Developing Your Business Culture Using Flashlights and Mirrors

Developing Your Business Culture Using Flashlights and Mirrors

Written by Kevin Martlage

In previous articles I have written about using flashlights and mirrors to help develop your personal leadership skills and the leadership within your organization. The concept is simple and helps you review leadership ability by using two different tools: a flashlight and a mirror. The mirror is used to help you see and reflect on those things as the leader you are doing to grow, sustain, or detract from the impact you are making on your team and organization. The flashlight is used to help those you are leading see a unique perspective or point of view when it comes to their ability to help grow, sustain, or detract from their leadership ability and impact. As a leader it is important that you are using both to help enhance your leadership, while also leading and coaching your team to enhance theirs. Using the two tools together can help you and your team grow while building trust using intentional communication which are both fundamental building blocks of any supportive and successful business culture. 

To build a successful business culture using flashlights and mirrors you must first identify what a good business culture looks like so you can then assess how you are supporting or detracting from those goals. Throughout my 30-year career I have had the opportunity to collaborate with some amazing teams and in some amazing business cultures around the world. As a leader it is difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what made one business culture better than the other, however, there are common themes that seem to stick out when I think about the ones that were most supportive. If I were to hold the flashlight up to all the business cultures and environments I have worked in during my career the following strengths would be evident:

  • Roles and responsibilities were always well defined 
  • There was clarity around what is wanted or needed from each other
  • There was an elevated level of trust among all parts of the organization
  • Everyone pursued solutions that were mutually beneficial
  • People did what they agreed to do 
  • Information was timely
  • Communication was open and honest
  • People admitted to and took responsibility for their actions
  • There was timely and constructive feedback
  • There was proper and appropriate confidentiality
  • I felt empowered and trusted to make decisions within my scope of responsibility
  • I was asked for my input when appropriate
  • I had access to training and development
  • Values and principles were followed 
  • Opinions were shared constructively and never negatively

If you look at the items listed they can be combined into the following themes:

  • Shared Values
  • Intentional Trust
  • Transparent Communication

As a business owner if you can hold up your ‘culture mirror’ and say that you are actively living up to and supporting your personal and organization values, are building trust with your team, customers, and stakeholders, and doing so with clear, consistent, and transparent communication you could probably say your business culture is supporting the growth of your organization. In addition, if your employees can say the same thing about you and the organization, you are heading in the right direction. If you cannot say that regarding all areas, that is OK, it just means that you might have opportunity to gain experience in those areas as a leader and organization. 

If you do not have your business culture identified or outlined as an organization, that is OK. However, I would strongly recommend that you take time to identify what good looks like and the specifics of your culture that you are trying to build and support. There are many ways to do this including looking into the New Heights Package offered by Arborisk Insurance or to take the free Culture Assessment being offered this month. Both will provide you a high-level perspective on potential areas for business culture enhancement. Whether or not you do either, it is important to start to discuss, build, and document what good looks like for your organization. 

Once you have built your ‘business culture mirror’ by identifying what good looks like, it is time to bring out the flashlight and see what specifically is enhancing, sustaining, and detracting from your culture. The easiest way to do this is to simply ask your employees. Ask them their thoughts on how defined and effective they feel the business culture is in your organization. You can develop your own questions or use some of the following questions to begin the conversation:

  • What do you feel are our core values as an organization?
  • Do you feel supported in your personal and professional development? 
  • Are there any areas of the organization you would like to find out more about?
  • Do you feel like my communication to you is effective?
  • Do you feel like you are properly informed regarding the direction of the organization?
  • What are you enthusiastic about within this company? Do you feel supported in that passion?
  • What are you passionate about outside this company? DO you feel supported in that passion?

There are hundreds of questions you could ask, but the most important thing is that you are asking them to help shine the light on opportunities and specifics of what is important to your employees. As these conversations continue, you will start to shine the light on those areas of opportunity where you can further align your leadership approach and business culture with the expectations of your employees. Through frequent, transparent, and intentional communication you will also build trust among the team and within your organization which will help to ‘power the flashlight’ as you continue to identify, build, and assess the right business culture for your organization. 

