All about Apprenticeship: Q&A

All About Apprenticeship: Q&A

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Responses from August Hoppe and Josh Morin

By now, most tree care owners have heard of someone within the industry utilizing apprenticeships for their employee recruitment and development, but I know there are still a lot of questions out there surrounding this topic.

For this week’s tip, I was honored to interview two of the most influential and knowledgeable tree care owners on apprenticeships, August Hoppe of Hoppe Tree Service in Milwaukee, WI and Josh Morin of We Love Trees in Niwot, CO. They both gave some fantastic answers as well as very practical guidance for tree care companies wanting to explore this further.

Q – Are tree care apprenticeships here to stay or just a fad?

August – I believe, they are here to stay for sure, and only growing. Companies that use the program see the success and keep adding more employees into it. It’s a snowball effect. In Wisconsin, we hardly have to promote the program anymore, companies just keep adding enrollees.

Josh – In my view our society and our country is embracing models of learning and career preparation that allow you to earn money while you learn, instead of the traditional academic model which has many of our young people in a lot of debt. From what I hear from young people is that they don’t want to screw themselves with unnecessary debt, and they want meaningful work with a viable career path that will give them options in the future that isn’t a dead end. In my experience Arborist apprenticeship offers this. Will they last? We’ll see.

Q – What are the benefits you’ve personally seen with making apprenticeship a part of your tree care company’s recruiting strategy?

August – We have seen more and higher quality candidates that truly want a career, not just a job.

Josh – The challenge and bottleneck for growth for many businesses in our industry has been attracting people that are interested, willing and capable of doing the work. Apprenticeship which offers a structured learning process and incremental growth plan is attractive to a different type of person. It attracts people that understand that they will have to work hard and learn along the way, but they will get something out of it in return that will be valuable to them in the future.
Our industry has a diversity opportunity, so anything we can do to speak to more people of diverse backgrounds increases the size of the funnel of people we are recruiting into our industry.

Q – Can you attribute a dollar amount of growth your company has seen to the successful implementation of the apprenticeship within your company?

August – It’s hard to put a $ sign on culture or branding. But apprenticeship has definitely helped our employees understand that they are true professionals and they carry themselves that way. It gives them confidence and pride. Customers see that every day and want to work with companies that are excellent.

Josh – I also cannot attribute a dollar amount of growth, but I can say that attracting people who want to learn and grow is fundamental to the growth of a successful business.

Q – What are some of the challenges that tree care companies run into when starting down the apprenticeship path and how can they avoid some of them?

August – It’s scary to start as it seems like a lot of work with a lot of processes. But just like anything else in life, hard work pays off when it’s completed.

Josh – The owner and leaders of the company need to believe in the model and understand that investing in training and educating their employees is a company value and is of value to their company.

If the leadership of the company does not believe in the model of apprenticeship and does not see the benefit, then they will not be interested in investing in the related learning that is required with an apprenticeship program.

Q – How much of the business owner’s time is involved in setting up the apprenticeship and maintaining it?

August – It depends on each organization. I would recommend a business owner stays involved in setting up the program, but larger outfits may be able to delegate to an HR or training and safety manager for maintaining it once the business processes are figured out. At Hoppe Tree, we use a committee approach with a few staff members responsible for different parts of the apprenticeship program, including myself.

Josh – In my experience, setting up the apprenticeship program in terms of paperwork is fairly easy and takes a few hours, then, having an administrative person, sit down with the apprentice and explain the program and register them in the database. The challenge can be working the related learning into your business model. We try to schedule this classroom time during slower periods of business like in the winter.

Q – What would be your top piece of advice to tree care company owners regarding apprenticeship?

August – It’s a great way to train your employees in a consistent manner. It can improve culture, it helps with retention of employees, it leads to better recruitment, and also it helps our whole industry become more professional. Can you imagine what our industry will be like when we have 100,000 journey worker arborists?! Please get on board with this!

Josh – I recommend taking on the apprenticeship program with the goal of starting with one employee, and getting them through the program successfully and approaching the process as an experiment, and with curiosity so that you can learn as much as possible along the way, and figure out how, and if apprenticeship really lines up with the needs of your company and its people.


Thank you, August and Josh, for your time and passion in leading this very important and exciting development in the tree care industry! For more information on apprenticeships, check out the following resources:

OutsideCareers.org – How to Use it

Outsidecareers.org – How to Use It

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Recruiting new employees is consistently one of the largest challenges that we hear tree care owners face while running their businesses. There are many reasons for this, but one of the main reasons, that people don’t want to talk about, is the lack of effort that individual businesses put into recruiting.

Why don’t tree care companies invest time and effort into recruiting? Well truthfully, recruiting is an activity that produces future gain and not immediate returns. With the tree care industry slowing down a bit post-pandemic, tree care owners and management have been even more focused on the short-term revenue producing activities they need to accomplish to keep the business running.

So how can you start to implement a better recruiting strategy with minimal effort? Use what’s already created for you! Visit outsidecareers.org right now to see all that is available for you to start promoting careers in arboriculture.

Outsidecareers.org has been assembled over a number of years to directly help tree care companies effectively recruit new employees to their company by highlighting all of the awesome things the tree care industry provides. Think back to when you first learned that you can make a lifelong career in arboriculture. Remember the fire that was lit inside you and how there are hundreds of thousands of people out there wanting a career like you have, but just don’t know it exists.

Outsidecareers.org can help you get the message out to those people and make your recruiting so much easier. Here are 5 ways to use the website to improve your recruiting efforts within your company.


