You've got 99 problems but a branch isn't one of them. If you're running a tree service company, the easiest part of your day is actually taking the branch or tree down. As a business owner, you've got 99 other problems that you have to deal with before you even step onto that lawn and start the chainsaw.
Working in the tree care industry requires problem resolving that can be both difficult and expensive. On any typical day there are many potential hazards that could go wrong and problems that could arise. You're dealing with heavy materials, dangerous equipment and sometimes less than perfect employees and customers.
We could list all 99 problems that you have but let's stay positive and list some solutions to some of the 99 problems you face every day.
There's still only 24 hours in a day, I never have enough time: We hear it from every business owner that there's never enough time in the day to get all the things done they must. If this starts to become a major problem then you should look for some help or automate things out to an assistant. If you don't address this problem sooner rather than later, things will start falling through the cracks more and more, making you fall further behind. The obvious things will jump out at you as to what you can start to outsource such as accounting, social media management, marketing, lead generation, answering phone calls and even sales. You got into this business because you want to work outdoors in trees, not indoors doing bookkeeping.
Getting leads: This shouldn't be a problem at all. There's more than enough lead generation or marketing companies out there that will take your money - the problem is finding one that works for you, and more specifically, finding on that works in the tree industry. Working with a marketing company that offers a pay-per-lead, pay-as-you-go service provides zero risk on your part with no monthly fees. You only pay for the leads they get you; that's a win-win for you. Here are two of the industry's top pay-for-performance lead generation companies to check out: treetopsmarketing.com, treepro.org.
Missed Phone Calls: You should never miss a phone call, ever. A missed phone call is a missed job opportunity. Being 100 feet in a tree is not an excuse either. If you're the only one answering phones and you're actually doing the work too, then you're going to miss calls. That's a problem for you because whoever just called you for a potential job is now going to call someone else. You don't have to hire a full-time person but you should at least hire an answering service. If you miss calls, let them go to voice mail or answer your phone by just saying hello then you are not a professional tree service. If you need help finding and setting up an answering service then contact us.
Customers not paying / declaring bankruptcy: customers delinquent on their payments or trying to get out of paying all together is more than just an annoyance. Not getting paid for jobs causes cash flow disruptions which affects everything else in your life. Having a lawyer to help with certain situations will allow you to know what can legally be done to protect your business whether it be small claims court or liens. One thing you can consider is getting half of the money upfront before you start any work.
Insurance and workers compensation is a huge expense every year/month but it's something that every professional tree company has to have. These premiums are usually set around state guidelines and no matter how safe you are (even if you never had an accident) the expense can be costly and will only continue to rise year after year. There's not a lot you can do about it except make sure you continue to be safe so it doesn't go up any further. Covering this expense every month is costly but a necessary evil. Having these credentials can help you market and sell your service to the homeowner because they're more likely to trust a company with insurance than a company with no insurance.
Health Insurance: being self-employed means you need to pay for your own health insurance, your families and your employees. This is a huge expense every month and prices only continue to rise. Even though you pay more and more every year, the care and benefits you receive do not increase with it. In fact, it's most likely the complete opposite. Safety training and practicing safe techniques while on the job site is the best thing to do in order to keep everyone healthy and safe.
Worker misclassification: refers to classifying workers as independent contractors, rather than employees. This allows employers to avoid paying unemployment, taxes, workers compensation, unemployment insurance and other worker protections such as overtime pay and medical leave. A misclassification of a worker can put you on the radar of the IRS which can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars of fines and penalties. The take away, review your worker classification and make any changes you need to before the government catches up with you.
Finding reliable help: can you find a reliable employee who's customer focused, safety conscious, hard-working and not hooked on opiates? Good for you if so. The tree care industry has a problem right now - there's not enough qualified people to fill the jobs and those that do apply are not reliable enough to do the job. The younger- millennial generation offers little potential as they only expect to start a the very top and are generally known to have a lack luster work ethic. Employers who are finding success in this area develop partnerships with local schools and may offer apprenticeships to any student interested in the arboriculture field.
Weather swings: You can't control the weather but you can sometimes use it to your advantage. If storms roll through your area in the summertime then the damage from those storms could feed you work for the next couple of weeks. As trees topple over and branches come down they'll all need to be cleaned up. Are you marketing storm damage cleanup as a service? If you're in a area that gets pretty severe storms, then you should be.
Financing/credit: Not getting paid from customers can have a disastrous effect on your business. This could mean equipment doesn't get fixed or employees don't get paid, either way, it's a bad situation. That's why it will be important to have a line of credit or the ability to finance the equipment and services you need. Sometimes you may need to get creative. For instance, when money gets tight the first thing to get cut is always marketing. Without the marketing, you won't get any new customers, so that boom truck you continue to make payments on will be useless without any new customers. A different approach would be to ask your marketing company to extend you some credit so you can keep new business coming in and keep paying for that truck. If your marketing or lead generation company won't do that, then consider moving away from them and partnering up with the right company.
Closing customers: If you're not closing most all customers at a consistent pace and at your highest rate then there might be some room for improvement in your workflow and sales. You do not need to underbid any job to get it, especially if you have the proper insurance and credentials. If your answering service did their job right, that prospect should be already qualified and ready to buy. The customer will know you're a true professional who's certified and safe and they'll be willing to pay the price you quote.
Education: Finding a way to disseminate information to all your employees and keep them up to speed on safety requirements can be a challenge. Have you established a company training manual or reference library? The top tree care companies have this figured out: they create short educational videos for their employees to view. These video topics include safety procedures, equipment operation, tree species education, insect/disease infestation and climbing and rigging demonstrations. Educating your team in this way can also help with insurance premiums and worker compensation claims going up.
Estimates are all over the place: Driving long distance to and from estimates and bids will cost you time, money, gas, mile and equipment wear and tear. You don't have a lot of time in the day, so if you're spending too much time in the truck going from estimate to estimate that are miles away from each other then you need to work with a lead generation company that can get you leads in a smaller concentrated area every week. What if you could go on estimates that are only concentrated in a 1 mile radius? Driving 1-3 miles between estimates as opposed to 12-15 miles can save you a lot of time, gas and money. It is possible, but only if your lead generation company knows what it's doing. Most lead generators (Home Advisor included) and marketing companies won't do this for you nor will they have the knowledge of how to make it happen. If you're interested in knowing how this is possible then contact us and we'll point you in the right direction.
We've just scratched the surface with the 99 problems and you haven't even stepped onto the lawn yet. Now that it is time to take that tree down, you have to consider some basic engineering principles such as: weight, center of gravity, torsion stress, redirection factors, moment of inertial, factors of safety and of course the material behavior of that tree...but don't worry, this is where you shine and where all your training and experience will pay off as an arborist.
All in a day's work, no sweat.