Vehicle Title and Liability

Vehicle Title and Liability

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Do you know how your vehicles are titled? I know that sounds like a silly question, but you wouldn’t believe the number of times we hear tree care owners being unsure about how each vehicle is titled and any mistakes could cause a major issue with your insurance coverage. 

Simply put, the owner of the vehicle assumes the liability of that vehicle. If the Named Insured on the insurance policy doesn’t match the owner that is listed on the vehicle’s title, coverage for a claim could easily be denied by the insurance company. 

If your company is well established as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Corporation, you probably have over time transitioned the titles of each vehicle into the business’s name, however, it only takes one vehicle to be incorrect to have an issue. Many times it is the vehicle that the owner drives. Whether they initially bought a truck in their personal name or they knew it was going to be the truck that they and their family will be driving, owner’s tend to not be as careful getting these trucks into their company’s name as they should be. 

Remember, you started the legal entity (LLC or Corporation) for a reason, to separate your business’s liability from your personal assets. You need to put all vehicles used for business into the business’s name to properly separate that liability. Besides, no business owner wants to have his or her personal assets on the line if an employee loses control of the vehicle and injures someone in a car accident. 

If you just started your business, or bought a vehicle right when you opened up your company, chances are you were not be able to buy it in the new LLC’s name because the new business did not have any credit built up. If that is the case, you can still insure the vehicle on your Business Auto policy, but you need to make sure that your personal name is listed as an Additional Insured and Loss Payee for that vehicle. 

The same thing goes for leased or long-term rented/borrowed vehicles. If you do not own the vehicle, but have an agreement to use it for an extended period of time, make sure your insurance agent knows so you can get the proper Additional Insured and Loss Payee language on the policy and ensure there will not be a problem if that vehicle is involved in an accident. 

To verify the name on the vehicle’s title, take a look at each vehicle’s registration paperwork. The name on the registration will be the same that is on the title as both the registration and title are legal documents. If you find a truck that is not in your business’s name, immediately work on getting that switched or talk to your insurance agent to add the proper insurance language.

If you want to have some guidance on the points mentioned above, reach out to an ArboRisk team member today or be sure to check out our Thrive program at: https://arboriskinsurance.com/arborisks-thrive/

4 Ways to Lower Business Auto Insurance Cost

4 Ways to Lower Business Auto Insurance Cost

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Ooof! Is your Business Auto Insurance cost skyrocketing? We consistently hear that the largest insurance issue for tree care companies right now is the cost of their business auto insurance. 

And to make matters worse, the cost is not the only thing that is frustrating in today’s Business Auto insurance environment. Tree care companies are also having trouble adding vehicles due to the value or size as well as dealing with tighter driving record requirements from the insurance companies.

So how do you gain some control of your Business Auto insurance? 

To start, remember that the insurance industry needs to make a profit to be able to pay for the claims that they’ve promised to pay on the policies that they’ve sold. To do this, they analyze (underwrite) their policyholders and determine the price they feel is necessary to achieve this goal. If you, as the policyholder, can show the insurance company why you will be a profitable account for them (having less claims than expected), you will receive a lower premium. 

There are many things you can do to lower your Business Auto cost, but below are what I feel are the four most impactful ways. 


1) Driver Management – Your largest exposure to your fleet are your drivers. Having solid driver management procedures is the only way to begin to lessen this exposure. There are three important aspects of driver management:

a. Hiring Process – The best way to avoid hiring a bad driver is to have a process in place to identify what is required of your employees. Ensuring that your written job descriptions state the driving requirement of the position is the first step. Then run background and Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) checks to verify the information that the applicant gave you on the application is correct. Lastly, establish a set of MVR guidelines that a person must meet before they can be hired for a position with driving responsibilities.

b. Driving Test – After someone qualifies to drive your vehicles on paper, make sure they can drive in real life. Create a driving test for each type of vehicle within your fleet and make all drivers prove their driving ability before allowing them to go out onto the road for you. Remember to include the following items in your driving test: pre-trip inspection, starting, stopping, turning both directions, backing up and parking. Many companies also include trailers and operation of permanently attached equipment (aerial lift, dump body, etc.) into their driving tests.

c. Annual MVR Checks – An often forgotten part of driver management is checking the driving records of current employees. Obviously, your employees do not stop getting into accidents or earning traffic violations the moment they begin to work for you. Create an internal system to run the driving records of every driver at least once per year.