  1.                   Home Page Content – Every website should have the most important information available on the home page and this website does just that. There are flyers, documents and videos for you to use that drive home the message about the industry and the opportunities available. The home page is a great place to send prospective employees or centers of influence so they can familiarize themselves with the industry. Content like, What is an Arborist, 7 Reasons to Become an Arborist or an explanation of the common jobs within the industry all will help you illustrate the potential in the industry.


  1.                   For Employers Page – Within the website there is an entire page dedicated specifically for employers. Inside this page, you will get access to documents on Digital Marketing Basics to help promote your business, sample postcards and flyers to use to prospective employees as well as a sample career path on the Your Adventure Begins Here document. Use these resources to target specific potential team members on a list gathered at career fair or from high school guidance counselor or local fraternal organization.


  1.                   Post a Job Page – This is possibly could be the most powerful part of the website. An active directory of available jobs within the tree care industry. Getting your open position posted on here will be seen by people that are already familiar and interested in the industry. I know what you might be thinking, but Eric, this is a national website, I only draw new employees from my local area, why should I post an open position for my company here? My only response to this is “why not?” You never know where your next superstar will come from. Promote the unique qualities of the geographic area that your business is in and try to attract people that will fit well in your community. I think you’d be surprised how many people may move to your company if they just knew you existed and needed help.  


  1.                   Promote Scholarships Page – There are many different scholarships available for students involved in arboriculture or urban forestry programs. By using this page, you can encourage current employees, prospective employees and future arborists to apply and gain further education. Being a source of information for those that want to expand their professional career is a great way to build trust and gain the opportunity for more employment referrals into the future. Plus these scholarships are already established and administered by industry organizations so all you have to do is promote them, nothing more!


  1.                   Create an Apprenticeship Program – This page talks about the advantages of establishing an apprenticeship program within your company and how to start forming it. Apprenticeships have become a new trend within the tree care industry and while they can be complex, don’t have to be. Use this information to start creating an apprenticeship program within your company and watch it start to attract new professionals to your team.


If you’re still reading this article and not surfing outsidecareers.org, I encourage you to go there now and play around with it. I’m sure you will find even more value that what I’ve outlined above. For those that want additional guidance on how to best implement some of the ideas presented on the website, reach out to an ArboRisk team member today and enroll in our Hiring & Recruiting Thrive Package.

Pre-Employment Testing

Pre-Employment Testing

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Employees represent the largest exposure to every tree care company. From creating liability by damaging property or injuring others, to injuring themselves, to filing lawsuits against the company or other employees, having the right employees should be of utmost concern for every business owner. And of course having the right employees can only happen if you hire the right employees. 

Unfortunately, many tree care companies hire based on an immediate need and do not take enough time to thoroughly vet the prospective employee. When this happens, all too often, the employee that is hired is not a great fit for the job or the company and ends up creating more headaches or potential liability than they should have. For more on Hiring Best Practices, check out our article here.

One way tree services can minimize the chances of making a bad hire is to use pre-employment testing during the interview process. There are many different types of pre-employment tests that can be utilized, from personality tests, to cognitive ability tests, physical ability tests, aptitude tests, however, we are going to focus on a few that you could start doing tomorrow within your tree care company. 

But before we get into a few common tests, I want to make sure to point out that no matter what you are testing for, you need to make sure the tests are related to the job the prospective employee is applying for. You also need to be clear that your offer of employment to this individual is conditional upon the successful passing of the pre-employment test(s). 


So what are some common types of pre-employment tests for the tree care industry? 

  • Driving Test – We all think we are great drivers, but reality shows us that most of us are not. Establish a driving test to assess the skill level of the prospective employee before you allow them to drive for your company. We have an entire article devoted to this topic to help you set this up within your company. 
  • Knot Tying Test – Arborists love to brag about their experience and many times someone’s resume doesn’t match their actual skill or knowledge level. Create a simple knot tying test using the 5 most common knots that your production team uses to ensure the prospective employee can showcase their knowledge with the knots. This doesn’t have to be a disqualifier if the prospective employee fails, but it is definitely a way to peer into the skills and knowledge that they have, verifying what they told you about their experience on their resume or employment application. 
  • Tree ID Test – Like the knot tying test, a simple tree ID test is a good way to understand the knowledge level of the prospective employee. Because tree species vary drastically depending on the region you work in, you may have to temper your expectations with this, but it definitely can help you assess the potential employee’s tree knowledge. 
  • Personality Profile – There are many different personality profiles that you can choose from and they all basically work the same way. Once you have decided on a specific test, have everyone on your current team take the test to set a baseline of what is desired within your company for the various positions you have. Then each prospective employee takes the test and can be compared against the company’s benchmark to determine how well they will fit within that position at your company. 
  • Physical or Ergonomic Assessment – This one is imperative to preventing from hiring a work comp claim! Work with your local Occupational Health Clinic and have them develop an assessment based on the physical skills that an individual needs for each position within your company. This gives you a chance to ensure that the prospective employee can physically do the job they will be hired for and will highlight any unresolved physical injuries that the individual may have. 

I encourage you to begin to implement one or more of these during your next hiring phase. I guarantee that over time you will hire more employees that fit long term with your company than those who fizzle out after a short period of time. 

If you would like help or guidance in creating these pre-employment test for your company, reach out to an ArboRisk team member today to enroll in our Hiring & Recruiting Thrive Package.

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/