As we prepare for a busy winter season, we’ve been hearing some rumblings about the apparently dubious practice of hiring subcontractors for snow and ice management. We at Neave Snow don’t believe the talk against subcontractors, but it’s worth a discussion.

Of course, executed poorly, any service can leave a bad taste in customers’ mouths. But in the snow and ice management industry, customers seem to feel especially anti-subcontractor.

Here are a few reasons subcontractors get a bad rap in our industries:

Some contractors don’t set clear expectations on the quality of work needed from subcontractors. And even worse, some contractors don’t have the systems in place to ensure that subcontractors meet their objectives and fulfill their contracts.

Many contractors assume that because subcontractors have their own businesses, they don’t need to be managed. Contractors give the subcontractors the work and then walk away.

In the same vein, contractors don’t always sign formal agreements protecting themselves and their clients from liability and unnecessary risk.

Snow and ice management contractors often don’t ensure subcontractors carry the proper insurance and aren’t prepared for the record keeping associated with hiring subcontractors. This exposes all parties to unnecessary risk.

The bottom line is that most people’s issues with subcontractors aren’t with the quality of the work they perform. They’re with the steps contractors take (or don’t take, rather) to protect their clients’ interests and ensure that the subcontractors are doing the best, safest work possible.

The [perceived] cost of subcontractors

Here’s a popular customer mentality: “If my contractor can afford to pay subcontractors, then I must be overpaying for their services!”

It’s an easy assumption — and one that some contractors might prove right. But you can rest assured most aren’t price gouging their customers, adding exorbitant fees onto the top to make a bigger profit while doing less work.

Snow and ice contractors that hire subcontractors, selectively or otherwise, can actually provide better service overall. A well-connected contractor may have a network of subcontractors with unparalleled skills but no way to connect directly with customers or otherwise do the entire job properly. And from that vast network of subcontractors, they can actually offer better, more consistent pricing.

Plus, contractors that have hired the best possible subcontractors are able to focus more on their customers’ needs, develop better risk management and coordinate their existing staff to be as efficient as possible.

Subcontractors and the Neave Way

The way we do business — known to us as “The Neave Way” — is a hybrid model. We use a combination of our own staff and subcontractors, using the equipment we own as well as rental equipment.

To our clients, the process is seamless, regardless of who is performing the work and with what tools. Each client has a Neave-staff area manager, who manages the project’s quality and customer service, and a site foreman who ensures all work is being completed above and beyond expectations.

We hold subcontractors to the same exacting standards that we do our staff. Consistency is key in running a smooth snow and ice management operation.

Each of our clients’ snow sites has a drawn-out “battle plan” to use before, during and after snowstorms, which highlights priority areas, areas of concern, snow pile locations and more important information. Crews are trained regularly on these plans to ensure they’re familiar with them when it matters most.

What’s more, every area manager and many of our foremen are certified by the Accredited Snow Contractors Association, and most of our staff have undergone far more training than our industry competitors.

Subcontractors are a fact of life

Subcontractors are used in nearly every industry. Your home was probably built almost entirely on a subcontractor business model. The roads you drive on? Almost certainly built and paved by subcontractors. Even the phone, computer or tablet you’re using to read this was built by subcontractors!

And think about your wedding: the officiant, the florist, person who baked the cake, the band that entertained your guests. All subcontractors are managed either by you or an experienced wedding planner.

The snow and ice management industry may suffer from a few bumbling contractors whose lack of coordination has given the use of subcontractors a bad name. But if you’re working with a trusted, capable snow and ice management contractor like Neave Snow, you can rest assured that whether a staff or subcontracted professional is doing the work, it’ll be a job well done.

If you’re ready to discuss a commercial snow and ice management plan for your New York or Connecticut commercial property this winter, give the professionals at Neave Snow a call at (845) 463-0592. Or, fill out the web form on the right side of this page, and we’ll get in touch with you as soon as we can. And be sure to download our free “Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Snow & Ice Management Contractor” for even more insight.

Image credit: zamboni-man