Interview with Neal Glatt, Managing Partner, The Snowfighters Institute

Earlier this year, Frost partnered with The Snowfighters Institute, an organization founded to empower the next generation of snow professionals. We were thrilled to sit down with Managing Partner Neal Glatt to discuss more about his businesses and perspective on the snow and ice industry as a whole.
Neal's Background

Frost: Thank you for joining us today! Let’s just get right into it and tell us a little bit about your background.

Neal: I graduated with Marketing and Spanish degrees in 2009 from Northern Michigan University, and that was not a great time to find a job. I ended up doing sales, which is what I always wanted to do, but for a landscape and snow removal company outside of Detroit. I really quickly fell in love with the snow industry. I loved the adrenaline of it, I loved the challenge of it, I loved the importance of it. 

I got introduced to Jason Case from Case Management, right around the time he had established Case Snow Management as a standalone company. I worked with Jason from 2010 to 2017. In that time, we went from one pickup truck to a $40 million snow removal company and had the opportunity to take it from a small regional company doing one or two counties in Massachusetts to covering 10 states.

Neal: I’ve known Phil Harwood, my business partner, for many years. When I left Case, I knew I was going to start my own consulting firm and didn’t really know what that looked like yet, so I took a sabbatical. I was off traveling around Europe and Asia, and Phil was one of like four people who knew I actually could get phone calls there. He called me and said, “When you get home, I have a business opportunity I want to talk to you about.” Phil had this idea for Grow the Bench, which was basically a way for owners and managers of landscaping companies to really invest in the frontline and middle managers who are actually running the business.

At Case, we had developed some online learning called Case University. I had been involved in the production and management of that, so he knew I had the expertise. So, we started Grow the Bench, started building content, and today, we’ve got more than 500 videos specific to the landscape and snow industry. These are subjects that nobody teaches, like accounting, equipment management, sales, hiring, leadership; we even have some on succession planning for your business. Basically, everything you could possibly need to learn from guys who have a lot of experience growing and scaling companies in the snow removal and landscaping industries. It’s for people who don’t have a lot of time and maybe didn’t want to go to business school, and it’s been awesome.

The Snowfighters Way

Frost: That’s such a huge asset to this industry. What types of companies are joining and attending Snowfighters Institute?

Neal: If you’re an up and coming company or you want to be, and you want the highest level of education in a small group where you’re going to network with your peers and get some really cool unprecedented access to vendor locations and manufacturing facilities, there is no substitute for Snowfighters. I believe 60 out of the top 100 snow companies have all graduated from Snowfighters Institute over the past 12 to 15 years. We really love working with someone who’s going to be the next big name in snow removal. We get a lot of attendees who work for large established companies but may be new to the industry or looking to grow in their career within the industry. We get owner-operators who have literally one pickup truck but want to learn how to get their own contracts, all the way up to companies doing more than $10 million deals.

Frost: What makes Snowfighters events so special?

Neal: What’s really fun about Snowfighters is that we only bring about 20 people into the room at a time. It’s a very intimate event. We’re not looking to get as many people as we can. We’re not looking to generate as much revenue as we can. We’re not looking to keep as many sponsors happy as we can. We’re looking to create really high-value education. Bill and I have experience of growing companies from literally nothing to multi-million dollar companies. My smallest sale was a $20 lawn cut, and my biggest sale was a piece of paper worth over $5 million. So, we have these experiences on all levels, and I think we know what it takes to get from one level to the next because we both grew businesses through all those spaces. 

When you sign up to attend a Snowfighters event, the first thing you get is an email with a survey. The survey is really thorough so we have the opportunity to tailor what we talk about at each event to the group of people who are there. It’s very much a group of people coming together and saying, “This is what we need; we’re not finding it in the market, create it for us.” It’s almost as intimate as hiring one of us as a consultant, but at a fraction of the cost, and you get the bonus of networking. You also get to go to a new location where there’s some cool manufacturing for demo areas or hands-on equipment. Basically, this is an event that I’m still interested in attending every two months. 

There are no membership fees, there’s no licensures, there’s no certifications. That stuff exists out there, but our business model is simply: let’s put on a great event that everybody loves.

Leveling up

Frost: What is some advice for people, let’s say, that want to go from $150,000 to $1 million in snow business? How can they get to that next tier?

Neal: Learn to sell. Your clients don’t really care about your equipment or your processes. Your clients care about your ability to get the job done, and you have to convince them that without ever being able to demonstrate it. If you can learn how to sell snow, you can grow pretty quickly.

The other advice is to know we’re in a rapidly changing industry with lots of advancements and technology. This stuff didn’t exist when I was on that path, and so our path was pretty difficult in terms of getting the job done. There are shortcuts that exist today, like Frost, which is in the field 24/7, so you don’t have to worry about record keeping the way that you used to. You don’t have to worry about monitoring the way that you used to. We used to literally wake people up and send them to sites to look for snow. It’s crazy to me how many people still say, “Nah, I’m just going to wake up at 3 am and head on over there.” You have to think like the company you want to be, and in 2023, that’s technology first. So if you can get your mindset in the right place, I think that’s key. 

Frost: How have you seen the community change to support that?

Neal: This industry has always had a really nice amount of people who are open to network, and so that’s always exciting. I think now, the community has more of the vendors and manufacturers involved– and that’s a good thing. Before, someone would bring something to market, and you would hope it would work, and now we’re just seeing a lot more opportunity for focus groups as part of the product development. One of the things that Snowfighters really creates for our vendors is that they get to sit down with forward-thinking, “future movers” in the industry. And I’m always telling our attendees, “Hey, listen, if you don’t like something, tell them why you don’t like it because they will change it based on your feedback.” 

Frost: Without giving away the secret sauce, what is your leadership style like?

Neal: I think the secret is understanding your own style. When I’m coaching someone, I’m not teaching them what I did. In fact, there’s a call I get somewhat regularly, which is, “Hey, would you come down to our facility, take a look at our shop and our contracts and just make some recommendations?” No, because your question assumes, there is only one way to be successful. That’s really not true; I’ve seen way too many models to know that there’s lots of different ways to succeed in snow. What that all boils down to is authenticity with some self-awareness of your own style, and that’s where I think I can introduce a lot of value. 

Frost: If you could choose one thing, what would be the most important thing you have learned working in the snow industry?

Neal: I learned the value of having a coach from the start. It’s unbelievable what coaching can do, so when I look back at the journey at Case, yeah, we had lots of talent, we were super dedicated, we had a phenomenal team, sense of self and others awareness, a really aggressive mindset. But a lot of coaches. 

Frost: And so the advice is to be humble enough to say, yes, I could use a coach.

Neal: All the time! If I want to do something, I’m going to hire a coach. It’s one thing for me to be a coach now but I still hire coaches often, and for me that’s always been the secret of my success.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

If you are interested in joining Frost and fellow snow pros at upcoming Snowfighters Institute events, check out their website. Events scheduled for this year include:

  • Operations Management in Detroit, MI on June 27th (SOLD OUT)
  • Forum for Sales in Rockland, ME, on July 26th
  • Operations Management in Bensalem, PA on September 6th

To learn from Neal Glatt himself as a coach and consultant, visit his website.

We look forward to tackling weather together.

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