Better Benefits = Better Employees

Better Benefits = Better Employees

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

We often get asked about employee benefits and if there are any creative ways for tree care companies to offer benefits without breaking the bank. So for today’s business tip, I went straight to one of our referral partners, Jack Brees of RC Risk Advisors and had a great conversation that every tree care company should hear about!

Q: How do Voluntary Benefits help retain and recruit great employees? 

A: As a business owner in today’s retention and recruiting environment, having something that distinguishes you from the other employers can make it easier to recruit and retain employees.  If salary and job type are equal,  voluntary benefits are an area that separates your company from the rest and could make the choice that much easier for the job seeker. 

Q: What are the common Voluntary Benefit plans/programs that tree services purchase?

A: Voluntary benefits such as: Short Term Disability, Life Insurance, Accident plans, Hosptial Plans and Critical Illness plans help the employee navigate out of pocket expenses and are what is typically offered and accepted by tree service employees.  

Q: Do employees need to pay for Voluntary Benefits out of their own pocket?

A: Not any more! While being in the Voluntary business for the past 15 years, employees have typically paid for these benefits, however, RC Risk Advisors has built a partnership with a Wellness Company that implements a Wellness program that ultimately unlocks tax savings to the employee that are then earmarked for the purchase of voluntary benefits. As an added bonus, the business owner also will realize a sizable tax savings per employee annually.  

Q: Can you give an example of the estimated tax savings for a tree service with 9 employees? 

A: Take a business that has 9 employees, once this tax savings program is implemented the business will receive on average $150 a month in savings per employee to spend on voluntary benefits, ($1,800 a year). The business will also experience, on average, $500 of tax savings per employee annually. Add those numbers together and the total tax savings would be approximately $20,700 annually! In both cases, the employee and employer can choose to pay more taxes or use those monies to purchase voluntary benefits that could help their families with out-of-pocket expenses.  

If you have been thinking about bolstering your benefits or want to figure out a way to get creative with what you offer, please reach out to Jack and ask him about how voluntary benefits could fit in with your company!

Outlining a Career Path for Your Team

Outlining a Career Path for Your Team

Written by Kevin Martlage

I ran across a Chinese proverb the other day that made me think about the importance of creating a nurturing and supportive work environment for your team. An environment that allows them to not only be successful but helps them intentionally and transparently identify their professional career goals while having the proper support to obtain them. The Chinese Proverb goes like this, 

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” 

You may be asking yourself, what does that have to do with a supportive work environment and specifically why having a career path for your team is important? The answer to that lies within the true meaning, in my opinion, of this proverb and how you can support your team through career development.

As professionals in the tree care industry, we are certainly able to outline and discuss the importance of a healthy green infrastructure and specifically the role a healthy canopy and each tree within that canopy. Similarly, we also know the various stages of how a tree grows and develops over time. Everything from how the seed is planted and germinates below ground with the radicle (primary root) and the plumule emerging from that seed to the seedling stage and sapling stage which leads to the Heartwood, Xylem, Phloem, outer bark, and eventually each individual branch and leaf. Without each of those stages developing in a specific order, a tree would not exist and therefore would not be a sustainable part of the ecosystem and canopy. How a tree is planted, nurtured, and developed over time is important to how that tree ultimately survives and becomes an integral part of the ecosystem which is so very important to all of us. 

With that in mind, I challenge you to think of your organization and your team as a tree that needs to be planted, nurtured, and grown over time. Specifically, think of each of your employees as an integral part of your organizational ‘canopy’ which requires the various ‘trees’, your employees, to be highly functioning and productive as you provide your service to the ‘ecosystem’ of the industry. Without a strong workforce, who is highly motivated, supported, safe, trustworthy, and strategic you will find your overall long term sustainable success to be far more challenging than it should be. A specific and detailed career path can help to attract higher quality employees, keep your current employees engaged, and set your organization apart from the competition as a highly supportive place of business that employees want to work for. 

Career paths can take many different forms regarding what they provide your employees. The number one goal in creating a career path is that it is aligned with the goals of your organization while allowing for the individual and collective growth and development of your team. 