2) Fleet Management – The second way to lower your Business Auto cost is to ensure the vehicles in your fleet are used correctly, properly stored and maintained and free of any compliance issues. You can accomplish this by focusing on these four elements of Fleet Management.

a. Vehicle Inspection – Having a solid pre/post trip procedure in place, creates the opportunity to eliminate most maintenance issues with your vehicles. Not only is an inspection a compliance requirement, but it is the surest way for your vehicles to stay in tip top shape.

b. Vehicle Use Policy – Create a written policy that sets the expectation of who is allowed to drive the company vehicles and when they are allowed. This can be placed into your employee handbook or your fleet safety program. 

c. Vehicle Storage – Consider where the vehicles will be stored when not in use. Is your garage large enough to store all vehicles inside out of the elements, or do you not want to have all of your trucks in one place in case of a fire or tornado. The answer to the storage question will be different for each tree service, so work through the logistics for your company and be intentional about it.

    d. Compliance – Having a truck tagged out of service by a state trooper is a major productivity blow, plus the financial ramifications with a fine and the loss of use for that vehicle while it is out. We recommend having someone in your company be in charge of compliance for your fleet. Make sure you know if your state has their own DOT or if they only follow federal regulation. You can ask your insurance company to run a report (SAFER report) to get a snapshot of your historical compliance to start your effort at improving in this area. 


    3) Telematics – You’ve heard the phrase “data is king” right? Well it definitely pertains to your drivers and vehicles as well. There are many different vendors that offer a myriad of choices on what you can track and monitor with your drivers and vehicles. Installing a telematics program can give you so much accurate and individualized data that managing your drivers and vehicles can be very easy.


    4) Insurance Policy – The first three ways to lower your cost are all done within your company, however, there are items directly within your insurance policy that can be done to lower the cost as well.

    a. Presentation of Proactive Programs – If you’ve worked on the first three items within this article, make sure you let your insurance agent know about them. Give them a copy of the written procedures and a sample of the completed drivers test to prove that you are utilizing these tactics to lower your over-the-road risk. It is then the job of your insurance agent to sell this to the insurance company to get a lower premium at your renewal.

    b. Deductibles – Look into what options are available for your physical damage deductibles (Comprehensive and Collision coverage). You can look to raise the deductible or perhaps drop that coverage all together for older vehicles. I strongly believe that there is nothing wrong with self insuring, however, I want you to intentionally choose to self insure versus it happening to you because you did not have the right insurance coverage. 

    c. Vehicle Value – The value of your vehicle has a significant impact on your insurance cost. You want to make sure the value of the vehicle and any permanently attached equipment is accurate. 


    If you are struggling with the cost of your Business Auto policy and want to have some guidance on the points mentioned above, reach out to an ArboRisk team member today or be sure to check out our Thrive program at: https://arboriskinsurance.com/arborisks-thrive/

    Money in the Bank? Spend it Strategically This year

    Money in the Bank? Spend it Strategically This Year

    Written by Kevin Martlage

    So, you had a successful year as the owner of your tree care company. In 2023, you increased sales, managed your expenses, hired a few new employees, allocated raises for those employees, bought some new equipment, and are now ready to move into the ‘off season’ and start to plan for 2024. That move to the off season may seem exciting due to the profit margin you drove last year and the ‘extra’ money you now have in the bank at the end of your fiscal year. As a business owner, that situation, while exciting, can also add extra stress as you try to determine what to reinvest back into your business as you work towards your mission and strategy.

    I have the honor to facilitate strategic planning with various organizations across the country.  Part of that planning is that I always encourage my clients to ‘take a deep breath’ at the end of every year, celebrate the success, but then refocus on the long-term sustainability of their company and employee support. This refocus and planning can be done in numerous ways, but the important thing is that you are strategic in how you approach your annual planning and budget allocations for the next year.

