What is Safe?

What is Safe?

Written by Travis Vickerson

In the tree care industry, we speak a lot about safe work practices, safety first and working safely. Yet if we truly stop to think about it, what is safe?

It’s a rather hard thing to define without using the word safe somehow which then brings us back to attempting to define it as well as each derivative of the word. I would like to challenge you that safe is a construct that we have placed as an overarching objective in tasks and work we do. Yet safety is ultimately the outcome from those tasks. Whether or not something was done safely can only be assessed after the event is over and no negative outcome has occurred or had the potential to occur. Just because you don’t have an incident doesn’t mean you worked safely; you could have just gotten fortunate to avoid a mistake that might have had potential for an incident.

What we really mean when we talk about safe work practices and safety first is that we are wanting people to perform tasks in a manner that avoids incident and potential for incident.

This means doing things in the correct sequence or within the procedure prescribed for that task. That said, the hardest thing for most employers is to know what skill level workers have in doing things in the correct sequence or as prescribed in a procedure of a task. At Noble Oak Safety and Training, we feel the best tool any employer can have is data on the abilities, proficiency and lack thereof with employees. Far too often we see incidents occurring that are not really about lack of safety, but rather about lack of ability or trying to work beyond a person’s actual ability. We place workers on job sites and are given tasks that may or may not fit their abilities to perform work in the correct sequence or with the correct understanding of a procedure or just simply are outside of their skill level.

So how does one define an individual’s skill level? I believe in using a scoring system derived from jobsite observation of skills. This skill evaluation of employees performing tasks allows the employer to get actual data on the individuals abilities, proficiencies and needed areas of improvement. This means the right workers can be placed in the right job sites that fit their skills and employees can be given a clear and concise pathway for improvement.

Remember, employee retention is based on employee happiness and satisfaction and often we find the most satisfied employees are ones that feel they are being invested into. Training is one of the most common ways to invest in someone. Even though it may be hard to see a return on training, having a pathway of improvement can provide tailored training options that speeds up your return rather than simply providing broad training that may or may not meet the needs of your people.

To summarize we must start treating all the work we do as steps in the process to achieve safe outcomes rather than just an objective to accomplish. Stop saying have a safe day and begin making safety an outcome of everyday by infusing proper procedures for tasks, correct sequence of actions and right skills for the right job.

ArboRisk is pleased to partner with Travis Vickerson and the team at Noble Oak Safety and Training to provide Arborist Skill Validation Assessments as well as direct team or individual skills training for our clients. If you have any safety training questions, please reach out to an ArboRisk team member directly and we can get you started on our Thrive Safety Package or connected with Travis.

Tom Dunn

Sales Compensation Discussion with Paul Filary of Kramer Tree

Sales Compensation Discussion with Paul Filary of Kramer Tree

Written by Tom Dunn

Paul Filary is the Director of Operations and ISA Certified Arborist with Kramer Tree Specialists (KTS),  based out of West Chicago, Illinois. Before becoming the Operations Manager at KTS, Paul was the Sales Manager at KTS and holds a degree in Forestry from Michigan State University. Kramer Tree provides a wide range of services to its client base including Tree Care, Mulch Products, Plant Health Care, Tree Planting, Urban Wood Products, Safety Training, Consulting and Holiday Lighting.

We wanted to get Paul’s take on important considerations when establishing a Sales Compensation structure for a sales arborist team. 

What are some of the key factors to consider when establishing a sales compensation package? 

The first step before even setting up a compensation package is to do some market research on what competitive annual salaries are in your sales territory. Use this information to determine if the annual salaries are attainable for your sales team and this will help in how you structure the compensation. 

Another important step that is often overlooked is to have a grasp on job costs for the different services your company provides. This will establish what a profitable hourly rate is and will help determine where your commission levels should be set. Job costs can be based on an individual job or a collection of jobs. 

A tiered commission structure based on the volume of business sold versus a flat rate has proven to be a successful motivating factor. If the sales arborists know they can earn a higher commission rate once they reach and exceed a targeted commissionable sales amount, they will not become complacent. 

Determine if you want to have a draw versus commission or a salary plus commission structure is the next tough decision. There are pros and cons to both, but a salary plus commission structure provides more predictability of costs, allows for the sales arborist to establish a customer base and can help smooth out the cyclical nature of tree care business. You may also lose some control over what the sales arborist is doing under a draw versus commission structure which may hinder any training you want to implement. 


How often do you review sales results with your team?

I have tried different intervals with our team and have found that quarterly sales review works best just because there is a little more time to accumulate and analyze the sales data. The key is be able to show the sales arborist how they are doing in simple, understandable reports that identify where their sales are coming from, if they are hitting established sales rations and whether their estimates have been accurate. 

