Learning from Peers

Learning From Peers

One of my favorite ways to learn is to listen to and interact with peers of mine; those that have gone through or are going through the same issues I am. I feel that done correctly, one can learn so much more from your peers than by researching an issue on your own or simply attending a seminar with one speaker offering only their knowledge/opinion to the audience. 

However, learning this way takes practice and must be done with intent to be successful at it. Below are my four tips to conquering how to learn from your peers:

Prepare – As with most things in business, being prepared is critical. Whatever you are attending; a conference, networking meeting, webinar workshop, take time beforehand to create questions that you want to ask others. This is especially important if the event you will be attending has a facilitated roundtable discussion. Jot down the issues you want help with so you can get your questions answered during the discussion

Contribute – Givers Gain. I truly believe in that statement. The more that you offer and contribute to the success of others, the more you will benefit personally. It may simply be from the satisfaction of helping someone else, but that positive energy will bring great things to you and your organization. However, a word of caution on this; don’t contribute with the sole purpose of your betterment. People will sniff out this insincere attitude right away and you won’t get the gain you had hoped. Be genuine with your intent to help others and you will prosper. 

 Respect – Don’t be like our politicians today. If you disagree with something that someone says, respectfully allow them to have their opinion and leave it at that, especially in front of other people. If their viewpoint could potentially cause unsafe or dangerous consequences, find a private time to talk to that individual alone and ask first if you could talk to them about it as you want to learn why they feel that way. In a non-confrontational setting, you both may be able to learn and help each other out. Basic respect for your peers is easy to do and will propel your ability to learn from others. 

 Connect – After the event, seek out another attendee that you enjoyed listening to and make a one-on-one connection with them. Perhaps schedule a call to follow up on a question that you had or to simply turn a colleague into a friend. Most of you will agree, that this is definitely the most rewarding part of attending events and building relationships in business. Yet doing this intentionally, will build your roster of unofficial advisors, confidants, and friends. Who wouldn’t want a stable of people to turn to for help within their business?

If you are looking for opportunities to interact and learn with your peers, seek out your local ISA chapter, TCIA and continue to follow ArboRisk, as each of these organizations have plenty of ways to learn from others. Personally, one of my favorites is ArboRisk’s Become Extraordinary Workshop, where you get 5 weekly topics to discuss amongst a small amount of tree care owners and leaders.

Written by: Eric Petersen

Who is Your Brand’s Villain?

Who Is Your Brand’s Villain?

Who would Batman be without the Joker? Or Superman without Lex Luthor? Or Luke Skywalker without Darth Vadar? All heroes need a villain – the villain is, inherently, what makes the hero, a hero. Without the Joker’s embrace of chaos, Batman’s need for law and order would fall flat. The same can be said of your own brand: without the contrast of your own “villain,” your pitch to consumers may not resonate as soundly. By identifying your own villain, you are differentiating yourself from the competition, and makes your purpose in the market that much more tangible to the consumer. (1)

Identifying Your Villain

Before you are able to identify a villain, you first need to define your purpose in the market. WHAT are you fighting for? WHO are you fighting for? Defining your purpose, or WHY, within the market will help you identify your top competitors. (Shameless Plug: Don’t know how to define your “why?” Check out our blog post entitled “What is Your Why”) Villains are not necessarily other companies either – they can be beliefs or trends that affect your market and may negatively impact your product.

Samsung is the villain of Apple. The two companies are continually in a race to provide the best technology experience to their consumers. Their rivalry is actually to the benefit of us, the consumer: as we continue to demand more and more, their companies strive not only to compete with each other but also to be constantly on top of the latest trend.

When Netflix first hit the market (& our hearts), their villains were two-fold: brick-and-mortar video rental stores (RIP Blockbuster!) and the belief that instant access to movies and tv shows from the comfort of one’s home was “a small, niche market” (2). Netflix fought for a new definition of normal and now nearly 60% of homes in America stream their platform (3). Ironically, Blockbuster executives passed up the chance to buy Netflix in early 2000 and, well, er, you know the rest.

Within the tree care industry, your villain does not necessarily have to be a rival company. Similar to one of Netflix’s villains, the general public’s lack of knowledge surrounding the tree care industry can be a top villain for your organization. To overcome this villain, your company should begin a campaign targeted at educating customers or residents in your city about the importance of professional arborists and proper tree care. I don’t recommend reinventing the wheel either – Treesaregood.org is a great resource for assistance in educating individuals about the tree care industry.

