Employee’s Personal Vehicle for Work

Employee’s Personal Vehicle for Work

One of the largest exposures your field workers have to contracting a communicable disease is spending time in the same vehicle with someone who is contagious while riding to and from the jobsite. The close quarters inside the cab of a truck make it very easy for an infected person to unintentionally transmit a virus to their co-worker.

Because of this many tree services have begun to allow employees to drive their own personal cars and trucks during the work day.

While this risk control measure is great for reducing the risk of spreading an illness, it creates other liabilities to the tree care business that needs to be managed. Below, I have outlined the additional concerns a tree care company must consider to address to successfully implement a “Drive Your Own Car Policy”.

For the Employee
In the vast majority of states, their personal auto insurance policy will be the primary policy in case of an accident. Meaning:
It is also the only policy that will pay for damage to their car. Their limit of liability is very important, as this limit is what initially will be used to pay for any injuries or property damage they cause to others.
If they use their personal vehicle regularly for work purposes, they should talk to their auto insurance company to make sure coverage is there for ‘business use’. Without their insurance company knowing about the use of the vehicle for work, there may not be coverage for an accident.

For the Company
A standard business auto insurance policy does not have coverage for anything that happens with non-owned vehicles. A tree service must add Non-Owned Auto liability coverage to provide liability protection if your company gets sued due to an accident by an employee with their vehicle while on company business. This is most likely going to be secondary coverage that pays after the employee’s personal auto policy limits are exhausted.

A business auto insurance policy does not and cannot provide coverage for physical damage to the employee’s car.

Management Best Practices
Know the driving record of the employee that is asked to drive their personal vehicle for work purposes. This is no different than analyzing if an employee can drive a fleet vehicle for the company based on their driving record. (Contact ArboRisk to get a copy of our MVR Guidelines to determine if you would like them to drive or not).

The tree service should get a copy of each employee’s personal auto insurance policy to prove coverage is in place and review their liability limits.
A minimum limit of liability that an employee is required to carry on their personal auto insurance policy is important. (We recommend requiring, at minimum, $500,000 coverage per person, but check with your state’s Wrongful Death Act regarding the minimum lawsuit for a minor’s death. Use that as a guideline for setting your limit.)

Decide whether or not the company will pay for repairs or deductibles associated with breakdowns or accidents that happen while on work time.

Inspect the employee’s vehicle for any safety issues before allowing that employee to drive for work.

Decide how the company will reimburse for expenses, either using the IRS guideline for mileage or another way that is better suited for the company.

Create a written policy that outlines all of the requirements and responsibilities of both the employee and the company.Allowing employees to drive their personal vehicles on the clock can be a very critical risk management move during the midst of a community wide outbreak, however, the tree care owner must ensure that proper steps are taken not to create a larger liability to the company when doing so.

Written by: Eric Petersen

Business Management Strategies for Pandemics

BUsiness Management Strategies for Pandemics

Last week we looked at some safety strategies to help individual team members prevent contracting the coronavirus in the article Coronavirus Safety for Arborists, however, a lot of my conversations with our clients have turned to how can the business minimize the impact of this pandemic? Here are few business management tactics that can help insulate your business during a pandemic.

What Essential Services are You Providing? – According to a joint statement released by TCIA and ISA, many of the projects that tree care companies perform everyday could qualify as essential services, allowing your tree service to continue to operate. Make sure to read their statement and understand the specific rules in place in your operating area. Also, If you temporarily lose enough employees due to illness, you will need to prioritize which jobs to do first. How you reorganize and service your customers will be critical for success after the illness crisis. I suggest focusing on the highest hazard jobs first, as long as you can safely get the work done. Communicating this to your customers is of utmost importance as everyone won’t fully understand the restrictions and allowances for tree care companies to continue to perform work during this time.

Know Your Crew – Similar to how we outlined knowing your crew member’s medical history in our article “Know Your Crew”, knowing the skill strengths and weaknesses of each of your team members will help you shuffle crews easier when facing a shortage of employees who are out sick.

Distractions at Work – Remember the most common reason we all want to work safe, our family and loved ones, are also some of the largest distractions when we are at work. During this time of uncertainty, many people will have other things on their mind while they are at work Talk to your team about how to identify and handle distractions so your team members don’t suffer an injury or get into an auto accident because they were focused on what is going on at home rather than what’s right in front of them.

