The History of Elements, Part 1: Interview With Matt Warren

Elements was formed in the winter of 2017, when snow removal leaders Waltman Construction and Snowtech merged. The result has been greater innovation, improved customer experience, year-round employment for a growing body of locals, and the ability to give back to the community, including opportunities for apprenticeships through the local high schools. 

Matt describes himself as a “reluctant snow removal company owner”, but saw an opportunity when new technology for snow removal became available. In between positions and with two young children at home, he was a volunteer firefighter with Truckee Fire. Matt learned about the new technology from other firefighters who worked in snow removal on their days off. He connected with his first business partner through this same group of co-workers and volunteers, and SnowTech hit the ground running the first year with 13 tractors and 1000 clients. 

At the time, there were three companies offering snow removal in Tahoe Donner, Waltman Construction being the primary provider. Matt describes the first 10 years he was in business as rough. “Snow removal can be an extremely lonely business”, and when winters are big it was pretty scary, explains Matt. With only one mechanic, one key manager, and a fairly small crew of operators, “you’re just hoping all your employees show up”. Matt explains how as the owner, you’re always worried about what might go wrong. It takes a toll on your family and personal relationships.

Approaching 15 years in the business, Matt felt the pains of being a small business owner. There were no resources to address the fleet of aging tractors and the need to have more employees. Matt was concerned about customer experience being negatively affected as SnowTech’s equipment became less reliable. It was at this point that he reached out to Jaime to begin the conversation about a possible merger.

In addition to an aging fleet, Matt recognized that having a partner to share the responsibilities with could open possibilities for a focus on evolving as a company. With resources and employees to share, the possibilities seemed endless. 

Waltman Construction and SnowTech merged over the 2016-2017 winter. To date this is the largest winter after 2010-2011. At first Matt described the employees as a bit confused as to why join forces with the competition, but after endless weeks of snow, they began to see the synergies possible within this new organization. Having a larger team, more mechanics and a larger fleet, reduced some of the stress for both owners, and the new team started to function as one united force.

The merger has brought its challenges. Matt says that having two alpha owners, used to operating in the “Waltman way” or the “Snowtech way” has been a challenge for sure. Yet in the past four years, co-owners Matt and Jaime, and their team of managers, have been able to focus on innovation and improved customer experience. For four years the two have focused on how to implement GPS tracking, and after attempting several different paths to implement this tool, we now have a system we are rolling out. The new GPS tracking system will provide the exact time each driveway was cleared, giving our customer service team specific feedback for customers. This is an awesome new tool for improving customer experience and satisfaction. It gives Elements a much more accurate picture of exactly what happens during each snow shift.

For Matt, the greatest benefit of becoming Elements Mountain Company, is quality of life. Elements now has a team of highly trained managers who share the responsibility of monitoring snow levels across Truckee, and managing the actual snow shift. For Matt personally, this has reduced his stress and he feels, allowed him to be a better husband and father.

In addition to the personal and professional benefits for Matt, Elements now employs over 20 year round employees, and a core group of seasonal staff return annually. The benefit for customers is returning operators who know their customers, routes and provide consistent, excellent service. The Elements website was also elevated to provide customers the ability to initiate service, pay invoices and this summer, to schedule services online. The future is bright for Elements and the focus continues to be on how to improve customer experience.

A big thank you to Matt for sharing his personal experience, and how the challenges have created new opportunities for a better quality of life.  After all, that’s why we all chose to make our home in Truckee. Stay tuned in April for my interview with Joann and Jaime, and more to the story of Elements.