    As an entrepreneur and owner of your own company it is sometimes difficult to stay strategic regarding planning and reinvestment back into the company especially if you had a great year. Why mess with a good thing right? Additionally, it is sometimes difficult to stay strategic if you happen to be managing your business from your checkbook or your next invoice, perhaps not reaching all the goals you set for the year. Regardless of how successful you are and the year you just had; it is important to stay strategic in determining what you are going to do with the “money in the bank” as you advance your company. My recommendation is to determine how to spend it strategically.

    So, how do you start to strategically decide how to use that extra ‘money in the bank’ to further impact your organization? My suggestion is that you spend some time with your management team and use two of my favorite consultant tools known as, ‘start, stop, continue’ and good old fashion prioritization. By using the ‘start, stop, continue’ method you can begin to look at your organization critically regarding what’s next, what works, and what doesn’t. This review will ultimately help you determine what your strategic areas of focus should be as you reinvest in your company and your team. Once you begin to categorize your business into these areas you can then begin to prioritize next steps based on various factors such as budget, impact, resources, and effort.

    The easiest way to begin this analysis is to think of your company in three critical areas: People, Process, and Product. As you review each category, ask yourself the following questions about each:

    • Start – What do we need to start doing that we haven’t done in the past?
    • Stop – What do we need to stop doing that is negatively impacting the company?
    • Continue – What do we need to make sure we continue to ensure sustainability

    By reviewing these questions for each of the three critical areas (People, Process, Product) you will start to see trends and common themes that can be addressed. Once those themes have been identified, you can start to prioritize the items by looking at 4 additional areas of strategic review. Those areas include:

    • Cost / Budget
      • Start – What will it cost for us to implement the item(s)?
      • Stop – How much will we save if we stop the item(s)?
      • Continue – What is our return on investment if we maintain the item(s)?
    • Organizational and Strategic Impact
      • What is the overall impact this will have on our organization?
      • Pros?
      • Cons?
      • How does it align with our mission and goals?
    • Resources
      • Start – What resources will be needed to make this happen?
      • Stop – What resources will we save by eliminating the item(s)?
      • Continue – What resources are currently being used to maintain the item(s)?
    • Organizational Effort and Energy
      • Start – How much effort will be needed by the current team to implement?
      • Stop – How much time will it save the team if we no longer offer the item(s)?
      • Continue – How much energy is currently being devoted to the item(s) to maintain?

    Completing a deep-dive review of the various areas you can then start to prioritize what is next and where you want to adjust to strategically impact your organization. There are numerous ways to prioritize, but a process I like to use is a simple exercise that requires you to compare each item individually against every other item being considered. This will help you identify the priority in how you want to strategically proceed if you are having issues in deciding. Typically, when you go through the start, stop, continue exercise and 2nd level review, it is clear the highest priority. However, if you are having issues in determining what is next, you can use the provided worksheet as a guide.


    FREE Priority Worksheet from Nextier!

    Having money in the bank is a good thing. Determining what to do with that extra money can be exciting, but also daunting, especially if you are new to the ownership / leadership game.  Thinking critically and strategically about your organization is difficult especially when you factor in the emotional ties and effort in building your company from the ground up. To help facilitate this review process, I encourage you to look at identifying a trusted advisor or outside consultant to help you navigate through this process and strategic advancement of your organization. While this typically requires a financial investment to contract with a consultant, the return on investment regarding the impact the outside support will provide typically pays for itself when done properly. This is especially true as you continue to reinvest in your team and their development while aligning their skills with the strategic direction of your organization.

    The great Walt Disney once said,

    “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”

    This quote is very relevant as you continue to strategically evaluate your tree care company. Sure, we all want to make money, but it is the top-level tree care work that allows you to make that money to then reinvest in your company, your people, your equipment, and ultimately your customers. It is my humble opinion that the strategic stewardship of your profits, assets, resources, and team should be the focus of any owner/entrepreneur as they continue to impact their customers and the industry they love. That strategic focus and reinvestment will allow you to effectively advance your company, while building a sustainable foundation for continued ‘money in the bank’ and organizational impact.