Down Payment or Prepay Discounts – With the economic uncertainty that has already come with the coronavirus being able to get money upfront as a down payment on soon-to-be completed jobs is a great way of working your cash flow. Also, offering discounts or low interest rate financing for customers to prepay or agree to the work is a way to insulate your cash flow.

Pay-As-You-Go Work Comp Policy – Speaking about cash flow, there are Work Comp policies where you pay the premium based on the prior month’s payroll. When your payroll is lower from not doing as many jobs, your premium is lower which can be a tremendous boost to your cash flow.

Flexible Sick Day Policy – Make sure your sick day policy is flexible enough that an employee who is sick does not come into work just so they can continue to get a paycheck. If they are sick they should feel comfortable that they will not lose their job or because of an illness. Obviously, this will slow the spread within your company and hopefully prevent a full scale outage of employees at one time.

Remote Office – We touched on this last week, but there are soooo many benefits to being able to have your office staff work remotely. Limiting the spread of an illness is one of the largest benefits, but also to work remotely effectively, your workflow procedures and document record keeping need to be in order. When you have solid procedures and document storage it is remarkable how efficient your office team can be.

These are just a few ways to help minimize the impact of a pandemic within your tree service. We’d love to hear other ideas, please comment below to help fellow tree care companies through this tough time.

Written by: Eric Petersen

Are You as Good as Disney?

Are You As Good As Disney?

For many, many years now, the best example of customer service has been the Disney franchise. Their commitment to providing a magical customer experience has been the benchmark for companies to achieve. Recently, I heard Doug Lipp, former trainer at Disney University, speak about how Disney tirelessly trains their employees to provide the level of customer service expected at their theme parks. When listening to Doug, I couldn’t help but realize these same principles apply to the tree care world. So here are Disney’s four keys to great customer service.


Safety – Disney’s top priority is safety. If their customers get injured or do not feel safe inside the park, no amount of magic will get customers to return. The same goes for their employees. They understand that without safe employees, the premises does not stand a chance at being safe for visitors. Isn’t this true with the tree care industry as well? If your employees do not have safety in the forefront of their mind at all times, preventable accidents will happen. Not only do you risk having your employees miss work because of being injured, you also lose out on profit from a job if property damage is done because an employee was careless. Safety should always be the top priority of a tree care company.


Courtesy – Every Disney employee is instructed to be courteous to everyone they meet no matter what. They feel that when their employees treat every interaction with another human being as the most important conversation of their day, the impact on the customer experience is immeasurable. Think about how your crew interacts with your customers. Are they given the freedom to engage with the customer to help them understand what you are doing? Does your crew foreman ensure that all crew members are taking care of the property that they are working on as best as they possibly can. Focusing on courtesy at the jobsite will go a long way in helping ensure that the customer has a great experience with your company.


Show – Because the Disney team performs the first two points really well, their third key to great customer service is what their customers remember, the show. To Disney, the show is when team members provide the unforgettable experience. This can only happen when the effort on safety and courtesy is successfully achieved. They have a mirror on the door of the dressing rooms that all characters look at before they walk into the park. This reminds the team member that as soon as they step out into the park it is show time. How do you put on a show for your customers? Do you have clean looking trucks and equipment being operated by team members all wearing your uniform? When working at a job site, your employees should act in a professional manner no matter if your customer is home. The show that your team puts on starts the minute they get to the job and doesn’t end until they are in the trucks driving away. Even then, your trucks act as a mobile billboard giving a show to other motorists as they drive. Watching true arboricultural professionals at work is a spectacle and one that can tremendously help your company gain more customers if you nail the show.


Efficiency – Disney’s believes that efficiency comes at the very end of their customer experience. They create a better customer experience by focusing on safety, courtesy and show which in turn creates efficiencies throughout their organization. This works so well, that the increase in efficiencies creates additional capacity within their theme parks. In other words, when they succeed at the first three points, they become more profitable as a result. Think about your company. If your team members work safer and do not have many accidents or injuries to deal with, you become more efficient. If your employees are polite to your customers, you as the owner will have less fires to put out. Lastly, if your customers are enjoying the show that you give them, they will talk about your company more, creating free marketing opportunities for your business. The efficiencies a tree service gains from following those key points can make the difference between a thriving organization and one that is struggling to make it.


