Scott Alff, 44, constantly puts himself on the line. As a full-time firefighter at a local fire department, he doesn’t know what each day will bring, but he makes it his mission to protect the lives, property and environment of his community.
“When that alarm goes off inside the station, you don’t really know what to expect,” Alff says. “But it’s our job to make sure our community and its residents are safe.”
Alff continues to make a difference during his days off. He owns Alff Construction, a snow removal and landscape company in Bellevue, Nebraska, a suburb of Omaha, that he intends to pass along to his son, Austin.
“My son was a junior in high school at the time I started Alff Construction,” Alff says. “I told him if he went to college and got his degree, I would give him half of my business as a reward and then eventually all of it. We are about two years into the transition process, so in six years he will take over as owner.”
Word of Mouth Grows Business
In only four short years, Alff Construction has made a name for itself. However, instead of advertising in the local newspaper, investing in a company website or sharing posts on social media, Alff has grown his business the old-school way: by word of mouth.
“I started building up my business by getting to know the residents and talking to some of the local managers at a few big-box retail stores,” Alff says. “And, sure enough, they were small-town farm boys just like me. They understood the meaning of hard work and had the same values I did. Our relationship just snowballed from there.”
One relationship quickly grew to another. Soon, Alff had earned snow removal contracts with 32 big-box retail stores in Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa. His company also completes one-off mowing and landscaping contracts for the retailers during the spring and summer months.
If that isn’t enough, Alff and his son opened two other businesses: Midwest Specialty Divers, an underwater recovery business, and Ironhawk Training, a consulting business for USA Triathlon athletes. Alff’s companies grew over 200 percent in 2017 and are expected to grow to 400 percent by the end of 2018.
“My son and I are busy people,” Alff says. “We work seven days a week, but we have big goals and dreams. My son’s goal is to be retired by the time he’s 35 or 40 years old. Mine is to be retired by the time I’m 50. We are working hard now to enjoy life later.”
A Fleet of White
To efficiently keep up with the high volume of work, Alff decided it would make financial sense to purchase a fleet of Bobcat® skid-steer loaders from his local dealership, Bobcat of Omaha.
“I had purchased a Toolcat 5600 utility work machine a few years ago and really liked the machine,” Alff says. “So, when it came time to purchase a skid-steer loader, I didn’t question what equipment brand I would use.”
“Snow removal is the main focus of our business, so we couldn’t afford any breakdowns or issues while on the job,” Alff says. “That’s why we chose the Bobcat equipment brand. It has always been reliable and trustworthy. Plus, the dealership support I get from Don Partridge at Bobcat of Omaha is second to none. He often goes above and beyond what is required to keep my projects moving forward. I’ve got his cell phone number on speed dial.”
Alff and his crew have a limited amount of time to clear snow per company policy. In fact, some retail stores require their parking lots and entrances to be cleared in two hours or less for pedestrians and vehicles. To stay on top of policy, Alff prepares at least 24 hours in advance before a major snowstorm hits.
“Once the local forecast predicts snow, I will start getting people lined up,” Alff says. “We have 60 to 75 off-duty firefighters, farmers and other construction workers who are on call. Then, I send out a text message letting them know a storm is heading their way and ask who is available to help. There is never a shortage of help since they are all looking for something to do on their off days and to earn a little extra cash. I just put the word out there and news travels.”
Typically, Alff dispatches one to two crew members to a site. They arrive within the hour of the storm, so they can inspect the machine while giving the equipment time to warm up. Depending on the amount of snow and the size of the parking lot, Alff’s team can clear snow in 45 minutes to two hours.
Each crew member is trained on how to operate each piece of equipment, but according to Alff, having machines that are easy to use, comfortable and with increased visibility to vehicles and cart stalls makes all the difference.
“Our goal is to make sure the parking lots are cleared and salted in two hours,” Alff says. “I don’t think we could do big snow-clearing jobs without Bobcat equipment. It always keeps us on schedule.”
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