    If you are interested in having a conversation, or learning more, about how the Arborisk Thrive program and Consultants can help you strategically review and advance your company, please check out our Thrive website at: https://arboriskinsurance.com/arborisks-thrive/

    Managing Open Proposals

    Managing Open Proposals

    Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

    Even the most successful sales arborists do not close every proposal they present every time. In fact, the majority of proposals delivered in the tree care industry are not accepted until days or weeks after the initial presentation. So how you stay in touch with your prospect during that time has a huge impact upon your closing rate. Here are a few things to consider when following up with a prospect on an open proposal.

    Set Follow-up Expectation – Whether you hand deliver or email a proposal to someone, let them know when you will follow-up with them regarding the proposal. This takes some pressure off of them immediately and also sets the expectation of how you will work with them. This also does a lot more as it builds trust with the prospect, as long as you adhere to the expected follow-up time frame. People want to work with a tree care company that does what it says it’s going to do. 

    Immediate Confirmation – The best way to start the follow-up process on an open bid is to confirm receipt of the proposal immediately with the prospect. If you are hand delivering the proposal, this is obviously easy, however, more and more tree care companies are emailing proposals to their prospects. If you are emailing proposals, it’s imperative that you give a quick follow-up phone call to the prospect to let them know their proposal has been emailed to them. We know that most people don’t answer the phone any more anyways, so this call will most likely be a voicemail to the prospect. Doing this ensures that the prospect will know to look for the proposal and may eliminate confusion if the proposal gets stuck in a Junk Email folder. Obviously, this is the perfect time to also let them know you’re available for questions on the proposal. 

    Utilize Technology and Teamwork – Many tree care companies use automated email campaigns for marketing purposes, but few utilize them for sales management. Get your marketing and sales team together and have the marketing team explain the functionality of the software that you are using currently to the sales team. The sales team will then inevitably have ideas on what would help them stay in front of the prospects better. If you are a smaller company, chances are the marketing team consists of the same people as your sales team. That is totally okay as well and probably gives you more reason to spend a little time during a weather day to figure this out. Most of the CRM’s (ArborGold, SingleOps, etc.) will have technology available for you out of the box that can be customized relatively easily. 

    Internal Follow-Up Organization – Being organized with your open leads is a must as well. Included in many of the CRM’s will be a method of setting tasks or follow-ups to yourself as the salesperson to remember to check back with that prospect. Learn how your system works and become a dedicated user of that technology. It may feel clunky at first, but there is not one sales person in the world who can remember every single detail about each open proposal and when to follow-up next without help. If your company doesn’t have a CRM, create a simple follow-up spreadsheet in Google Drive (so you can share it with others if you need to) and ensure you enter information at the end of each day and look at it every morning during the work week to stay current with the prospects. 

    Use Testimonials – Using testimonials from happy customers during your sales process can give you a huge boost when looking to close more open proposals. If you don’t have testimonials from your own jobs that you’ve sold, work with other sales people to get a handful of testimonials from various job types. Insert these testimonials into an automated sales follow-up campaign or better yet, get them printed as postcards and mail them to your open prospects at a regular interval. If the testimonial states what type of work was done and how pleased with the job your team did, it will make it easier for the prospect to accept your bid. 

    Expiration Date – Like with everything, the prices you charge today, may not be the same as what you will need to charge in 6 months. Make sure when you are delivering a proposal there is an expiration date on it so they know that the price is locked in until that date. Some people may look at this as being gimmicky, but in reality it will protect you from a customer accepting a very old bid and expecting you to do the work at the proposal price. It also sets up a true closing date so you can take it off your open proposal list and move to a lost lead list. Too many sales arborists get overwhelmed when they have too many open proposals and then the follow-up to the real opportunities is hindered. 

    Communication and responsiveness with the prospect are the two keys to successfully managing open bids effectively. If you or your team is struggling with staying on top of the open proposals or with your closing rate in general, reach out to a member of the ArboRisk team and ask them about our Sales & Marketing Thrive Package. We will work one-on-one with your company to help you better your sales process and close more of the jobs you want.

