Think back to December, when Chicago topped the charts for the least snow in modern memory during the month of Christmas. That has happened only one other time since meteorologists have been keeping records in the Windy City. Back in December, we were naive, hoping the lack of snow foretold a gentle winter that would help us recover from last year’s polar vortex and convince us Chicago wasn’t so bad a place to live.
Then there was February. The shortest month packed itself with record cold and record snow. For Jeff Tovar, who has built an empire around snow removal, those two extremes have created some challenges. When it comes to training and manpower, the slow start and sudden brutality of the 2014-15 winter forced Tovar, founder and president of Tovar Snow Professionals, to react quickly. He hasn’t, however, lost his good spirits.
“The weather is unpredictable so we don’t complain,” Tovar said.
After nearly 26 years in the business, Tovar knows he has to be prepared financially for record low snow and prepared operationally for record high snow. He portions his monetary reserves conservatively to get through months like December and makes sure he has the infrastructure to jump into action when the area gets hit with conditions we saw in February.
Tovar Snow Professionals is a multimillion dollar operation with more than 2,000 clients throughout the region. The company operates two dozen satellite facilities and six branches. It also stores salt at close to 30 locations. Tovar’s workforce surpasses 1,500 seasonal employees who drive more than 1,300 plow trucks, anti-icing vehicles and other equipment.
And it all started with Tovar, alone, driving a single truck and a trailer for his landscaping business in his hometown of East Dundee. Now Tovar sticks to snow and has become an expert at keeping it out of driveways and off streets.
Tovar said his company is strong because he has always re-invested in his employees and the business. (Tara Garcia Mathewson)
“I believe we have the best team in snow,” Tovar said. “Our people are snow people who are always looking for a better way, whether it is a new chemical for melting snow or a new computer program.”
Even after one of the worst winters, Tovar looks ahead, focusing on a pursuit of better service strategies. He is always looking for new ways to adapt to challenges that comes his way, telling his team to be pleased with their results but never satisfied.