There are many ways to provide a great customer experience, however, I strongly encourage you to try the Disney model within your company. The more customers that have a fantastic experience with your team, the more likely they are to share their story and recommend your company to others. Isn’t that what we all want? More business from satisfied customers? Take a look at these four principles and find a way to fit them into your culture

Written by: Eric Petersen

How Changing One Word Will Make Your Business Explode

How Changing One Word Will Make Your Business Explode

By Eric Petersen, CIC

A few years ago, I was attending the Wisconsin Arborist Association’s Annual Conference when I was awe struck during the keynote session. Jim Skiera, former International Society of Arboriculture’s Executive Director, was speaking on the state of the tree care industry.

He asked everyone in attendance to stand up. All three hundred of us, slowly got out of our seats and waited uncomfortably for him to ask us to do something. His direction was straightforward; if you removed more trees last year than you planted, please sit down. I looked around the room and was shocked to see only a handful of people remain standing.

He then asked the rhetorical question; if the vast majority of us in this room are removing more trees than we are planting, what does the future of our industry look like? He then challenged everyone in the room to change one word within their list of services. He said to eliminate the word “removal” and use “replacement” instead.

While the concept was very simple it had a huge impact on me. Imagine if you started doing tree replacements instead of just tree removals. First off, you would definitely stand out from the other tree services that your potential customer has talked to and you immediately open the door for future revenue.  There are many other benefits to this customer experience approach, but three obvious ones that you would realize are:

  • Instantly boost your revenue from the tree plantings.
  • Become the valued professional who is looking to take care of their property long term, not just do a one-time job.
  • Create an easy future revenue stream by offering to prune the young tree and others on their property.

So just like Mr. Skiera did to the WAA crowd years ago, I challenge you to change merely one word within your operation and watch your business grow.

If you need assistance helping your business become extraordinary, reach out to an ArboRisk team member about our Thrive Risk Management Sales & Marketing Package! We can help you address any marketing concerns and take your business to new heights!

Personality Testing for Employers

Personality Testing For Employers

How many times have you heard someone say, “I hire for personality not skills”? It’s a common theme amongst many owners and managers even in skilled labor industries like tree care world. So what does that mean and why are they doing it?


The simple response that you will hear is that skills can be taught, personality cannot. I agree with this thought process and want to give you an article devoted to figuring out what personalities you have currently and what type you’d like to build your team around.


Find the Right Tool – Just like using the proper sized saw for a removal job, the first step is to commit to using a tool to help identify key characteristics that you want to see in your team members. There are many personality tests on the market today, however, my favorite one is True Colors. True Colors is a simple personality test that helps highlight how individuals communicate and what they value most which in turn helps create a better team atmosphere within your organization.


I first was introduced to the True Colors system while attending a Leadership Workshop for the ISA a few years ago. All of the participants at the workshop took the short test and were split up into groups based on our colors. It was incredible to see how accurate the simple test was at identifying our core personalities. Throughout the workshop, we wore nametags that had our primary color listed. It helped all of us communicate much better and understand where the other party was coming from when discussing certain topics. Because I found it so powerful, I brought it back to the Wisconsin Arborist Association to do with our Board Members and internally for my team at my agency. Knowing how others communicate has been a tremendous help to accomplishing any of our goals.


Test Your Current Staff – Once you choose which tool you will use, have your current employees take the profile and discuss the results with each of them individually. What did you learn about your top performers? Are there common traits amongst the best within your team? What skills does your team lack as a whole? Learning from these tests will help you identify what type of person you want to hire next. It also can help you recognize if you have someone in the wrong role. Perhaps, one of your production climbers would be better suited as a sales person because of their personality. Or maybe the opposite, a person on the sales team would be better fit for technical work like consulting or plant health care. Understanding who you have on your team and how they interact with others is an enormous benefit to you as the leader of the organization.


Use with Interviewees – Lastly, when you are looking to bring in someone to your team, have them take the same test that the rest of the team has. Make sure that their personality will fit the position that they are applying for. Too often in the tree care industry, owner’s hire anybody with a pulse and a driver’s license. This will only do one thing; set up the business and new employee for future pain and trouble when personalities clash and internal issues arise that would have been prevented if they were never hired.


Getting the right person on your team is difficult to do, however, using personality tests can be a great tool for you. And because there always seems to be a shortage of potential employees, check out our article on the 5 Hiring Hotspots to get some ideas on how to start recruiting top notch talent.


Written by: Eric Petersen