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.

Remember, Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” What are you doing to identify and develop your business culture as you provide your organization the opportunity to advance and surpass the strategic goals of your team?

Tom Dunn

Growing Your Company With Trust

Growing Your Company With Trust

Written by Kevin Martlage

This month we are focusing on the culture of your business and how you can continue to work towards developing and providing a supportive and nurturing environment for your employees, customers, and those your business serves. So far this month we have discussed the importance of a strong business culture and its positive impact on the success of your team and company. We have also discussed how intentional and transparent communication can build trust which is the life blood of any successful company and team.

Trust is present in almost everything we do as a tree care professional so why is it not always a critical consideration in our approach with our teams and our company? When I think about trust in the tree care industry, there are numerous things that come to mind. For example:

  • Climbers have TRUST in their climbing equipment that the manufacturer made it safe.
  • Our customers TRUST that we have a level of knowledge to ensure we properly take care of their tree.
  • We TRUST that our customers will pay us the amount of money agreed to in our accepted work proposal.
  • Our customers TRUST that we will do the work to the best of our ability and according to the work order.
  • Our crews TRUST that as owners we will provide a certain framework and resources to do the work we are asking them to complete.
  • We TRUST our crews to do the work with a high level of safety, accuracy, and professionalism.
  • Climbers TRUST that the person who might be belaying their rope will not let go!
  • Climbers TRUST that their review of a tree and their equipment before using SRT will ensure their safety if they follow the proper procedures.
  • Tree Care Owners TRUST that Arborisk will have their best interest in mind as they insure their company.

Trust is evident in everything we do regardless of if you are a climber in a 50-foot oak, the ground crew member clearing and chipping brush, or the owner of 5-person, or 500-person tree care company.

There are also examples of trust in our personal lives which is what we probably all think of first when we hear the word trust. I am certain you can probably identify a negative situation which had a root cause of trust being challenged or not being present. If you review that situation close enough, I can almost guarantee that if trust was present the situation would have been resolved more efficiently while helping to continue to build the foundation of trust for any potential future situations with that person. You could also probably agree that trust was challenged in that situation because both sides were not on the same page or made up their own “story” about what was going on.

Bottom line, without trust we are left to our own mind and resources to try and figure it out, to tell the “story” and to protect ourselves, which can lead to confusion, lost productivity, and misalignment among our staff, colleagues, friends, and family. 

So why then do I call trust the life blood of any successful company and team?

The reason trust is so vitally important to success is because without trust, you are enabling your team to get sidetracked as they try to understand your decisions, question your intent, protect themselves, or simply feel comfortable about being on the same page with you. In extreme circumstances, a lack of trust can even help foster resentment and the need to be defensive and always right which ultimately takes away from collaborative progress and success of the team. 

Building Trust is sometimes difficult for organizations because it must be intentionally built over time. Much like a personal relationship or friendship, it takes work and intentional focus on providing the context, intent, and insight regarding your thoughts and approach. Whether you are interacting with a friend or a member of your team, trust is always on stage, and either being built or broken depending on the situation and conversation.   

There are numerous ways to build trust among your team and within your organization. However, there is one thing that can kickstart your journey of building trust. You must first start by looking inward as a leader to understand how you are impacting trust within your own company. To do this, I would recommend asking yourself these questions:

  • What “stories” might my team be trying to figure out?
  • How can I always provide a great experience of understanding and collaboration for my team?
  • What are some things that I may be questioning? Chances are my team is too.
  • How is a lack of trust impacting the productivity of the company and team?

