Teamwork Leads to Immediate Success

Though each was a success on his own, Troy Clogg and Sean Hurwitz have found even greater advantages from joining their talents to form the partnership of Troy Clogg Landscape Associates.

More then a decade ago, Troy Clogg founded Troy Clogg Inc., a lawn-maintenance and snow-removal company serving Detroit-area residents. Later, his business expanded to offer lawn and irrigation service to dozens of commercial businesses.

A few years later, Sean Hurwitz began Green Side Up Inc., focusing on the lawn and snow-removal industries and offering expertise in landscape design and installation.

Although both Clogg and Hurwitz had thriving individual businesses, the two realized that—by joining forces—they could create an even more successful firm. So, last year, Clogg and Hurwitz teamed their businesses to become Troy Clogg Landscape Associates, L.L.C. With the combined efforts of both their talents, the two men have already achieved remarkable success, with 1998 gross sales projected to be $3.5 million.

Together, Clogg and Hurwitz have a common goal: “To provide a quality service to the public through establishing a superior workplace where employees are given the opportunity to grow with the company, improving personal self-worth, knowledge and self-esteem.” Currently, the firm employs more than 40 people, all working together to achieve this goal.

The art of communication

Clogg and Hurwitz believe communication is the key to establishing a successful business. As an example of their commitment to this ideal, their firm was the first snow-removal company in Southeastern Michigan to acquire a DTN Weather Center, a comprehensive information system that allows them to instantly read hundreds of national, regional and local Doppler-radar maps. Because the system delivers weather information 24 hours a day, the firm can carefully assess a snow storm as it moves into the local areas. The company also can print out weather data daily and file it for use against potential liability lawsuits.

The two men find that two-way radios, although technologically dated, are valuable to the productivity of snow removal. Jim Anderson, production manager, says, “Two-way radios allow everyone to hear a conversation instead of [a crew foreman] having to give individual instructions to 35 different people.” The company also uses Nextel systems because of its combined capability for group and private conversations. “Sometimes, Nextels make it easier to strategically plan how to attack each storm,” Clogg explains, “and we don’t need everyone to hear that.” Clogg feels this type of private communication is essential to the three team leaders’ success in planning for individual storms.

Additionally, pager systems allow employees to be on-call 24 hours a day. The firm provides each employee with a credit-card-sized laminated card that lists employee pager and telephone numbers, as well as color-coded maps and on-site instructions for each vehicle, outlining client locations and their specific requirements.

Focusing on snow removal

Snow removal is roughly one-third of the business contracted by Troy Clogg Landscape Associates. Sixty-five percent of the snow removal contracted is commercial buildings and shopping centers, while another 25 percent is apartment complexes. The remaining 10 percent remains in residential contracts. The average Southeastern Michigan winter allows for 12 to 17 pushes of 1 inch or greater snowfall, with an average of more than 30 salt runs. Although some seasons demand as many as 50 salt runs, Michigan winters are unpredictable. Therefore, Clogg and Hurwitz, through the efforts of Production Manager Jim Anderson, individually analyze each snow storm and site. In addition, each employee keeps careful documentation in spread-sheet form of each client’s site, outlining arrival and departure times, locations and functions performed. Doing so helps the firm to assess how much time and money it spends on each site. It also is useful for indicating seasonal profit margins. Further, the firm faxes documentation specifying weather conditions and other detailed information directly to every commercial client, during each snow event, to keep them informed of work performed and to avoid billing questions later.

The snow-removal business requires a great deal of organization and patience. No one can predict the exact time or amount of accumulation a snow storm may deliver. “We attack every snow storm with the same aggressive attitude and goal to please all of the people all of the time,” Clogg explains. “Each customer has different needs, and it’s our business to meet those needs. Apartment complexes, for instance, can’t be plowed until the parking lots are empty, while some commercial businesses require early service to allow for the parking of early shift employees or customers. Residents often like to have their driveways plowed prior to leaving for work. We offer our residential clients a choice of two plans: one more expensive, guaranteeing early service, and another, less-expensive plan designed for retirees or others who simply wish to have their driveways plowed when the snow has ceased.” Regardless of need, Clogg and Hurwitz have designed a system to accommodate all their clients, keep their employees on the road and make it all work to their advantage.

The year-long snow “season”

Although snow generally starts to fall in November, Clogg and Hurwitz begin preparations for the season in August and September, though some tasks occur all year long. With two full-time mechanics on staff, and a 10,200-square-foot full-maintenance facility, the firm continuously repairs, cleans, paints and assesses the previous year’s equipment for productivity. Head mechanic and shop foreman Greg Counsell has worked with Clogg since Clogg began his first company more than 10 years ago. Counsell says, “[Preparing for the snow season] is an on-going process, requiring careful planning and organization. We need to know how many contracts we can handle and what [equipment] we need to accommodate our clients.”

The primary reason Clogg and Hurwitz are most busy in August and September is that they are competitively bidding contracts for the upcoming snow season at that time. Hurwitz believes the key to selling contracts is “experience and being able to adequately analyze a site. There are new and inexperienced people in the business who are simply guessing when they bid a site. You better have an educated guess, or you’re sure to lose money,” he says. “If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and—if you do that—you will have enough money for something better.” Troy Clogg Landscape Associates may charge more than the low bidder, but its owners feel its clients get the quality service they desire.

Clogg and Hurwitz believe in the partnership they have formed and in the philosophies they have established for their business. “In a burgeoning industry that has become increasingly competitive, many factors single-out Troy Clogg Landscape Associates L.L.C. from the others,” Clogg says. “But none is as important as the passion we hold for our profession.” Some people see snow as a cold, miserable nuisance. “We like to call it pennies from heaven.”

Kathy Wifey is a free-lance writer who specializes in turf and landscape topics. She writes from her home in Brighton, Mich.

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