers, frauds and charlatans whose only goals are to twist and contort the legal system for their gain. As a result, insurance coverage for professional snow and ice management companies is through the roof. In my opinion, slip-and-fall claims coupled with “below standard” work ethics by snow contractors, are the leading obstacles for sustained success in this industry.

Combine these issues with clients that have unrealistic expectations of service for “low costs” (created by contractors who willingly took on sites without knowing their true costs) and the result is an industry that desperately needs standards. Standards will keep our costs in line and our clients safe and secure.

A “Win-Win-Win” solution for our clients, communities and our sustainability as a professional is to establish and adopt standards for the professional snow removal industry. Let me tell you from experience, one of the first questions a contractor fighting a slip-and-fall claim fields in court is: “Do you abide by industry standards?” And until recently, our industry was rendered silent because “standards” meant something different to every snow company interviewed by an investigator.

In addition, industry standards are a core piece in ISO certification for the snow removal industry. ISO certification is another weapon at our disposal to dissuade opportunists from filing fraudulent claims against snow contractors. It validates your operational procedures and training efforts and reinforces your assertion as a snow industry professional in your market.

In addition, standards reflect a greater sense of professionalism, which singles you out among low-ball competitors and makes you more competitive in your market. For those who know how hard we work to do “what’s right,” this may very well be the “reward” we have all been looking for.

As an industry, we’ve come a long way in just a short amount time. We have established our seasonal profession as a necessary, professional endeavor. On many occasions, I’ve heard professional snow and ice management described as an “emergency service,” and I agree 100 percent with that description. When it snows, especially when it snows a lot, we provide an essential service for our customers, their employees and their clients. Our hard work at all hours of the day and night allows commerce to function. It allows people to go on with their daily lives. It provides order amid the chaos of winter’s wrath.

For a service that is this important to society, we needed an established, agreed-upon set of guidelines everyone can follow regardless of whether you’re pushing snow in Portland, Maine, or Portland, Ore. That’s what industry standards mean to this Michigan snow fighter.

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