Cedar Glen Property Maintenance, Inc.
From humble beginnings, this company grew by providing quality services in a market dominated by smaller, less-consistent contractors.
Cedar Glen Property Maintenance, Inc. is a Vermont corporation based in the Burlington area. I0 launched the company in the spring of 1994 when, as a high school senior, I found myself unemployable for the summer in the landscaping field because I did not finish high school until the middle of June. Most landscape companies had filled their employment vacancies with college students who were available in mid-May.
At the suggestion of my parents and with the co-signature of my grandfather for a truck-and-trailer loan, I started my own lawn-maintenance business—Cedar Glen. I began soliciting business by using the school computer to design a flyer. I dropped them in mailboxes in the area, and within hours was contacted by the U.S. Postal Service, which notified me that this activity was illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Fortunately, they let me off with a warning! In the meantime, I had solicited enough business that I needed to employ two other students to help me service my customers.
I enrolled for the fall semester at the University of Vermont, but the grass continued to grow. I arranged to have an employee take over most of the physical work for me, which worked out fine until that employee wrecked the sole company vehicle. I then had to borrow a vehicle, which I alone was allowed to drive.
Though busy attending classes, studying and managing my business, I was successful enough to take the winter off and go out west to live and ski with friends. I had not contracted for winter maintenance my first year in business.
Growing the business
When I returned the following April to resume business, I recognized that to meet the goals I had set, Cedar Glen would need to incorporate winter maintenance into its array of services. This created rapid growth with 12-month contracts.
Cedar Glen has now grown to a fleet of eight vehicles. Our focus has been on attracting commercial accounts, such as banks, insurance companies and retail enterprises, which have a greater need for detailed winter maintenance.
We constantly strive to find and fabricate the most innovative and efficient equipment to move the most snow in the shortest amount of time. We have used four-wheelers and skidsteer loaders equipped with customized plows and buckets. We also rely heavily on our caravan of Chevy trucks and Fisher plows which, we feel, are the most dependable for our area.
We find that building relationships with local suppliers has benefited us greatly. They offer us fair prices and work hard to provide us with the best possible service.
We also find it most practical to lease new vehicles for a 3-year period with bumper-to-bumper warrantees. By doing so, we incur few costs for vehicle repair and create a professional image, which works as a positive advertising tool. This contributes to our employees’ morale as well.
Cedar Glen owes much of its success to preventative maintenance. All of our equipment and vehicles are inspected and serviced before and after each storm. This reduces down time, which increases profit.
I began to recognize that the snow-removal industry had enormous potential, but was dominated by smaller contractors who provided inconsistent service and prices. Cedar Glen, by contrast, was built by providing consistent, high-quality services of which I could be proud. However, to maintain this standard of consistency as Cedar Glen grew, internal restructuring became necessary.
In 1998, Cedar Glen’s management staff developed systems for all aspects of its operations. These systems cover everything from equipment maintenance to snow removal and are covered in detail in manuals available to our employees for training and review.
We bring each new hire through extensive classroom and on-the-job training so that our company’s expectations are clear to each employee. Operating with systems has allowed me more time to study the market, meet with consultants and analyze the competition. In addition, I have more time to meet with customers and crew leaders. This allows me to carefully evaluate properties to ensure they are meeting the company’s high standards (see box, at left).
Finally, belonging to professional trade organizations such as the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA) has been a great benefit. They provide us with valuable information that’s helps us in our daily operations.
The following standards have helped Cedar Glen achieve high customer satisfaction and become highly competitive in the snow-removal market:
- Professionally trained personnel
- Clean, neat, uniformed personnel
- Innovative techniques and equipment
- Established day-to-day systems
- Good customer service
- Consistent quality service
- Consistent scheduling
- Best possible service for the money
- Proper care for every property
- Daily property evaluations
- 24-hour answering service
- Dispatched telecommunications
- Prompt customer call backs
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