To Be the Best You Have to Beat the Best

Don’t settle for average – identify your top villain, your supervillain. Think about why your supervillain can hurt your company. Learn from them, and grow from there to become the superhero you need to be to survive. Remember, your best villain will oftentimes have an incredibly relatable and attractive “dark side” that your customer doesn’t even realize is a negative (4).

Amazon began as a garage operation that sold, wait for it, books. Its founder, Jeff Bezos, had bigger ideas, however. He began identifying the best products that were sold in stores that could be sold online and eventually started doing so. By selling these products online, he inadvertently took on retail conglomerates like Sears and Boston Store and, ultimately, contributed to their closures. Amazon is now among the top retail stores in the world and was arguably the catalyst for the retail apocalypse (5)

Your villain should scare you. If it doesn’t, aim higher.

Written by: Katie Petersen

Drones in Tree Care

Drones in Tree Care

SJust thinking about using drones in tree care gets me excited. Being able to get a bird’s eye perspective while standing safely on the ground definitely has its advantages for your company. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that by 2021 there will be 3.5 million unmanned aerial vehicles in the United States with 1.6 million of them being used for commercial purposes. A large percentage of those commercial drones will be used in the tree care industry. So if you’ve been thinking about using them, here are some things to consider.

Uses for Drones:

Drones can be utilized in many different ways within the tree care industry. The most common application for them will be in doing visual inspections. The operator can perform both Level 1 (fly-over) and Level 3 (aerial inspection) tree risk assessments. Flying a drone up and over the crown of a tree can help limit unnecessary or potentially dangerous climbs by identifying hazards before a rope is set.

How about using them for planning out landscape design or tree replacement plans? The US Forest Service is already using drones for overall forest health assessments. They also are being utilized for help in disaster area cleanup, where the workers on the ground cannot see beyond their immediate vantage point. The drone can give them an idea of what dangers lie ahead as they work their way through the damaged area.

Even though Jamie Hyneman was unsuccessful at retrofitting a pruning shear onto a drone in a recent episode of MythBusters, advancement of this piece of equipment will probably one day include a pruning or removal drone.

Issues to Consider:

As with any new equipment or technology, drones have limitations and issues to contend with. By no means do I want you to think these are deal breakers, but rather items that you must consider before going out to purchase a drone for use in your tree care company.

Flight Times: Currently, flight times are limited to only 15-20 minutes even less when winds higher than 15 mph. The batteries aboard drones today take a while to charge back up, so an experienced pilot must have a plan in place before the drone is turned on so they can capture as much data as possible in that small amount of time.

Regulatory: Laws for drone usage are continuing to be created however currently, there are three major regulatory issues to understand.

500 feet height limit. The FAA has limited drone flight height to minimize accidents with aircraft and lost drones. Many drones have geolocators built into them now that limit the height.
Operator must possess the following documents:
Section 333 Exemption or Aircraft Certification
Certification of Authorization (COA)
Aircraft Registration and Markings
Pilot Certificate

Cannot fly over people unless the commercial operation entails recording the people. Your COA will state the commercial application that you are authorized to use the drone for.

Liability: Drone operators are subject to a number of liability issues that you need to be aware of. These are the two main issues to focus on.

Injury or property damage to others – Whether it was from the pilot’s error or a mechanical failure, drones can cause significant damage.
Privacy – Most states recognize some sort of tort for invasion of privacy. The laws have different components concerning privacy, but generally contain one of these principles.
Public disclosure of private facts.
Intrusion – The plaintiff must demonstrate that there was an intrusion upon his or her physical solitude or seclusion and be offensive or objectionable to a reasonable person
Appropriation of name or likeness – When someone’s name or likeness is used for commercial or newsworthy purposes.
False light in the public eye or defamation of character.

Insurance: Just like technology changes the laws we abide by, it also has a great impact on the insurance coverages available. Almost every General Liability insurance policy issued today have considered drones with most of them specifically excluding coverage.

Exclusions – CG2109, CG2110 and CG2111 are all used to remove coverage for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The difference between these three exclusions is how much coverage is removed. From excluding everything to do with a drone to only removing coverage for just privacy concerns, your General Liability policy probably has one of these three attached.
Physical Damage Coverage – With prices ranging anywhere from $75 to $3,000 and beyond when specialized cameras are added, it is important to think about insuring the drone for the damage while flying.

Despite the concerns that I listed in this article, using drones in your tree service can be a huge differentiator for your organization and can literally take your business to new heights!

