Many replacement companies wrestle with the problem of how to bring in revenue during winter, when working on the exterior of the house becomes difficult or impossible in many parts of the country. Some emphasize indoor jobs such as refacing cabinets; some put crews to work plowing driveways in an effort to avoid layoffs and keep cash flowing in.

Cold Cash Some years ago, management at Bellows Falls, Vt.–based Jancewicz & Son, which specializes in standing seam roofs, hit on the idea of offering to shovel snow. Off the top of the house.

“It's a way of keeping guys busy and keeping the revenue stream going when you have bad weather,” says director of marketing John Dunbar. The company charges $75 per hour to clear a roof.

Clearing snow off roofs cements the company's relationship with past customers, enhances its reputation for integrity, and provides Jancewicz & Son with aftercare jobs when there sometimes aren't many of the other kind.

“This way, we're doing not only the installation, but the care and maintenance, too,” Dunbar points out. “Say we put on an asphalt roof, and someone other than Jancewicz shovels it and it leaks — who's at fault? We know the history of that roof, and we know what kind of care needs to be taken with it.”

Shoveling Season Dunbar says that Jancewicz & Son has done anywhere from a few dozen roofs in a season to several dozen a month in periods of heavy snowfall. During one bout of particularly severe weather, the company received far more calls for roof shoveling than it could handle. This had a serious effect on cash flow, with monthly revenue falling from an average of $300,000 to somewhere between $75,000 and $90,000 because “you're not putting any markup on materials — it's straight labor.”

Dunbar calls roof shoveling “a double-edged sword” because it builds good will and occasional repeat work but sometimes forces the company to choose between clearing roofs and installing them.

“Obviously,” Dunbar points out, “we would be better served going over to the Smiths and installing a new roof than shoveling snow.” After a winter of falling revenue, Dunbar says, the company decided to raise the price of roof shoveling and restrict the service to prior customers.

But rules are made to be broken. Jancewicz & Son did just that in the case of a previous customer whose neighbor requested that the crew clear her roof. “In the next year and a half, that neighbor bought a standing seam roof, vinyl siding for the house, and some windows,” Dunbar says. “So a few-hundred-dollar shoveling job turned into more than $50,000 worth of work.”