Back to Blog

Minimizing Your Risk

April 22, 2021

Eric Petersen ArboRisk Podcast

In this episode of the Green Industry Perspectives Podcast, Ty Deemer welcomes Eric Petersen, President of ArboRisk Insurance. Eric shares how he began his career in forestry before joining a risk management firm. Recognizing the need for risk management in the tree care industry he founded ArboRisk in 2012. Eric has found that safety is a top concern for tree care business owners, but they often struggle to convey that message to their teams. Eric has found ways to help tree care owners minimize their business’ risk, and more importantly their crew’s.

You can tune in above on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or anywhere you get your podcasts.

Become a pro member of the podcast to receive notifications for each new episode and bonus content each week.

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL LEARN:

  • Why you need to make safety personal
  • The benefits of having monthly safety meeting 
  • How a personalized development plan leads to employee retention
  • Part of safety includes proper training 
  • Why you should be charging for your expertise

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Ty Deemer:

You are listening to the Green Industry Perspectives podcast, presented by SingleOps, a podcast created for green industry professionals looking for best practices, tactics and tips in running their tree care or landscape business. All right, everyone, welcome back to Green Industry Perspectives. We are in our fourth season, and it’s been a great journey so far.

For anyone that’s been a listener from the very beginning, we hope that you will go share the podcast with some of your friends in the green industry, maybe give us a review as you jump into the podcast, as we continue to produce great episodes with leaders across the green industry every Thursday. To kick off season four, we’re really excited to welcome Eric Petersen to the show. Eric’s the president at ArboRisk and we’re going to have a ton of fun topics today. Eric, welcome to the show.

Eric Petersen:

Hey, thanks Ty, appreciate it.

Ty Deemer:

Absolutely. So Eric, we start off every episode of Green Industry Perspectives the exact same way to provide immediate value for our audience, and the question’s pretty straightforward. In your experience, what are the top two to three common threads that you see in successful tree care companies?

Eric Petersen:

Yeah. So as you know, we only work with tree care companies, but the very first thing I really believe is the most successful companies have that passion for tree care, the passion for the landscape, passion to help their customers. They want to make a difference and it’s very apparent in every conversation that you have with everyone and within their organization. So the passion is probably the best thing that I see and then it flows down throughout the rest of the culture of the organization.

Eric Petersen:

The tree services that are at that highest level really have the right culture coming from the passion, doing the right thing for the trees and customers. And I think to follow that up, what the best ones are able to do is communicate that then to their customers on why you need a professional care for your trees, care for your property. And it’s very apparent from top to bottom in those successful organizations, so I’m just going with one, passion.

Ty Deemer:

Awesome. Well, we’ll probably dive into a little bit more into how passion impacts different parts of a tree care business later on in the show, but let’s talk about your background and I’d love for you to share with the audience just what is your story within the green industry. How did you progress through the tree care industry and then how did you just start ArboRisk and what does that look like today for you?

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, essentially I went to college for urban forestry, got a degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. I wanted to be out in the field, working with my hands, working with trees like most of the arborists out there, got hired with the [Mokkeetonnik 00:02:54] Parks Department right out of school. I was very proud of that, very excited, but unfortunately with budget cuts, I was low man on the totem pole and got bounced off. So joined the family insurance agency, had some opportunity to connect both worlds, so bringing in the insurance and some industry knowledge pieces together.

Eric Petersen:

So I started attending arborist tree care conferences, learning, growing within the industry from a different perspective, so much that I heard so many common themes from our clients of what issues they were having that I really wanted to create a brand around specific risk management and insurance topics for tree care companies. So in 2012 we formed ArboRisk officially and really it’s grown there, have added in different services, added in different ways to help the tree care industry, make sure [inaudible 00:03:50] and really build a better business in the meantime.

Eric Petersen:

Well, now it’s been nine years as ArboRisk, which is crazy how fast the time goes, but we’re in business in 29 states and expanding, hope to get into all 50 states in the next couple of years or so.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, that’s got to be valuable, too, that you come from a background where you uniquely know the services that your customers offer as well, and I’m sure that’s a huge reason why people decided to work with you. We’re going to talk a lot about the different things ArboRisk does, but also to share expertise in a lot of topics that really matter to tree care professionals, the first really just being safety in general.

Ty Deemer:

That’s a topic that, if you’ve ever been to ISA or TCIA, there’s always going to be courses on it. It’s always a point of the guys that do tree service well prioritize safety. When we talk about safety, it is processes that you do out in the field, but it all really starts with how you begin to train your employees around safety, and on ArboRisk’s mission, it’s to get tree care team members home safely.

Ty Deemer:

And you all put out a ton of great content around that, so one of the things that you talk about is starting out with the safety meeting with companies. What do you view the importance of having that consistent safety meeting for tree care companies and what are some practices that other companies, people listening, could go, “Oh, we need to start implementing that”?

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, absolutely. I think most of the well-run tree care companies understand that it begins with safety, right? It’s why we really feel our passion is to help our companies, our clients, with that, but making safety personal is probably the biggest key to me. Safety can seem inflexible, where you have to do this or else. It can seem negative, “Don’t do this or else.” It can be very coarse, so we really try to help our clients make it personal, and really what that means to me is, the bottom level, the ultimate core is, why do you want to work safe?

