When it comes to snow and ice removal, Brian-Kyles Landscapes of Distinction has things down to a science—and it shows.
A family-owned landscaping design, installation, and maintenance company based in Northeast Ohio, Brian-Kyles has been creating award-winning outdoor environments for residential and commercial clients since 1988.
“I started seeing value in the fact that we could stay busy 12 months out of the year and retain better staff,” says Brian-Kyles president Brian Maurer. “Snow offered a great opportunity to expand our services.”
Brian-Kyles added snow and ice removal to its services in 1998, initially as a subcontractor for another company. The team eventually brought the operation in-house around 2002, and they began focusing primarily on commercial clients in 2012.
Over the years, Brian-Kyles has used Aspire to help establish itself as an exemplary service provider and employer in the landscape and snow management industry.
To find out how they do it, we sat down with Brian Maurer (president) and Shaun Keefer (director of operations) to hear about their experience in snow and ice.
Here’s what we learned.
Brian-Kyles started using Aspire to manage its business operations in 2015.
“It’s hard to realize that for so many years we didn’t use Aspire,” Brian says.
Before implementing the cloud-based business management software, Brian-Kyles handled dispatching using piles of paper and binders for each route. Three or four office staff members would have to go through the binders, recording data for future use, invoicing, and managing payroll.
While they were in the process of developing their own software system at the time, it wasn’t going as planned.
“The biggest thing Aspire did for us was that it took all the different systems we’d implemented throughout the years and rolled them all up into one place,” Brian says. “From the work ticket management side of dispatching to documentation of issues.”
In the past, issues had to be communicated through email chains that were difficult to keep track of and understand, especially on little sleep.
With Aspire, they’re now able to record everything that happened during a snow event in a single place. That way, anyone walking in at 8 a.m. the next morning can see exactly what happened and how it should be handled.
Breaking into a new service area
When he decided to expand into snow and ice removal, Brian found it fairly easy to break into the new service area.
“A lot of the clients we’d done projects for throughout the years were pretty welcoming and wanted to know why we hadn’t done it before,” he says.
The company started with mostly residential clients, handling a lot of spec homes and homeowners’ associations (HOAs), until breaking into the commercial sector.
The key to making that transition, Brian says, was building up trust over time. They started by serving smaller mom-and-pop places. When they tried to go after larger accounts, they had to get past an initial hurdle—clients wanted them to demonstrate that they’d successfully serviced similar properties in the past.
“When we wanted to make the jump from a 30,000-square-foot parking lot to a 40-acre parking lot, that’s when they wanted to start seeing more credentials,” Brian says. “Like, how many years have you been in business? What kind of equipment do you have? What resources do you have access to? How long have you been doing this?”
Once they were able to break into that commercial segment and demonstrate their competence, the team immediately started picking up and more and more clients.
Now, Brian-Kyles is typically fully booked for the winter season by September, meaning the team is able to prioritize ideal customers (those who have the longest service history, are the best fit for existing routes, sign up for 12-month service packages, or are referred by other clients).
Keeping clients happy
One of the reasons for Brian-Kyles’ success is the company’s exceptional customer service record. Brian says he learned early on that communication was key, especially during snow season when things are constantly changing.
“I think the biggest thing you hear in our industry is that clients always complain about not knowing what’s going on,” he says. “That’s one of the things I found out when we started doing more retail clients—they felt that if they’d had a better idea of what to expect, they would’ve had a better understanding of what’s controllable and what’s not.”
Brian-Kyles makes a point of staying in constant communication with clients before, during, and after snow events to set expectations.
And since implementing Aspire, they’ve been able to invoice events within 36 hours—sometimes as little as 12 to 18 hours—keeping it close enough to the storm that everyone (clients included) can remember what happened.
“A lot of little features like tags make things more streamlined throughout the process so that at the end of the day, you’re done when the storm’s done,” says director of operations Shaun Keefer. “That’s been huge for us.”
Preparing for unpredictability
For Brian-Kyles, its geographic location (next to Lake Erie in Northeast Ohio) can make snowfall unpredictable—ranging from a quarter of what’s predicted to four times as much, or more.
“The challenge for us was, who do you have that’s available 24/7 to literally sit in our area and watch for snowflakes?” Shaun says. “Because that’s truly what happens.”
In the early stages of the business, they didn’t have the manpower for this kind of round-the-clock monitoring and service, but that’s changed over the past few years.
Now, the company operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This allows office staff to do normal work if it’s not snowing, and to monitor conditions onsite (using cameras provided by third-party weather partners) if it is.
Managing employees well
Even though Brian-Kyles offers 24/7 service now, it does so while prioritizing care for its employees.
The team covers the time using three eight-hour shifts for managers, that way everyone has a chance for a break before the next time they’re needed at the office.
“With Aspire, it’s a lot easier to prevent burnout on the managerial side of the business,” Brian says.
Prior to using Aspire, field staff would be able to finish their work and go home to rest, while managerial staff would be stuck in the office for long hours filing paperwork and preparing for the next event.
Those tasks still need to be done, but they’re much easier now that they can be accomplished with cloud-based software that’s accessible from any computer or mobile device.
While getting buy-in from subs to use the program can be challenging, Brian has found that since everyone wants to get paid, even the most difficult subs get on board eventually.
And once they do, they recognize the benefits immediately.
“I’ve actually had them ask what it is we do and why we do it because their employees are recommending it,” Brian says.
Sticking to values
Finally, for Brian-Kyles, it all comes down to company values.
Their approach to work year-round is what they believe sets them apart and has helped them experience great success over the past 30+ years.
“For us, it’s all about service,” Brian says. “We really value the level of service we provide to clients.”
The team believes transparency and integrity help them serve clients better by always doing their best work, communicating regularly, and being honest about any issues that arise.
“I would say one of the biggest things I pride myself on and try to instill in the field staff is that things happen,” Shaun says. “We obviously don’t want them happening over and over again, but things do happen.”
And when issues do come up, they’re able to address them immediately with Aspire.
Interested in how Aspire can help support your winter operations? Read all about our recent snow and ice release here, or sign up for a customized demo below to see how the software can help take your company to the next level.