By looking inward, you can then start to identify some key areas where you can adjust your leadership approach. These adjustments, while unique to you, should be centered around the following:

  • Always ensuring you are providing transparent and intentional communication
  • Providing information designed to help eliminate the need to “make up their own story”
  • Communicating your intent by providing the desired outcome and reasons behind your decisions

Providing insight in a transparent and intentional manner, will allow your team the opportunity to build trust with you because they understand the intent and reason behind your decisions, communication, and direction of the company. You are helping to eliminate the unknown and offering a collaborative approach to the direction of the company.

A culture built on trust will help to empower you team to make sound decision without the fear of betrayal or misunderstanding. Trust will also help to create a team that will be focused and aligned on moving the organization forward instead of being consumed by trying to answer the unknown or making up their own stories or direction. Trust is certainly difficult to build, and it takes times, however the return on that investment will pay dividends that will help to build a foundation for your company that is both sustainable and flexible.

As you build trust I guarantee it will become the X factor regarding your organization and be the secret sauce that takes you to the next level, helps to retain your employees, and streamlines your operations. This will ultimately help you enhance your ability of being the place where everyone wants to work, and your customers want to do business with. Thus, making Trust one of the most important ingredients to the sustainability, success, and growth of your company.

For additional help with growing trust within your company, contact a member of the ArboRisk Insurance teamIf 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.

As part of ArboRisk’s Thrive family, we are also offering a FREE business culture self-assessment to help you begin to identify some ways in which you can continue to enhance your company’s culture. The assessment is extremely easy to complete and will take you less than 5 minutes. Following the completion of your assessment, you will receive a summary of recommended areas of impact to consider as you continue to enhance your company culture. 

Tom Dunn

Business Income for Your Tree Service

Business Income for your Tree Service

Written by Mick Kelly

I’ll start this week’s tip with a question: Do you have a piece of equipment or a vehicle that you can’t operate without and would be hard to replace in the current market? 

If the answer is yes, you do have an essential piece of equipment or vehicle and you know it would be hard to replace today, then Business Income coverage is something you should consider strongly.

What is Business Income Coverage?

Business Income Coverage (BIC), otherwise known as Business Interruption Coverage, will replace lost income, in the event of a covered loss to your business property, business vehicle(s) or equipment. 

Who needs it?

Anyone who relies on a certain building, vehicle or piece of machinery in order for their business to operate and generate income. 

How much do I need?

This depends on how much you need the damaged/lost building, vehicle or equipment, how difficult it would be to replace them and how much revenue they generate for you. 

While the calculations can be pretty extensive, I’ve provided an outline at the end of the article. 

Business Income Coverage for Buildings:

In the tree care industry an example of Business Income Coverage for buildings is when a building that you use to kiln dry timber for firewood/lumber sales burns down and you don’t have another kiln to dry out your wood. Thus, you would be losing income for this shutdown in operation until the building is repaired or rebuilt. Coverage applies to loss of income suffered during the time required to repair or replace the damaged property. The Business income Coverage will take your pretax income and, based on the insurer, will pay out a replacement for that income until such time the building is repaired or the indemnity term is reached (usually 12 months). 

How do I know if I have this coverage?

When looking at your declarations pages for the coverage, look under the property section for either: “Business income and extra expense coverage” or “Business income coverage form without extra expense”

Business Income Coverage for Autos:

BIC isn’t typically included on auto policies and probably isn’t necessary for all the vehicles in your fleet. To get paid out for loss to a vehicle, you will have to prove that another similar vehicle wasn’t available for rent/purchase and that there was a loss of income due to not being able to complete a certain job because you were without that vehicle. 

While this would be a hard claim to make on a Ford F150, the same cannot be said for the grapple saw truck in your fleet or a specialty crane. These vehicles are very hard to rent or replace quickly and a tree service could very easily lose jobs if they don’t have this truck operating. 

