It’s early morning in January. The first rays of gray winter light are now piercing the sky, revealing the clean, fresh snow that blanketed the city last night. It dulls the sound of everything, turns all the unbrushed cars on the street into amorphous white blobs, and highlights where every bird and squirrel touched the ground on their way around town. This is winter in Fargo.Not everything has stayed buried, however. Those who had come to terms with North Dakotan weather planned for days like these. They had people on call to come snow blow their driveways for them. They had the foresight to hire men like Steve Koep of Fargo Snow to show up in the dead of night to save them from yet another beastly round of shoveling.
Steve hadn’t always planned to be in the snow removal business. He certainly didn’t think about snow very often during his service in Iraq, and he didn’t imagine it would become his career when he started a landscaping business as a side job while he studied business in college. The snow removal aspect of that startup quickly consumed so much of his time, however, that Steve realized it wasn’t a distraction from college, but rather that it would be his future. He would soon focus on snow removal as a business full-time.
“I haven’t looked back, either,” reminisced Steve. “You learn more about business by actually doing it than you ever could from a book.” Indeed, Steve must have learned quite a bit, because in fewer than ten years he has transformed his after school job into a sizeable snow removal empire complete with a flotilla of trucks and tractors and about a dozen team members.
“The snow removal industry is a lot farther ahead than most people would credit it for,” said Steve. “We’re way, way beyond the old-fashioned truck and plow now. Fargo Snow uses tractors, which have much more traction and power, equipped with snow blower attachments to quickly clear snow from driveways. We use snow blowers instead of plow trucks because they don’t leave a big, heavy pile that won’t melt for weeks into the spring, and because plow trucks can damage lawns. That’s a lot better for your yard, and it’s much more aesthetically pleasing, too. On top of that, my equipment only takes 30 seconds to two minutes to finish a driveway. We are in and out quickly, and our tractors are quiet, so we don’t disturb the neighborhood. Most of our clients don’t even see our crew at work.”
“The other cutting edge technology in snow removal is GPS,” explained Steve. “Every one of our vehicles has a GPS tracker, so I can know where my people are and watch them work in real time right on my phone. When I see that a vehicle is idle, well, you can only imagine how long it’s going to be until I assign its operator to a new job. Between the speed of our equipment and the efficiency with which we move our people around, we’re one of the most efficient snow removal operations in the country.
“Another tool we’ve successfully implemented is Facebook,” continued Steve. “Rather than field hundreds of calls for updates during every snowstorm, I just persistently update our page to show our progress — which areas we’ve cleared, how close we are to finishing, everything people want to know. Checking our Facebook page is a lot easier and quicker for everyone, just one more thing that improves our efficiency and sets us apart from our competition.”
A member of the Snow and Ice Management Association, Steve is connected to all the major players in the snow removal business across the continent and stays apprised of any innovative best practice that can sharpen Fargo Snow’s edge. “When I started out, I used to make calls to other snow business owners around the US and Canada, ask them about how to go about some aspect of the business better. That came full circle — now I’m the one getting all the calls from guys all over the country looking for advice in their snow operations. Snow is my passion, so I’m always happy to help.”
By David Scheller