Why Didn’t I Employ a Tree Surgery Manager Sooner?


28th August 2019 | Info

Tell me if this sounds familiar…. Up at 5.30am, quick breaky, quick go over the job sheets for 4 teams coming in around 7am, realise you have forgotten something important you should have done or had ready for today’s job, shout and swear for the next ten minutes then rush around trying to call in a favour or rearrange work for that day. Send the boys off to their various jobs and trot off to yours (late) feeling exhausted before you even start work. Before you have even arrived on site the phone has rung…. ‘Boss, the chipper won’t start, there’s a car in the drive, and no one’s here’ blah blah blah, you get my point. It goes on and on every day for the next, however many years.

My body is in ruins, my hair went grey in my twenties (although that could well have been the wife’s fault) and I have suffered from stress for 30 years to the point of mental breakdowns.

Eighteen months on from making the life-changing decision to employ a manager to run my tree surgery company and I have minimal stress. My turnover, and more importantly my profits, are considerably higher. I can have days off when I like and can go on holiday and relax without worrying about losing money or what is going on while I am not on site.

So why did I not do this sooner?

  • To begin with, I was a young tree surgeon. I felt invincible, and I loved everything about starting up in this very exciting industry;
  • I wanted to pocket as much of my hard-earned money as possible and to keep my labour costs down I worked harder instead of employing another man on the job as it’s what made sense to me;
  • I didn’t trust anyone to do any part of my job as well as I could;
  • I was unsure as to whether I had enough work coming in to keep a manager employed;
  • It just didn’t cross my mind until I physically and mentally couldn’t do it anymore.

I know we shouldn’t dwell on the past, but oh how I wish that I had seen the light sooner.

I have successfully run my tree surgery business for years. However, with the ever-progressing technology and increased intense paperwork required on building sites alongside other commercial companies and my lack of knowledge and patience, being a practical man, I had started to become less interested in the work I had always loved to the point of seriously considering giving up my chosen career of tree surgery.

My son, who has always expressed an interest in becoming a tree surgeon, went to college to learn the basics of tree surgery and started working for the company at the age of 17. Initially, I tried to talk him out of it. Having had a total hip replacement at 43 and suffered from back problems and all the other ailments acquired from doing a physical job for years, I didn’t like the thought of him ending up with the health problems I now face. Undeterred, he wanted to take over the world.

Best decision, ever….

With his combined commitment, fitness, enthusiasm and computer awareness (not from my side of the family), we decided to go Arb Approved. That was another great decision. With my experience and the status of becoming Arb approved, it made our company more desirable to larger clients. Health and Safety was at the top of our game, an aspect of tree surgery that is becoming so much more important to get right, than the work itself.

Computer stuff aside, I was still unhappy with the stress levels and unenjoyment of my tree surgery career of which I would find hard to change in my forties, knowing nothing other than throwing chainsaws around for thirty years.

I had, since probably my mid-thirties, thought about employing a manager. But, due to the reasons listed above, I had kept putting this off.

After a random conversation with a lifelong friend who had given up being self-employed to become a manager for another tree surgery contractor and was loving it, I decided to put the feelers out.

After several meetings and ironing out the details, along came Dave. Dave recently decided to give his tree surgery business up due to tree-related health problems (perfect timing for me!), and it was a decision that would change my life overnight.

You know that bit of kit you always wanted but didn’t have the work for and couldn’t justify it? But when you finally got it, you found more than enough work for it and wondered why the hell you didn’t get it before…well, Dave’s that bit of kit, and I’m working that bit of kit hard (sorry Dave).

Some benefits of having a manager (not in any particular order)

  • You don’t have to miss out on the jobs you wouldn’t have had time to pursue or felt was going to take up more time pricing than it was worth.
  • You can have well-deserved mid-week lay-ins.
  • You can cherry-pick what you want to do and what you enjoy doing.
  • You do not have to listen to employee problems.
  • You don’t have to hear about every tiny little problem on-site that could easily get sorted with a bit of common sense.
  • You don’t have to work in the rain ever again.
  • You gain someone as committed to your business as you are.
  • You can add to your company’s resources, such as tree reports and surveys.

I am fortunate to have found someone who had run his own business at a high standard and has proved to be a great asset, with his enthusiasm and commitment.

Cons (or con, as I think there is only the one)...

Yes, I have had to decrease my salary and tighten my belt personally, but there comes the point in your life where your health must come before money. Incidentally, 18 months on and with profits increasing I could increase my salary; but you know what? I’m settled with what I want out of life now and don’t feel the need. Ploughing it back into an ever-growing business makes more sense anyway.

It does make me wonder where my business would be now, though...

I have always been a practical man and acquired enough knowledge through the years but would have liked to have learned more. Working seven days a week, often till late in the night catching up on paperwork, I never made time to research topics to further my knowledge of trees.

Had I employed a Dave 20 years ago, I do wonder where my business could be now…


The best climber in the world.

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