    Click here to obtain a copy of the Sales Sweet Spot worksheet to help you understand which services you offer fit best with your ideal customer.

    Click here to learn more about our New Heights Package and how it can help you identify your ideal customer and services and grow your business!

    What to Include on Proposals

    What To Include on Proposals

    Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

    When creating a proposal to sell tree work, it’s essential to outline the terms and conditions clearly to avoid any misunderstandings. While this list may not be all encompassing, here are some key elements to include in your proposal. 

    Scope of Work – Obviously, clearly defining the specific tree care services that will be provided on which trees is vital for the proposal. Be as detailed as you can about the type of service, the number of visits it will take to complete, and any limitations or restrictions that you may encounter along the way. 

    Estimated Completion Date – This may sound elementary, but since most tree care companies have a work backlog, communicating this to the prospect right away starts to build trust. Of course, you don’t want to underestimate this completion date as that can hurt your relationship as they will be expecting the work to be done by then, regardless of the extenuating circumstances that have arisen. 

    Exclusions – Clearly state any services that you are not performing or didn’t perform when creating this proposal. This is a very key part of the proposal as it will limit your liability if included and give you a chance to sell additional work in the future. Phrases like…

    “This proposal was based upon a visual inspection of the tree from the ground. For a more complete tree risk assessment/appraisal contact your sales arborist to schedule with our team.” – OR –  “This proposal only addresses the trees that are mentioned above and does not include recommendations on any additional trees that are on the property.”

    Additional Services – I like to call this the Amazon Method section. If there are any additional services that customers typically buy together (think fertilization program with pruning services or planting a new tree after a removal, etc.) use this section of your proposal to show the customer what other people like them have purchased in addition to the described service on the proposal. Make sure it is clear that these additional services are only included for an additional fee so they do not think they are getting these for free.

    Terms and Conditions – Include your terms and conditions within the proposal, so the prospect knows what items this proposal are contingent upon and what they will be responsible for. If you have any warranties/guarantees outline what is expected of the customer for these to be valid (think watering requirements for newly planted trees) and what the limitations are.

    Insurance – This is a great way to showcase why your professional tree care company may be the better fit for your customer. Specify the insurance coverage that you carry and state that a Certificate of Liability Insurance can be provided upon request.   

    Signatures and Date – Ensure that both parties sign the proposal and include the date of signing.

    Lastly, it is crucial to have an attorney review your proposal template to ensure it complies with local laws and regulations and protects the interests of both the tree care company and the customer. Remember, the proposal is going to be the document that your crew and the customer rely on to achieve a positive outcome on the project, so the more of these elements you can include, the better experience your customer will have.

    Click here to obtain a copy of the Sales Sweet Spot worksheet to help you understand which services you offer fit best with your ideal customer.

    Click here to learn more about our New Heights Package and how it can help you identify your ideal customer and services and grow your business!

    What Are You Leaving On The Table?

    What Are You LEaving on The Table?

    Written by Matt Curts

    Sliver Beach Pizza in St. Joseph’s Michigan is a great family spot for quality pizza and craft beer.  This past weekend it became the spot of a great debate amongst three generations.  The topic, the greatest to ever play the game of basketball.  My father is almost 70 years old so you can probably guess that the likes of Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson made it into the discussion.  I swear I think I even heard a reference to Pistol Pete before we asked him to just stop.  For me I wasn’t even sure why the conversation was necessary, certain that all present had seen the Last Dance.  But my son and nephews insisted that the players of today are greater than the greats of our day.  They are especially fond of a so-called King.  Nonetheless, it’s a circular conversation really, that always ends in focusing on one or two players and relegating all others to a list of the underappreciated.    

    With any discussion of comparison, we often use statistics until we can’t.  Offensive statistics, defensive statistics, vertical jump statistics.  But all roads lead to the number of championships won.  And when that doesn’t satisfy, we use terms like “killer instinct” and “great vision” to try and explain what seems inexplicable.  Back in the day, Spike Lee even asked, “Is it the shoes?” 

