By Cheryl Higley
Learn more about Martyn Church's Eco Snow Removal in the video exclusive at the end of this article.
Green looks good on Boulder, CO, a city cushioned by 45,000 acres of open green space and dedicated to environmental stew-ardship and healthy living. For Martyn Church, CSP, “green” snow removal seemed a natural fit; and last year, when the itch to start his own business became too big to ignore, he made it a reality by forming Eco Snow Removal.
“Everyone should have a vested interest in doing what we can to protect the environment,” he says. “This philosophy has become a big differentiator for me. We have a lot of forward thinkers here, and it’s always on people’s minds.”
It’s one thing to label a company as “green,” but it’s another to live it—and Coloradans know the difference. “I want to make sure I’m being as green as possible. ‘Greenwashing’ [where a company pretends to be green] is common here, and people question me without a doubt,” Church says.
Converting his trucks to run on biofuels was the first, most obvious step in establishing a greener footprint. Church continues to explore alternatives, and as his company grows he’ll add larger equipment that can run on alternative fuels.
Ice melt solutions (not necessarily a specific eco-friendly product) have proven to be a key selling point for Church.
Altitude, mountains and sunshine allow him to use less, if any, product in many situations.
“We get a lot of brilliant, strong sunshine here—it’s a natural melter,” he says. “We analyze every property and customize programs to ensure we’re using the least amount possible. The north side never gets sun, so that’s where we concentrate our efforts. If a property faces south, come 8 a.m. it’s going to get a full day’s exposure to the sun.”
While Eco Snow Removal’s location often lends itself to full-day sun, steep temperature drops also create thaw-refreeze is-sues. Given the minimalist approach to ice melt, Church protects his customers with ice patrol services. The approach is not only more environmentally friendly, but it’s also easier on his customers’ budgets.
“I give them multiple prices, depending on the level of service they want. It’s more difficult on the billing side for me, but the customer appreciates the choice. It keeps their budgets in line and is better for the environment,” Church says.
A key selling point for Eco Snow Removal is its use of cleaner biofuels for its fleet of plow trucks.
Paperless billing, marketing
Eco Snow Removal is making an environmental impact on the business side of operations as well.
As a new company, Church had to start from scratch from a sales and marketing standpoint. When he decided to venture out on his own and leave the company where he had served as snow operations director for five years, he didn’t take any clients with him.
“Trying to get my message out was tough. I didn’t want to do print advertising, so my goal was to cold call, network and use the Internet,” he says. “Those were the most eco-friendly avenues.”
His vehicles, however, proved to be his biggest marketing tool. The sharply appointed trucks wrapped with the Eco Snow Removal logo and touting his biofuel use caught the attention of many potential customers.
“We strategically drove them and parked them. We spoke to some property managers and it really snowballed for me,” Church says, adding that getting into the market was difficult. “They didn’t know me, and as a new company they didn’t know if I was going to be around. But they took a chance on me. They understand the quality of work and service I provide and the care I take for their property. They have rewarded me with multiple properties this year.”
Finally, Church strives to run a paperless operation as much as possible. His contracts are all securely signed online and stored on a hard drive, and his invoices, weather reports, etc., are all sent via email, unless a customer specifically requests a paper copy.
While some eco-friendly processes require more of an investment, Church dismisses the argument that it costs too much to run a greener operation.
“I am not the cheapest guy in town and I’m not the most expensive. I don’t think you have to hike pricing because you’re trying to be eco-friendly. You have to think of it as a long-term investment in the company and in the environment.”
The Eco Snow Removal trucks caught the eyes of clients in Boulder and proved to be his best marketing tool.
Martyn Church’s teachable moment
For Martyn Church, CSP, his business was transformed when he learned that you have to “cure the problem, not treat the symptoms.” He excels at working with customers to solve service challenges.
As an example, a client was experiencing a lot of ice buildup in a specific area. When Church inspected the site, he found the gutters were angled wrong and weren’t working properly. Church worked with the property manager to reroute and heat the downspouts, which eliminated the issue.
“I look at every property and ask the right questions so we can prevent issues from recurring. There is more to snow removal than clearing a sidewalk and plowing a lot. I want to have a different relationship, where I can help my customers understand their properties better and be that person they call when they have a problem.”
Church, CSP, is a happy camper
Born in England, Martyn Church, CSP, didn’t take the typical route to becoming a snow & ice management professional. His entrepreneurial path started not with mowing lawns or plowing residential drives but at summer camp.
Church moved to Pennsylvania in 1997 and found work at a summer camp, where he had the “best job in the world” and met the girl of his dreams, Jessica, who also worked at the camp. After they got married, the couple started investing in real estate and set their sights on owning a camp. When plans to purchase a camp near Pittsburgh fell through, he looked at other opportunities, including franchise options. An opportunity presented itself in Colorado, but when that fell through, the Churches decided to head west anyway.
Martyn found a job with a landscape company and worked his way up the ladder. The company introduced him to SIMA, and he became a Certified Snow Professional in 2009. Church was thriving, but that yearning to have his own business was still there, so he left in 2011 to begin Eco Snow Removal.
Church says his experiences at camp, in real estate and with many great mentors have helped shape him into the business owner he is today. He learned hiring, training and employee management skills while overseeing more than 200 camp staff. His interest in real estate and business ownership taught him the importance of budgeting, understanding financials, evaluating business worth, how to bid jobs, and to set realistic goals and expectations.
He might have taken a circuitous route to the snow & ice industry, but for Church, he knew the end result would be worth it: “I’m an optimist,” he said, “something will always work out.”
Martyn Church, CSP