Our annual State of the Industry research graces the cover of this month’s issue and offers insights on snow and ice management trends, benchmarks on how your doing against an industry average, and some analysis on what it all means.

Frankly, I love pouring over the research and crunching the numbers in Excel. There are countless ways to break the data down to offer glimpses at what makes this industry tick. One aspect of the research that doesn’t get enough attention in the main reporting are the write-in answers. Write-ins are the handful of questions that request participants to offer responses in their own words. Unfortunately, we have to limit these to two or three in each questionnaire because they can be time consuming for survey takers, and it’s our experience that if a participant is stretched for time then they’ll gloss over the write-ins in lieu of focusing on questions that require simply selecting an option.

That’s why it’s so exciting to see the direct feedback to these questions because you felt it was important enough to you to take those extra few moments to leave how you felt in the blank.

However, these responses, are by their very nature, nearly impossible to quantify like a “choose one of the following” question. Though they are telling and can be just as informative. So, here are some of those write-ins, the consensus of their respective responses, and my two cents on what they may say about the state of our industry.

What is holding you back from taking your business to the next level? Not surprising, lack of labor was the main gripe with contractors. What caught my eye, though, was the prevalence of “Nothing” among the responses. Does that mean nothing is holding them back and opportunities are ripe for the picking? Maybe, but an elaborated response offers a different insight: “Nothing. I’m happy with what I have … less stress.” Other “nothing responses alluded to following a business plan. So there very well may be a portion of the industry that doesn’t crave growth and is content with managing the existing footprint they’ve created for themselves.

If you had the ability to change one thing that improves the snow and ice management industry, what would it be? While the responses run the gambit you’d expect to see here, there were some thought provokers among them. Here are a few:

  • Eliminating third-party management companies. For service providers, it cuts into our profits and creates a middleman effect with red tape.
  • Better understanding of business. Too many contractors do not understand or know their true costs of people, equipment and materials.
  • Ability to set customer expectation that we are in the snow removal business not the snow prevention business.
  • Raise prices to where they should be for the high-quality service.
  • Increase the amount of companies who operate on a professional level. It will help us all in the long run.
  • And of course, my favorite “Move somewhere warm.”