When beginning to develop your employee career path, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • What do your employees want and need from their careers (i.e., goals and desires)?
  • What can the workforce provide to your organization to be successful (i.e., needed skills)?
  • Can the developed career path be easily supported by you and your leadership team?
  • How will it be communicated to the team and kept alive once in place?

Once you have strategically determined the answers above, it is time to develop the career path for your employees and your organization. To do this, I challenge you to think about the developmental stages of a tree once again. The career path should start from the seed being planted (the hiring of a new employee) to the ‘leaves’ that are produced as that employee continues to grow within your organization. 

An example of a career path might be the following:

  • Planting the seed: Day 1
    • New Employee is hired
  • Seed Germination : Week 1
    • Radicle forms (downward) 
      • On-boarding – new hire paperwork
    • Plumule forms (towards surface)
      • On-boarding – organizational background 
      • On-boarding – team introductions
  • Seedling Stage: First 30 days 
    • Seedling forms
      • Specific on-the-job training identified
      • Specific on-the-job training provided
  • Sapling Stage: First 3 months
    • Root development
      • Mentor identified and introduced 
    • Trunk development
      • Bi-weekly mentor/supervisor meetings 
      • On the job training continues
  • Growth Stage: 2-6 months
    • Heartwood development
      • Identify and document career goals 
    • Xylem, Cambium, Phloem
      • Create a career development action plan  
    • Outer Bark development
      • Review progress to date
      • Identify opportunities for additional training
  • Nurturing Stage: 6 months +
    • Watering
      • Conduct quarterly performance meetings
    • Pruning
      • Review career action plan annually and update
      • Provide opportunities for outside certification(s)
      • Provide opportunities for external training
    • Transplanting (as needed)
      • Support internal career advancement
      • Support external career advancement

The development, communication, and support of a detailed career path for your employees is equally important to your organization’s success as your strategic plan, financial maintenance, and client acquisition. In fact, I would argue that it might be even more important as you continue to grow your organization. The proper on boarding, development, support, and nurturing of your employees will enhance your overall team culture while ensuring that your team is firmly planted in your organization for many years to come. The time to develop that career path is now. This will allow you to look back in 20 years as you enjoy the benefits of a healthy team that has helped grow your organization and provide a valuable service to your clients and the industry. 

If you struggle with the hiring process, contact an ArboRisk team member today! Our Thrive Risk Management Hiring & Recruiting Package and team of experts will help you one-on-one to create the career path that works for your organization.

5 Secrets to Better Employees

5 Secrets to Better Employees

Written by Joseph Toppi

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Richard Branson 

Want better employees? Of course you do! Nearly every company – no matter what the industry they are in – is searching for better employees to add to their team, to grow and sustain their company. They seem to never be able to find employees that can last, so they end up in this constant state of churn. 

Why? I think there are many reasons, but the underlying issue to all of the reasons is the employer. It is the hiring process, more specifically, the way the employer manages the hiring process when looking for employees. The system of hiring on skill and experience, then throwing monetary incentives to keep them is an archaic way that has lost its effectiveness some time ago. That is a system that has been proven to be nothing more than costly! 

These 5 secrets saved my companies from utter employee disaster, and allowed me to start making better employee choices and retain them longer. 

#1. Hire Based On Core Values 

In 2013, I went through a major hiring time. I hired around 50 men and women, and only retained three or four. At that time, I didn’t know why I was having so much trouble. I was hiring the most skilled, paying them above normal, and treated them very well. Still, they were not performing, and I was losing money through hiring, training, poor workmanship, and replacing. 

As I sat down to reflect on what was going on, I realized I was missing the important things I should have been hiring on – core values. 

I was trying to hire based on skill in a time when all the skilled employees were already hired. The way I was filtering my potential hires was the issue. I was looking for skill, but putting no weight on honesty, reliable, integrity, etc. If you start your hiring process by looking for those that possess the core values of your company, you can train the skill. When hiring, we want to train them in our company’s way, anyway, so why hire based on something you are going to change in them? 


