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Late season snow has major impact on business owners

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Canceled flights and closed schools lead the news in blizzards like the one expected to hit the East Coast on Tuesday, but there's no overlooking for businesses the fact that it means it's time to pay up for snow cleanup when it piles high on private premises.

Steven Jomides, CEO of the landscaping management firm Lawns by Yorkshire, said the unexpected late-season snow forecasts are not a rosy picture for most business owners.

“You budgeted (a certain amount) of dollars for it and ended up with a surplus after the year's relatively thin snowfall – so you felt like a hero,” he said. “And you probably felt like you were through the woods.

“Now with this late event, especially because it's expected to be so large, it could push you not only to your budget but over it. So that won't be good.”

But then there are companies that tap the prevailing business model in snow removal – namely, paying for a entire snow season's worth of services in an up-front contract. It's a different story for them.

“And if you're a customer that bought that seasonal contract, right now you're actually feeling good because you're getting value from it,” Jomides said. “Before this you might have felt like you overpaid, (given the lesser amount of snowfall).”

Contrary to what one may expect, the snowfall coming in is rather bittersweet for Westwood-based Lawns by Yorkshire, which does snow removal and other services for the tri-state region.

While snow removal needs do bring increased revenue, companies in this sector had already largely shifted to the green side of landscaping operations. Lawns by Yorkshire made that move – as it had some years in the past – in late February, in order to get ahead on the sort of landscaping deadlines that many companies expect to meet.

“By April 15, they all want to look like Disney World,” he said. “But now, you figure that we're losing this week because of the snowfall, next week it will be melting and then it will be muddy still after that, so you have to wait for it to firm back up – so we probably won't be back to green operations until the last week of March.”

This puts pressures on contractors because it truncates the amount of time left to prepare commercial properties for a picture-perfect spring season.

In short, Jomides expects his team to have to do a tremendous amount of work in a short amount of time when the last of this storm's effect is felt.

Regardless, he's glad to be the first place his clients (an assortment of Fortune 500 companies and smaller organizations) turn to when bad weather is on the horizon.

What his company does for clients can be of serious importance – whether it's a homeowners' association that needs to have a surgeon's driveway cleared for emergencies or a distribution center that needs a pathway to fulfill time-sensitive deliveries.

“It's not just me – I'm not taking bows; it's all the snow removal contractors that have this big responsibility to make sure we can compliment road crews hired out by the state,” Jomides said. “When you travel down roads (cleared by state-hired crews), you have to get into that parking lot too – and it's got to look as good if not better than the road you came off of.

“Fourty-eight hours from now we want to look back and say, you know, we did a fantastic job with that."

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Brett Johnson

Brett Johnson

Brett Johnson covers a wide array of sectors as a general assignment reporter. Before joining NJBIZ in 2014, he lived on the West Coast and wrote for a newspaper in Davis, Calif. You can contact him at brettj@njbiz.com or @ReporterBrett on Twitter.

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