Autumn doesnt officially begin until Saturday, but Brian Thornton is already preparing for snow.
The local man last year founded a company that removes snow for residential customers: Fort Wayne Snow Removal LLC.
The difference between us and the kid down the street is were licensed, bonded and insured, he said.
After one successful season with about 400 local customers, Thornton is planning an aggressive multistate expansion. His vision calls for hiring hundreds of contractors.
Thornton plans to hire 65 locally this year, some to remove snow and others to dispatch work crews in other cities. The dispatchers will be full-time employees, making $8 to $12 an hour. Thornton also has two full-time route manager positions paying $15 to $25 an hour.
The removal crews are contract workers, paid by the job. They make $22 to $30 an hour.
The company relies on shovels and snow throwers rather than on plows and heavy-duty trucks, Thornton said. The strategy keeps expenses down, he said.
We dont have a significant amount of expense in setting up operations, which is allowing the company to tackle its expansion plan, Thornton said.
To begin, workers need only a cellphone, gloves and a shovel. If they dont have a shovel, the company can provide one.
Snow removal workers dont have set routes – a commitment that would be cumbersome if snow fell while the contract employees are at school or other jobs.
Thornton uses computer software to direct workers where to go each time it snows. They use a smartphone to log in. The system detects their location and tells them the address of the nearest customer who needs service. The software also provides directions.
The entrepreneur is seeking a patent on software that keeps adding customers, depending on the amount of snowfall. Some customers say theyll take care of snowfall less than 2 inches, for example, but theyll pay for removal when its deeper than 2 inches. Same for 3 inches or 4 inches, he said.
Most of the companys customers last winter were busy professionals and retirees, Thornton said. About 60 percent of customers bought an annual pass that guaranteed snow removal throughout the season for fees ranging from $200 to $400, depending on driveway size.
Like any insurance-style contract, customers benefit when conditions are bad. The company benefits when the weather is good.
Fort Wayne Snow Removal made a significant amount of its revenue last year on one-time or two-time jobs for homeowners who needed snow removal for unusual reasons, Thornton said.
Thorntons goal is to develop the business until it catches the eye of a national landscaping company, which could acquire it as a way to keep crews busy during winter months.