A regular meeting time also provides for consistent two-way input on the types of jobs or maybe particular crews that are causing problems for the sales arborist problems, so they can be addressed in a timely manner and sales tactics can be revised.  


What type of backgrounds or requirements do you look for when hiring or promoting someone to a sales position? 

More than likely they will have some type of background in the tree care industry, but it is not an absolute done deal if they don’t have a tree care background. If they are passionate about the industry, can gain the respect of the crews they will be working with, are personable and have excellent communication skills that is usually a recipe for success. 

What is also important is that they understand being a sales arborist is not a 9-5 job. They have to make it a part of their lifestyle and be available any time they are needed by their clients. 


What do you see as your role as a sales manager?

Develop and refine a sales compensation structure that is flexible and attainable for the sales arborists. Providing regular analysis and feedback that is understandable and has relevant information for the sales arborists. Find opportunities for the sales arborists to attend industry events and meet potential clients. 


Final Thoughts? 

  • Establish a tiered commission structure based on the services offered.
  • Do the sales data analysis required to help the sales arborists develop
  • Be flexible with sales structure as new services are added

If you need further assistance with Sales & Marketing, please reach out to a member of our ArboRisk team. We have many resources that can help you with this, in addition to our Thrive Sales & Marketing Package:  https://arboriskinsurance.com/thrive-sales/ which provides one on one help developing the right marketing message to land the right customer.

Tom Dunn

3 Ways to Dig Deeper on Sales Calls

3 Ways to Dig Deeper on Sales CAlls

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Many of you probably already have heard me talk about the 4 Knows to a Yes in the past. If not, check out this previous article, that I’ve written on that topic. For this article, I want to go more in-depth and focus only on the first “Know” – Know the Why.

To start, remember that the most important objective in a sales call is to get an understanding of the emotions that will ultimately drive the prospect to make a decision. At ArboRisk, we call this the prospect’s “why”. Once you have an understanding of their why, you will be able to walk through the remaining “Knows” and close the sale.

Below are three strategies to dig deeper on a sales call to truly gain a better understanding of the prospect’s why. Discuss these during your next sales meeting to help increase your sales team success rate.

1. Ranking 1-10, then “Tell Me More” – Directly after the prospect tells you what they want you to look at, you should immediately have them rank the importance of their situation on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most important pressing issue in their lives right now. Follow up that ranking with the simple phrase, “Tell me more” to learn why they gave it that ranking. The answer they give you will help you understand how to best service them and therefore win the sale. 

2. Restate, then 3 Why’s. – A simple yet effective way to understand the prospect’s why, is to restate what you heard the prospect say and then ask a few probing questions. If what you say back to them isn’t what they really mean you will have the chance to correct yourself and truly understand what they are looking for from you. After you restate their request and they agree that is what they are looking for, then you should dig deeper by asking ‘why’ at least three more times to uncover the true emotion behind their request. As an example…

Sales Arborist: I heard you say you wanted to have the honey locust removed in your backyard, correct?

Prospect: Yes, that’s correct.

Sales Arborist: 1st Why – Why do you want it removed?

Prospect: It drops too many branches.

Sales Arborist: 2nd Why – Why do the branches bother you?

Prospect: I do not want to continually have to pick them up.

Sales Arborist: 3rd Why – Why do you care if the branches are on the ground?

Prospect: My grandkids come over and play every Tuesday and I want a clean space for them.

It might not go that smooth in real life, but you can see how you get to the actual emotion of why they called you. Now you can directly solve their problem and offer other solutions to help them have a great backyard for their grandchildren to play in.

3. What’s your vision for your yard? – We have an entire article devoted to this question, but it’s such a great way to learn about the prospect’s why that I wanted to make sure and mention it again. This question opens up conversation much broader than just focusing on the original service request and can lead to future work or simply a better customer relationship once they hire you. 

Hopefully those three simple strategies will help your sales team dig deeper with their prospects and connect more on an emotional level with them to win more sales for your company. If you would like any more help with your sales team, our Thrive Sales & Marketing Package includes four hours of direct one-on-one sales training. For more information, reach out to an ArboRisk team member today!

Tom Dunn

4 “Knows” to a Yes!

4 “Knows” To a Yes!

“Sales Training? Ha! We don’t have time for that, we just do on-the-job sales training.”

Have you caught yourself saying that before? If not, I’m sure you’ve heard other tree care companies say that. Whether you use an outside sales training program or not, this article will give you four simple points to discuss with your team to help close more sales.

We all know the most common mistake that every sales person makes is that they talk too much and don’t spend enough time listening to the prospective customer. So at ArboRisk, we’ve come up with the 4 “Knows” to a Yes, which is a series of questions designed to help us understand our prospects better and close more sales. I personally believe, these should be taught to everyone of your team members, not only the sales people to maximize the impact on your organization.