Written by: Eric Petersen

Keys to Great Company Culture

Keys to Great Company Culture




We’ve all heard about giant companies having great company culture, right? But what about your tree service? How can you create the best culture for your team that keeps your top performers engaged while still attracting new talent?

Creating the proper culture doesn’t happen overnight, however, focusing on these four key areas will help you accomplish this important aspect of your business.

Your Why – Employees want to be a part of something bigger than just work. They want their employer to stand for more than just the services they provide. So, ask yourself: why do you do what you do? Write it down and share it with everyone in your company. Ask your employees for their input and have them help define who you are. If you are struggling trying to define your why, check out an article that I wrote last year here (What is your Why?).

Delivering Happiness, a book written by Zappos’ founder Tony Hsieh, states that his company’s culture was simply based around living a life of passion and purpose. This translated into treating his employees like they were family and empowering them to be able to do whatever they could to help their customers have a great experience with their company, aka deliver happiness to their customers. I strongly recommend reading this book for ideas on how to improve your company culture.

Structure = Direction & Communication – With your “why” firmly in place, you must provide the proper direction and communication to your team so everyone knows where you are headed and how you are going to get there. This structure to your organization is vital to keep everyone on task and engaged during the grind of production season. Providing clear expectations of what you expect each employee to do is critical. Everyone wants to know what they are responsible for and how that fits into the overall success of the company.

Collaboration. Not Competition – Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. To build a great culture, you need to have everyone working together for the common goal. Take an honest look at your company to see if you have unintentionally pitted one crew against another or have fostered a competitive environment between employees. Friendly sales competitions may work for some companies, however, the vast majority of your employees want to be successful together. Make sure to include a member of each department on your safety committee, as well as conducting strategic planning sessions so that every employee feels that they are part of the team and building something great.

Have Fun – Some owners mistake “company culture” as only about having fun at work. While enjoying what you do and the people you do it with is very important, it really is only a piece of a comprehensive company culture. Take time to plan team events to get everyone together to relax and socialize, whether it be at a cookout at 2pm on a Friday or an evening trip to a local Escape Room. Ask for input from your team to hear what they would like to do. Create a “Social Committee” and give the members a certain dollar amount to spend on fun activities each month.

Having an exciting culture is something that all employees want and will help attract quality workers to your business. Think about these four areas within your company and how you can focus on building the best culture possible.

Written by: Eric Petersen

5 Levels of Leadership

5 Levels of Leadership

Have you ever found yourself asking “Am I really doing a good enough job as the leader of my company?” In the spirit of Crew Leader Month as declared by the TCIA, I want to give you some insight into the five levels of leadership to help you determine where you can improve.

At the 2018 TCIExpo, Todd Kramer gave a great presentation on leadership and talked about what it takes to be an effective leader. He used John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership to explain the different stages of development that leaders go through. So, where do you rank yourself as a leader?

Position – This is the lowest level of leadership and one where the leader has subordinates, not team members. The leader was given the position to lead without much qualification. They have authority to direct others based on the rules of the organization. All leaders start off in this capacity, however, to be truly effective, they must desire to grow beyond this level.

Permission – Leaders at this level have begun to understand how to use influence to have their team perform the work. The leader focuses on the relationship with the individual team members and gets them to want to do the work versus just complying with orders. The leader helps foster trust between everyone on the crew thereby truly instituting a team first attitude.

Production – Good leaders get results. This becomes the difference between Permission and Production leaders. The Production leader has a strong sense of self-discipline and work ethic to be productive, while at the same time continuing to understand how their influence on their team affects the results. Without achieving the desired goals, a leader does not reach this level.

People Development – At this level of leadership, leaders invest their time and energy into helping their team members grow and develop as individuals. Their focus is not on direct production as much as it is on developing the potential in each team member. This can be difficult for highly productive leaders, but makes a dramatic impact on the company. The more well developed all team members are, the stronger the company.

Pinnacle – The highest leadership level, unfortunately is rare in the tree care world. Here the leader has been so successful at all of the four prior levels that they have created a legacy of leadership in their organization. They have been able to develop other level 4 leaders inside their company and are viewed as mentors to those within the industry. Pinnacle leaders are ones that strive to make the entire tree care industry better.

Great leaders are not simply born great. They have developed their skills over time and worked their way up level by level. Don’t forget to continually invest in your own skills as a leader of your company. Attend leadership courses and talk to others about their challenges as a leader to hone your skills.

If you are interested in growing you leadership skills by connecting with similar sized tree care companies in the Thrive Peer to Peer group contact ArboRisk today.

Written by: Eric Petersen