    But no matter how you slice it, individual players do not win team sport championships, teams do.  And so, it goes back to stat lines and box scores and consecutive championship runs before grasping for words to separate what is good team from a great team.   But is it really so hard to explain?

    Hall of Fame Coach Phil Jackson once said, “Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the me for the we.”

    Today players demand to be placed alongside other all-stars to chase the championship that has alluded them their entire career.  Time after time we see these super teams become super duds as the individuals can’t see how to work together for the collective good.  They share the same skills but not the same values or since of identity.  This doesn’t show up on a stat sheet or box score.  But everyone knows in spite of their combined superior technical skills they still lack “it”.

    That “it” is a great culture.  A clear identity.  A great culture allows for nothing to be left on the table.  But too many analysts sniff at that which can’t be easily measured and often serves a branding exercise as much as anything.  Chemistry is often an afterthought because people don’t believe they can clearly define what they are to do to create it.  This is left brained thinking.

    In your business you have followed all the best practices both inside and outside of your industry.  Your strategy is defined for efficiency and effectiveness. The systems and processes are in place.  The individual skills have been hired and developed. You have surpassed all your expectations when you started your venture.  But still, you know there is more to be had.  What is holding you back?  What else could be possible?

    Culture is how we make meaning of the world.  It’s the way we perceive it based on our past experiences and values shaped by those experiences.  It’s how we believe the world even sees us.  In contradiction to popular belief our brain is not split in two.  But, the right side of our brain starts processing our surroundings and draws conclusions before the left side is even aware of what is happening.   It governs the whole of our relational life and manages our strongest relational connections.  In a sense our right brain is running a five-minute mile and our left brain a six-minute mile.    

    The good news is that what seems to be immeasurable is being measured every second of every day by your people as they constantly search for a place of belonging.  The human brain was designed to look for and run on joy. Our joy drops when we sense few faces shining on us and few people happy to be with us. ALL OF US are collectively looking for our we.  When organizations excel in creating high trust and high accountability the right part of our brain has found what it is looking for and our left brain can fully engage in the mission at hand.  Thus, producing a high productive culture.  Great cultures don’t leave anything on the table because its people have found what they first look for. 

    So how do you become the group that others are seeking after?  I believe it starts with two things.  The first is to simply be honest.  Being honest is not simply just telling the truth (although that is one measurement for a good workplace culture).  It is also being unapologetically you.  The Detroit Pistons of the 90’s produced a team that was hated by many but revered by a few.  Their style of bad boy basketball offered a place of belonging to some who felt like misfits among the elite.   They succeeded because they fully bought in to the values of the group.  Willing to sacrifice their personal accolades for the whole.  Not all cultures are created the same.  You’re unique, so own it.  Second is to clearly define and know your roles within your organization.  All great teams start with the greater why of defining who we are and what we are about.  But it still requires each member to know how they participate in that why.  It is often the underappreciated ones who make it possible to have the greatest success.  The greatest of all time does not win six championships without the likes of Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, and Toni Kukoc playing their roles to perfection. 

    If attachment is the strongest force in the human brain, then we need to give others something to attach to beyond our strategic plan.  Peter Drucker famously quipped that culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you succeed in attaching relationally to your people you will succeed in ensuring nothing is left on the table and you will accomplish immeasurably more than you could have ever dreamed or imagined.

    So, here’s to going from good to great.  It simply starts with being unapologetically you.  

    Be sure to join us for the Culture Webinar later this month. Also, be sure to check our other Weekly Tips articles throughout the month of July.

    If you are interested in learning more about how to identify, build, assess, and nurture your business culture, please feel free to take our culture assessment which can be found at the following link:

    Company Culture Assessment

    Once completed, a Thrive Consultant will review the results with you and develop a high-level action plan of next steps. 

    For additional help with growing your company, contact a member of the ArboRisk Insurance team! If you’re looking to improve upon your communication skills or want to help one of your key team members develop personally, sign up for the Thrive Leadership Development package today! Additionally, if you find it difficult to find or keep quality employees, check out our Thrive Hiring & Recruiting Package.

    Tom Dunn