How should I apply for this coverage:

There are 2 options when applying for this coverage: 

  • Listing specific vehicle(s) on your policy with separate limits of insurance for each item (example – 5 trucks, each with its own limit).
  • List two or more items under a single limit of insurance that applies to all losses to any or all of the listed vehicles damaged in a single occurrence. The insurance world calls this blanket coverage. This is typically more favorable and acts similarly to blanket property coverage allowing for a higher limit per vehicle.

Business Income Coverage for Equipment:

Again, BIC isn’t typically included on your Inland Marine policies or on scheduled mobile equipment and, just like with the auto policy, it may not be necessary on all equipment.

In the current market we have clients who are struggling to replace chippers and mini-lifts and unfortunately, without those pieces of equipment, they lose jobs to their competitors. The same two options are available for the equipment as are available for the vehicles. 

Waiting Periods:

Instead of having a dollar amount deductible, BIC is subject to a time deductible, which is called a Waiting Period. This is where the insurance company does not pay for the first 72-hours after the incident happened. For an additional premium, the insured can select a 24-hour waiting period or no waiting period.

How to Calculate Business Income Coverage

Again, the calculation of Business Income Coverage can be complex, however, the minimum items to consider when choosing a BIC limit are: Operating Expenses (such as: Taxes, Payroll, Advertising), Fixed Expenses (for example: Utilities, Mortgages or Rent) and your Profit Margin. Follow the three steps below to calculate your coverage limit.  

  • Calculate your total revenue.
  • Subtract your business’s expenses and operating costs from your total revenue. This calculates your business’s earnings before tax.
  • Deduct taxes from this amount to find you business’s net income. Your net income will be the limit that you can insure on your business income policy.

The world of insurance is full of little nuances that can make a huge impact on your company’s success and Business Income Coverage is one of them. If you have any questions on Business Income Coverage for your tree service, please contact an ArboRisk team member today or sign up for our Free Insurance Coverage Review to ensure you are protecting your business as best as possible. If you are ready to take the next step, check out ArboRisk’s Thrive Risk Management New Heights Package! Our most robust risk management package, our team of industry experts can help you focus on key areas to successfully grow your company.

Insuring Your Property & Equipment

Insuring Your Property & Equipment

Written by Tom Dunn

A couple of areas of insurance that tree care companies probably don’t spend as much time considering as some other exposures is commercial property and equipment insurance. Those who deal with insurance for their companies are probably more likely to lose sleep thinking about property damage their crews might cause to a client’s property or an auto accident or perhaps a work related injury to one of the crew members, before they think of property and equipment insurance. 

However, you should pay attention to this area of your overall insurance program and be knowledgeable on what these policies protect and how losses are paid out. It sounds pretty straight forward based on the names, but as anyone who has to deal with insurance on a regular basis, coverage is not always as it seems. 

Let’s briefly summarize what the coverage is meant for and some considerations you need to be aware of.  

Commercial Property Insurance covers damage to businesses’ buildings (Real Property) and contents (Business Personal Property) due to a covered cause of loss, such as a fire. The policy may also cover loss of income or extra expenses that result from the property damage. 

Most commercial property policies cover buildings and personal property situated at your premises or within a short distance thereof (such as 100 feet) and include a number of coverage enhancements, for example accounts receivable, outdoor signs and property of others that will have their own sub-limits.  

There are different methods for valuing and assigning coverage limits to a commercial property that determines the amount an insurance company will pay at the time of loss. Two of the most common follow. 

  • Actual cash value (ACV): The amount equal to the replacement cost minus depreciation of a damaged or stolen property at the time of the loss.
  • Replacement cost (RCV): The cost to replace the damaged property with materials of like kind and quality, without any deduction for depreciation. Insurers typically will not pay on a replacement cost basis for any loss until the loss or damaged property is actually repaired or replaced. 

Key differences in these two valuation methods are the scope and cost of the coverage. Replacement cost coverage will obviously cost a lot more as your limit will need to be listed at the value to replace the insured item, but will be worth it if you have a major loss and have to rebuild a property from the ground up. 