#2. Set Clear Expectations 

When employers fail to set clear expectations of their employees from day one, the employer is setting the employee up to fail.

Too many times, the employers will give a rough outline of what the company does, and sometimes even varying deadlines, but nothing that the employee can hold themselves accountable to. Nothing the employee can be weighed against to determine if they are doing a good job or not. The worst part is, the employer ends up getting frustrated and angry at the employee, because they are not living up to the expectations the employer has!

When hiring your employees, prepare a clear set of company rules and behavioral expectations, and go over them with the new employee on Day One. As well, at the start of any tasks or projects, make sure you have production, quality, and timeline expectations set. Employees prefer this, as it provides them structure and a way to know if they are doing a good job or not. 


#3. Be Quick To Invest In Your Employees 

Many times, employers are afraid to invest in developing their employees because of fear. Fear that the employees will leave them for another company. Fear that employees will leave and start their own company. Just a fear that they will waste their money. This holds so many companies back from having absolutely exceptional employees, and holds so many employees back from being truly invested and caring about the company. 

When a company invests in their employees, the employees feel like they are valued, and in turn the employees will naturally want to work harder for that company. It is important to invest in training – company specific training, industry training, and personal development. Training employees goes a long way in their abilities on and off the job site.The opposite is also true – when a company refuses to invest in their employees, the employees feel unvalued, and this is when trouble starts. 

Finally, trust in your employees. Ever feel like all you are doing is putting out fires, and most of them are little things that you think your employees are more than capable of handling? They probably are, but somewhere down the line, you showed them a lack of trust and it is coming to a head. Quit being the firefighter, and start being the fire chief! 

Not investing into employees because of the fear of losing them holds so many companies back from having absolutely exceptional employees, and holds so many employees back from being truly invested and caring about the company.


#4. Recognize & Praise 

Why is it that employers think that money is ALL that is important to employees? I have heard employers complain so many times how they were overpaying an employee and gave them so many bonuses and benefits, and the employee still moved on. They are confused as to why. When I ask how they treated the employee, they would answer in a monetary way – “I treated them good, I paid them well.” 

What I have found is that employees – people – just want to feel appreciated. They want recognition and praise for the things they do and accomplish. Too many times, though, employers don’t recognize and praise, but rather criticize and belittle. 

Start recognizing your employees – not with money, but recognize the things they do well – recognize their value, recognize their accomplishments (both at work and personally)! Do the little things – parties, BBQ, lunch, in-house awards. Praise should be given quickly after an accomplishment, it should be personal, outlined in detail, and relevant at the time.


#5. Be Quick To Nurture, Not Fire 

How many times have you fired someone without giving them the opportunity to correct their attitude, behavior, or whatever it was that caused you to fire them in the first place? As well, how many times have you fired someone without at least showing them what it was that went wrong, and invested a bit of time with them to show them the right way?

Be quick to invest the time and energy into building up your employees. Don’t get me wrong, there are those people that you hire foolishly, and you know that no matter what you do, they are still going to be trouble. With the rest, you have the opportunity to not fire them, but nurture them into the best version of themselves. 


Hiring the right way is just as important as hiring the right person. As an employer, you are responsible for the people you hire, the culture you create, and the community they are all a part of. When you hire and maintain employees as discussed above, you will create employees that will work for you, your vision, and towards your mission. If you struggle with the hiring process, contact an ArboRisk team member today! Our Thrive Risk Management Hiring & Recruiting Package can help address your hiring woes and take your company to new heights!

Who Is Your Recruiting Champion?

Who Is Your Recruiting Champion?

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Almost every tree service owner has a difficult time finding new employees, yet most don’t actually do anything to improve their recruiting situation. But that’s not because they are lazy, no, it’s quite the opposite, something always comes up that takes the owner’s time and attention away from recruiting efforts. Because of this, every tree care company needs to designate a Recruiting Champion within their organization. 

What is a Recruiting Champion? This is the person who takes responsibility for recruiting new employees to your company. They have the authority and dedicated budget to spend a certain amount of their time on recruiting activities. This position can be filled by anyone within the organization, however for the position to be successful there has to be clear expectations of what the specific roles that the Recruiting Champion must fulfill. 