Here are the 4 Knows that should be part of your sales training:


Know the Why – Why did the prospective customer call? Not what did they call about, but WHY. You have to dig deeper to learn the reason they want the tree work done. This can be accomplished by simply asking them “what is your vision for your yard?”. If you uncover the underlying reason for the call, your sale has just become immensely easier. Here is a full article that I wrote on this topic (The Most Important Question to Ask Your Customer).


Know your prospective customer – Was it the decision maker that called or is there another one you need to know about (spouse, business partner, village board)? Have they had professional tree work done in the past? Knowing who the prospective customer is as well as learning if they can afford your services goes a long way in determining whether or not they are a good fit for your company. Each decision maker may have a little different reason for wanting the work done, so understanding how the decision will be made is also important part of this process.


Know how you can help this customer – Knowing the strengths of your company is vital for all employees in your company to understand. When anyone from your team communicates with a prospective customer, they have the chance to continue to move the buyer along the customer journey towards a sale. They don’t have to know all of the scientific reasons and exact methods that could be used on the tree, but they should know of past examples of how your company has helped similar situations before.


Know how to say “no” – If you’ve figured out the first 3 Knows, this one should be easy. Being able to politely and professionally walk away from a job that isn’t within your scope is a skill that needs to be practiced and taught, but once mastered this skill helps eliminate wasteful bids and unprofitable or perhaps unsafe jobs. Having a few referral partners within your area that will gladly accept work that is outside your specialty is necessary for a successful walk away. I recently wrote an entire article on walking away from a job that you can read here (The Power of Walking Away).


At your next sales meeting talk about these four “Knows” and how each of your team members can begin incorporating these into their daily conversations with prospective customers. If you need additional help with your sales training, check out ArboRisk’s Sales and Marketing Package! We can help you get more of the right jobs with your ideal client immediately!

5 Steps to Adult Learning

5 Steps to Adult Learning

It’s true, we never stop learning. And as an owner of a tree care company, you have to make sure your employees continually learn. Think about how many different things your employees need to know to work safely. Ensuring your employees have a strong understanding of everything that goes into that, is one of the most important obligations you have as the owner.

But the thing is, not everyone learns the same way.

In early March, I attended the Certified Tree Safety Professional (CTSP) workshop in Lisle, IL. For those of you who have gone through this program, you know it doesn’t just hone in on the technical side of safety in the tree care world. In fact, the majority of the first day was spent on how employees learn so that we can get our messages/lessons across more efficiently.

As employers, you are responsible for many different types of learners. Some may prefer hands on, some may be visual, some may even prefer lecture. To make sure you cater to all types of learners, I’ve highlighted the Five Steps to Adult Learning below:

The Set-Up: This piece is where you introduce the purpose of the activity. I.e. laying out the ground rules. You’ll want to explain the “why” for what you are teaching, and give your employees a good understanding of the process that goes along with it.

Participation: Once you’ve explained to your employees why and how to do something, have them participate in the activity. If it is more on the mental side, such as “How to have a safety conscious mindset” be sure to use specific scenarios and ask open ended questions as you work through it. If it is something like chipper safety, demonstrate the activity, properly covering all the steps, then have your employee go through the same procedure with a supervisor watching over them.

Interpretation: 80% of the material we learn is forgotten within 24 hours. Addressing the main points of the activity and remembering each step will help reiterate the lesson. Below are some questions that can help employees review and relate what they just learned.

What were the key points of the activity?
What were the easiest/most difficult pieces?
Would you do anything differently?

Identify The Concept: By the age of 18-21, most will be able to identify their sense of “self”, ultimately recognizing how they learn best based on what has worked in the past. Relating the activity to past experiences will allow the lesson to piggyback on concepts your employee already understands. Here are some questions to help with that:

Where else have you seen these concepts?
Name another activity you can utilize the steps in.
Which steps were new? What did you already know?

Apply: It is important your employees understand why and when to apply what they’ve been taught. Re-visit the why, and ask some of the following questions to ensure your employees will utilize the concepts when they need to.

When will you use this approach in the field?
What are some scenarios that may make this approach more difficult? How will you prepare?
Explain the process to a team member(teaching helps the learning process)
One of my biggest takeaways from the class was the importance of asking open ended questions. Doing so gives your employees the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and express any concerns along the way. I know many of the safety meetings may come about after seeing something in the field, so choose a couple of questions that work for you, and utilize them when you see things pop up. And no matter how much experience an employee may have, critical steps in processes can often be overlooked or forgotten. Consider taking a seasoned vet vs a well trained newbie and comparing the differences. Could be an interesting outcome!

If you have any more questions or interest in getting help with your safety program/committee, feel free to reach out. Be safe!

Written by: Malcolm Jeffris, CTSP