Why else is ACV and RCV important?  Insurance companies have taken steps to make sure their policy holders are insuring their property to value or at a level to generate enough revenue to pay for any losses that may occur. This is called co-insurance. Basically, the amount of coverage purchased must be equal to at least the co-insurance percentage times the value of the property. If it is not, the policy holder becomes a “co-insurer” for that portion of the value they didn’t insure to. A standard co-insurance percentage used is 80%, but again everyone will have different needs.  

Causes of loss forms establish and define the causes of loss (or perils) for which coverage is provided. The special causes of loss form (CP 10 30) provides what is referred to as all risk coverage or coverage for loss from any cause except those that are specifically excluded.

Commercial property insurance policies will commonly have exclusions for certain perils like earthquakes and floods, unless those perils are specifically added and listed on the policy. Additional coverage for these contingencies can be obtained depending on where you live and the risks in your area of the country.

Other considerations: 

  • Business Income coverage: Also called Business Interruption coverage. This covers the loss of income suffered by a business when damage to its premises by a covered cause of loss causes a slowdown or suspension of its operations. Coverage applies to loss suffered during the time required to repair or replace the damaged property. 
  • Extra Expense: Covers expenses beyond the normal day to day operating expenses that are necessary to keep a business going when recovering from a loss. For example, leasing equipment. 

Notice I mentioned earlier that commercial property insurance may cover business income and extra expense. Talk to your agent to make sure it is properly addressed in the insurance company forms being used. Commercial businesses should operate with a Business Continuity Plan (read a past weekly tip on this topic here) Develop an action plan for catastrophic disasters and keep accurate records or prior year’s income and income results. 

Equipment insurance is a generic name that is more appropriately called tools and equipment, contractor’s equipment, equipment floater, and/or mobile equipment. The common theme is they are all names for a type of insurance called Inland Marine insurance.

Why all the different names? Inland Marine insurance originally derived from ocean marine insurance, which protected property transported over water. Once on land, the coverage form changes to Inland Marine. It is also sometimes referred to as an equipment floater, because it covers property that “floats” or moves around, as opposed to staying in one place like the commercial property insurance. Think of your skid steers, stump grinders, and chippers here. Ok, enough of the name game. We will stick with Contractor’s Equipment going forward. 

Most Contractor’s Equipment is written on an “all risk basis” and provide coverage for direct physical damage and loss for exposures like theft, fire, floods, equipment breakdown and vandalism. Contractor’s Equipment is also written on either a replacement cost or actual cash value basis and provides coverage on either a scheduled basis for larger pieces of equipment or blanket coverage basis for items like miscellaneous tools. 

Other Considerations

When looking at Contractor’s Equipment policies, tree care companies should consider the following additional coverages, which may already be included in a policy or may need to be added through an endorsement:

  • Coverage for equipment leased, rented or borrowed from others. For many tree care companies, it doesn’t always make sense to own all of their equipment. Sometimes a business will lease equipment from someone else. An equipment lease typically makes the tree care company liable for damage to the equipment that occurs during the term of the lease. 
  • Rental reimbursement and continuing expenses. If equipment is damaged by a covered loss, many insurance companies will provide coverage for additional expenses related to the claim, such as rental or lease of similar equipment, overtime wages needed to complete the work and transportation of the rented equipment.
  • Coverage for expediting expenses. Specialized or customized equipment that is compromised may not be easily replaced. To keep work on schedule, contractors often incur additional labor or freight costs to expedite delivery of replacement tools and equipment. Some forms of contractor’s equipment insurance can help cover these expenses.

Suffice to say, insurance coverage for a tree care company can be pretty technical but is critical to help keep your company in business. Knowing a little more about what it is and how it is covered can help you when you review your overall insurance program with your insurance agent. 

If you are wondering whether or not you are properly covered, contact the ArboRisk team to set up a free Coverage Review or check out our Thrive Risk Management New Heights Package for more information on developing and growing your business.