There are three main roles the Recruiting Champion must accomplish within your tree care company. 

  1. Understands the staffing needs – The Recruiting Champion must be involved in strategic planning of the company to understand where the company is headed and therefore anticipate what the staffing needs will be in the future. Planning for the upcoming busy season is the most immediate need that the Recruiting Champion should consider. How many people do we need in the next 6 months to hit our growth goals? You also should paint a broader picture for the Recruiting Champion as to what the company will look like in 3 – 5 years so they can help with the potential development of current employees or the need to hire for different skill sets in the future. 
  2. Creates and executes the recruitment strategy – Creating a recruitment strategy consists of identifying what your target employee looks like (the profile of characteristics, not physical looks) and learning where they interact so you can be present and offer career opportunities to them. Developing a visual Career Path is an essential part of the recruitment strategy so when you do get an interested employee you can show them how they are able to have a lengthy career within your organization. The Recruiting Champion is also responsible for attending the career fairs and hiring events that were identified in the strategy.
  3. Screens and helps on interviews – The Recruiting Champion should not be responsible for all of the hiring activities, but they should be involved in the screening and initial interviews for potential employees. This will help them gain a better understanding of the recruiting efforts that they have embarked upon and how they can adjust the strategy to improve their results. You have to be careful of bias that the Recruiting Champion may impose upon their preferred candidates and therefore be part of the hiring team and not the only one performing the hiring process. 

Remember that recruiting activities do not produce immediate results, however, we all know what you’ll get if you don’t start doing it. After you identify a Recruiting Champion within your company, start by dedicating just 5% of their time to recruiting activities. That equates to ½ of a day for every two weeks worked. Trust me, even that small amount of time will return great dividends in your recruiting efforts. 

If you are struggling with recruiting new employees and want help creating a Recruiting Champion within your company, sign up for our Thrive Hiring & Recruiting package today or contact an ArboRisk team member to learn more!

Hiring During Times of High Unemployment

Hiring during high times of unemployment

Hopefully, like me, many of you are trying to find the positives during this on-going pandemic. One of the positives is with the record high number of unemployed people, your recruiting efforts may have gotten a lot easier. I know that may seem counter-intuitive, however, the longer this pandemic carries on, the more willing people will be to search out a career change. If your tree service is like many that I’ve talked to in the last two months and continuing to thrive, now could be a great time to get new employees.

That said, times of high unemployment does not necessarily mean that hiring will be easier. With so many people out of work, you will be getting more applicants for an open position that you have, many of which will not be qualified to do the work. Sorting through the additional applications will obviously add extra cost to the hiring process, so if you haven’t established a hiring procedure within your tree care company, now is the time to do it.

Job Descriptions – Putting together a solid hiring process starts with having written job descriptions for every position within the company. There are many different places that you can find job description templates to get you started. Use the template and customize them to your organization.

Career Path – Once you have the job descriptions done, create a logical path that an employee could progress within your company. Make this a visual document that is easy to understand and read. We have an entire article here on career paths.

Paperwork – What forms and paperwork do you need to bring a new employee onto your team? What background checks require a signature from the prospective employee. How will you accept applications? These are all questions you need answer and prepare yourself for before opening up a position.

Interview Process – How will you be handling interviews, via phone, Zoom, in-person? There are a lot of different ways you can set up your interview process, the main concern however, is that you follow the same process. You do not want one candidate to get a perceived advantage or disadvantage because you had a variable interview process. For more ideas on the interview process read our article here.

Who Do You Want – Especially with the potential to receive many more applications than before you need to be laser focused on who you want as an employee. This could be personality characteristics, physical qualities, tree care experience, etc. Hone in on what that perfect team member will look like within your organization and write this down.

Having the right employees on your team is one of the fundamental building blocks of a tree service’s risk management program. That’s why we have been helping tree services with their hiring and recruiting efforts for years now. If you would like any more help on your hiring and recruiting efforts, reach out to an ArboRisk team member today.

Written by: Eric Petersen