Checklist: How to Start a Snow Removal Company in Canada

26 September 2019

Snow in Canada stays on the ground for an average of four months per year, slowing down traffic, causing slip and fall injuries—and generating four months of reliable, ongoing demand for snow removal services. (After all, if you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t see snow as an inconvenience but as a cool opportunity.)

If you’re thinking of starting a snow removal business, take these 10 steps to set up a company that will plow away the competition.

1. Set a vision

What’s your end goal? Will you launch a small sole proprietorship to create an additional income source for your family? Or, will you incorporate and grow to dominate the snow removal industry as a large commercial enterprise? Understanding the big picture will help you prepare the right paperwork to start your snow removal business. Understanding scale will also help you make financial projections about the investment needed to get your business off the ground.

2. Target your market

Who do you want to serve? Do you see yourself as a residential, commercial or even an industrial snow removal business? Will you take on small projects like individual driveways or exclusively go after larger government and commercial contracts? Knowing your target market will help you start your snow removal business with the right insurance, equipment and marketing messages.

3. Prepare the legal side

As soon as you drop a plow on the ground, you’ve taken on liability for the people, vehicles and infrastructure around you. Damaged property or even a slip and fall accident could put your business at risk. But the right insurance can protect you. Insurance can also help you score jobs--in fact, larger snow removal contracts will require that this paperwork is in place.

4. Get the right equipment

Different jobs may require different equipment. Can the snow stay on-site or do you need to remove the snow off-site? Choosing the wrong equipment can also be a liability; for example, using a metal blade to remove snow from a rooftop could cause significant damage and impact your bottom line, potentially triggering an insurance claim. Understanding the types of jobs you plan to take on will help you determine what equipment you need when you start your snow removal business.

5. Efficiently plan labour

As your snow removal business grows, you’ll need to ensure you have operators in place to handle the jobs. But, before you rush to hire, think about your scaling options. Maybe you can scale up with one piece of equipment that can do the job of many. Think of a mall as an example: a mall has a large number of sidewalks and building entrance-ways that need to be cleared. While a skid steer is a great piece of equipment to have on hand, in this case the large size of the plow could risk damage to the property—so a crew and some shovels would need to get the job done instead. But, if you have a UTV with a plow on the front and a salt spreader on the back, it’s small enough to fit down the mall sidewalk and not cause any damage. In this case, the right equipment can save time, labour costs and keep everyone dry!

6. Make contingency plans for breakdowns

Breakdowns can happen, especially in extreme weather conditions. Will you be prepared to deliver on your snow removal contracts and avoid penalties if a malfunction happens? Many equipment partners can help you put backup plans in place. For example, Finning’s 24-hour parts service can provide you with a replacement part ASAP to help get your equipment up and running. Don’t let a breakdown leave you out in the snow!

7. Scale efficiently

What if you have the opportunity to book a few extra jobs but lack the equipment? Or, your snow removal business is growing faster than the cash flow needed to invest in new machines? One efficient way to scale is by supplementing your fleet with rental equipment.

A partner like Finning that both sells and rents snow removal equipment can help you build up a repertoire of rentals you can turn to in a pinch.

8. Get ready to digitalize

Everything is connected these days—and your snow removal equipment can be too. A connected fleet allows you to track the location of your equipment and efficiently plan when it needs to be serviced. For example, when you log in to Cubiq you can see: where your equipment is on a map, the fuel levels of your equipment, engine status and health and more.

9. Build your brand

Think about how you want your new snow removal business to be perceived by your customers and document it. Are you fast, reliable, friendly, family-run, industrial, low cost or high end? This overall brand touches everything from the look of your logo and business materials to the consistent processes your operators follow, to the quality and brand of the equipment you bring to your job sites. As an example, when customers see Cat equipment’s recognizable yellow logos on your job site, this can help signal quality by transferring some of the brand equity from this leading equipment brand to your startup.

10. Find the right partners

The right partners can help you get set up for success and troubleshoot challenges along the way. When you start a snow removal business, build up your support network of partners in these key areas: legal, accounting, insurance, financing, equipment, and even business software to help you keep track of jobs and invoices. A helpful way to grow your partnerships, network and resources is by joining snow removal industry associations such as SIMA and your local landscape association.

Are you thinking of starting a snow removal business in Western Canada?

Add Finning to your support network — visit your local Finning branch for more tips on starting a snow removal business from our experts. We can help you:

  • Understand equipment applications for different types of snow removal

  • Plan snow removal equipment purchases and rentals

  • Get financing to purchase snow removal equipment

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Finning is the world's largest Caterpillar dealer, selling, renting and providing parts and service for equipment and engines to customers across diverse industries, including mining, construction, petroleum, forestry and a wide range of power systems applications. We operate in Western Canada, South America, and UK and Ireland.