Business Continuity Plans

Business Continuity Plans

Written by Tom Dunn

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, morphs and continues to disrupt the lives of individuals and businesses to varying degrees across the country, the need for an overall business continuity plan is a critical resource for tree care businesses to proactively deal with any crisis you may encounter.

You could argue that the tree care industry was not as affected by COVID-19 as other industries, but safe to say no one predicted the scope and duration or was fully prepared for it. If there are any positive takeaways, the pandemic did force tree care businesses to become more nimble, resilient work forces.

When looking at the bigger picture beyond a pandemic like COVID-19, there are a myriad of scenarios that can disrupt your operations from inside or outside the organization. Natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes or wildfires can strike anytime. The loss of key personnel or a business partner can be just as debilitating and sometimes as unpredictable as the weather. Technological hazards are an entire subject area by itself where most tree care companies are left exposed.

The thought of trying to address all of the scenarios can seem daunting, but trying to handle a situation in real time is frightening. Hoping you can recover, without having a plan in place beforehand is not an easy way to go through a tough time. The familiar phrase, “hope is not a strategy, or is not a very good one” cannot be truer. Being prepared with a solid plan, that has been tested, will give you a much better chance to recover and speed up the recovery time.

There are typically four steps to developing a business continuity plan. Using a team approach from different functional areas of the company will help. This approach brings different perspectives, lightens the load for any one person and will result in a better plan. There are endless resources that can be found on the web, but https://www.ready.gov/ recommends addressing the operational and financial impacts from business disruptions through the following steps:


  1.     Business Impact Analysis

Assessing the different threats to the business processes that organizations face is usually accomplished through a risk assessment as part of a broader (BIA) Business Impact Analysis. The items that you need to look at to complete a BIA are:

  •       Lost sales and income
  •       Delayed sales and income –Cash Flow
  •       Increased expenses (e.g., overtime labor, outsourcing, expediting costs, etc.)
  •       Regulatory fines
  •       Contractual penalties
  •       Customer dissatisfaction or defection
  •       Delay of new business plans

For more help in creating your BIA visit https://www.ready.gov/business-impact-analysis.


  1.     Recovery Strategies

Once you have a handle on the impact a specific threat has to your tree care company, it’s time to plan on your recovery. This worksheet from ready.gov is a great resource to help you and your team think about what will be needed in the recovery period. When completing the worksheet, think about the following:  

  •       Alternative ways to restore business operations to a minimum acceptable level
  •       Prioritized recovery time objectives
  •       Developing manual work arounds


  1.     Plan Development

The third step is to create the actual plan. Your plan can use any format that you’d like, but ready.gov has a template that you can use to organize the necessary plan components here. A few key areas that you need to look at when developing the plan are:

  •       Assemble a business continuity team
  •       Address Crisis Communication
  •       Incident Management – who’s in charge?
  •       Program Maintenance and Improvement


  1.     Testing and Exercises

Testing the business continuity plan allows the team to tweak how to approach an incident and find gaps in the plan and address where it needs improvement. For ideas on how to test your business continuity plan, visit https://www.ready.gov/testing-exercises.


In addition to creating your own business continuity plan, most insurance companies will offer loss prevention/loss control services for their policy holders that will further help you mitigate against losses. These services are built into the premium that you already pay so take full advantage of these services. Remember, while business insurance can cover a portion of the losses from these events, and should be a part of any business continuity plan, it will not cover all loss scenarios.

There is no getting around the fact that developing a Business Continuity Plan and updating it regularly will require a significant time commitment from you and your staff, but the time put into it will pay off tenfold during a crisis. Work on the plan during the slow season. Just like your insurance policy, it will provide you with some peace of mind, so you can work on other areas of the business.

ArboRisk has additional resources related to business continuity and disaster planning that our clients have access to. Contact a team member anytime to help you get started on developing a business continuity plan or sign up for our Thrive Strategic Planning Package to set the proper trajectory for your business.