I’m often asked about the motivation behind the creation of the ASCA. Recently, this caused me to reflect and wonder how many times since our inception I’ve been asked that very question.
In 2011, Lawn & Landscape’s sister publication, Snow Magazine, held a sponsored two-day event with 60 of the Top 100 snow and ice management companies in attendance. The last 1½ hours of the conference was spent in an open forum discussion. This was an opportunity for Snow Magazine to tap into the knowledge of business leaders in one setting and to gain insight into the issues owners of snow and ice management companies were facing. This session was moderated by myself, Snow Magazine Editor Mike Zawacki, and Snow Magazine Leadership Award recipient Troy Clogg.
After 90 minutes, 60 of the brightest minds in the snow and ice management industry agreed the top three issues facing the snow and ice management industry were insurance, insurance and insurance. At the time, I recall thinking, “Ha, I can’t believe they are complaining about insurance again!” But I remained neutral and committed to investigating the insurance issue.
After a year of intense due diligence – research and meetings – the team came to a stunning conclusion. Insurance was not the problem. Instead, it was a symptom of a much deeper and more complex problem, sort of like how grouchy behavior and a runny nose precludes a winter cold.
First, the snow and ice management industry had been deficient in presenting itself to the outside world (clients, insurance companies, attorney’s and lawmakers). And second, the insurance companies did not understand the snow and ice management industry. As a result, they buried it under other policies. This is the reason they lose $2 for every $1 in premium for their snow programs. Third, our lawmakers had absolutely no understanding that we, as an industry, were in peril. We desperately needed voices and advocates to lobby for our best interests.
The ASCA was founded based on this research, as are the four pillars on which we are based.
The four Pillars:
1. Written industry standards: We knew many very good contractors were out there doing things well, but the deck was stacked against them and they were fighting their own battles individually. Whether that battle was fighting a slip-and-fall claim or combating less professional contractors in the sales game, they all were doing the same things internally yet fighting alone. The Industry Standards committee is made up of individuals from these companies. Utilizing their best practices, we assembled nearly 30 pages of the best practices for the snow and ice management industry. These standards cover employee training, preseason site inspections, in-event documentation, post-event processes and much more.
We then had the standards accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI is the most credible standards organization around. It gave the standards credibility. This is important because the first place a plaintiff’s attorney goes when they get a case is to ANSI to see if there is a standard. The standards are available to all ASCA members at no charge.
2. Education: ASCA-C education is based on the premise that the outside world can’t differentiate one contractor from another, especially the insurance world. ASCA-C ensures that not only have you received a copy of the industry standards, but you have read and understand them. This was a direct result of the insurance meetings we had, and their lack of faith in the snow industry.
3. Verification: Again, a result of the insurance meetings, but a solution that addresses so much more. The ISO 9001/SN 9001 quality management system ensures that your company has the processes and procedures in place to ensure service quality. It ensures that you have implemented the industry standards in your company. Additionally, this system improves your processes and procedures, improving your company and provides you with a real sales/marketing differentiator.
Now that we have our ship in order, we can influence real change. And that comes from changing the laws.
4. Positive legislative change: The first three pillars are snow and ice professionals taking steps to better represent themselves and the industry to the outside world. Now that we have our ship in order, we can influence real change. And that comes from changing the laws. ASCA and our members are working at the state and federal level to enact legislation to limit liability for snow and ice management companies and to reduce frivolous lawsuits. Currently, with legislation active in eight states, and many more on the cusp, we are using our collective voices to enact change.
In the end, the insurance problem was much more than that. To solve any problem, you can either put a Band-Aid on it and wait for it occur again, or you can get to the root of the problem and fix it, which is what we are doing here and it is working. Today, companies that follow the four pillars are showing tremendous growth, improved efficiencies and decreasing insurance premiums. Even better, these companies fight and win when a slip-and-fall claim is field against them.