Eric Petersen:

Who or what are you working safe for? Your family? Your dog? It could be the neighbor. Whatever it might be, everyone has a reason to work safe, and when you have the culture of your company talking about that bottom line reason why you’re working safe, it’s huge. I’ve met companies that put certain little patches on their shoulders that have an insert where you can slide a picture in.

Eric Petersen:

One company I know had a company lunchbox that they handed out to everybody that had on the inside, “Why am I safe?” with a picture. There’s a lot of different ways you can really bring your own personal reasons for safety to the work site, and if it’s encouraged from the safety committee or the safety meeting level, that’s huge. Speaking on personal safety or making it personal, I think in the safety meeting a great topic is simply to open up the safety meeting by asking everyone to write down their safety story, because we all have it.

Eric Petersen:

It might be in our personal life, it might be at work, what you did or didn’t do that caused a near miss or caused an injury or you saw something happen. We all have our personal story, and if we allow and make people think about it, to start off that safety meeting, I feel it really drives to the core, so I really try our best to make safety personal and don’t let it be this concept that’s forming in the background, that it’s just upper management yelling at the ground crew.

Ty Deemer:

I love what you just touched on, because if anybody is listening to this episode and they’ve had that safety meeting where everyone kind of walks in, and just kind of shuffles in and they’re frustrated by it and they feel like it’s a waste of time, that’s such a great action item someone could take away from this episode, just simple as that. Next safety meeting you have, open it up with having a team member write down a near miss or a moment where safety was failed because I immediately thought of one as soon as you brought it up. Your mind goes to it instantly and it triggers you like, “Oh, this is why we’re talking about that.”

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, everything happens so fast and it’s easy to not really put that in the front of your mind, so again, making it personal. Speaking of meetings, you can hold them outside, you can change the location. Don’t get stuck in the same routine because then that’s when people start to tune out to the message. Bringing in guest speakers, bringing in your insurance agent or another member of the association that you belong to, or just bring in other people to keep it interesting and have them participate doing demonstrations.

Eric Petersen:

One thing that I’ve talked to a number of companies about is, simply take a small branch and wrap an old towel around it, and use an old chainsaw, because it’s going to wreck the saw, but cut through that and see the fibers of the towel ripped through and to see how much it destroys everything there. It’s very obvious what it can do to your leg. Wear your chaps.

Eric Petersen:

Demonstrations like that are, I think, easy ways to change it up on the safety end, but again, it’s going to have to start with that passion of we want to keep our employees safe, we don’t want to be in the hospital looking across from the family member who’s holding our employee’s hand while they’re on this hospital bed. I mean, the companies, and we all know them, that have gone through that, never want to do that again. You never want to be in that position.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, absolutely, and I’m sure there’s someone listening right now that goes, “Man, I know I want to keep my team safe, but I don’t really know how to invest in their safety or how to necessarily plan around that,” and part of it is on the insurance side, and we’ll get into that later. But what ways would you consider or encourage companies on either end of the spectrum, whether they’re running one crew or 50 crews, what are some avenues they can do to begin investing in training and safety?

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, great question. Everything is out there, right, in different places. Don’t feel like you have to recreate the wheel. A lot of companies will take what’s there and make it their own [inaudible 00:10:35], but don’t think that you have to. The first place I point everyone to is the ANSI Z133. It’s the safety standard for arboriculture. When I first got in the industry, I picked it up and I looked at it and it didn’t get me, because it’s a lot of words.

Eric Petersen:

But if you actually start to read it point by point, it’s written very easy language to understand and it really walks you through on what practices to be safe. You can take a paragraph or a section at a time in each safety meeting, and you can walk through that whole manual in a couple of months, and you’re hitting the big, high points, the points that have caused accidents and injuries in the past, and at least you’re starting there. So at minimum, get the ANSI Z133 and start working through that.

Eric Petersen:

Then I also suggest TCIA, the Tree Care Industry Association, has the Tree Care Academy. They already have it set up where you can take a person from the ground through an advanced primer and it has a workbook and a training program built right into it. So it’s something that is already done for you. You buy the book. They’re now, I think, doing online testing then for some of the different qualifications with it, so the Tree Care Academy’s a great way to do it.

Eric Petersen:

If you only buy in once, you can then take that basic framework and build your own program on that, so it’s something that I think it seems like a lot. Like you said, it seems like, “Where do I even start?” Just start basics. Have a Monday morning meeting, right, where we’re going over one topic. Make sure you document that. Everyone signs in, right, so we can prove that we talked about this, but stick that in the file.

Eric Petersen:

Next Monday you build on that and the next you build on that, and you build on it, and I think it starts coming over time, but got to get started somewhere. Those are two great resources that give you words to use, so you don’t have to come up with a topic. And then over time I think you incorporate, like we talked about, the near misses. When you start talking about that and not punishing people in your crew for having a near miss, you encourage them to share and help others not experience that near miss, really changes that culture very quick.

Eric Petersen:

And now you’re in a part where, “Okay, Johnny, who’s very experienced just did this. I did it too, I don’t feel as bad, but let’s make sure that we don’t do that, either one of us.”

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, learning from your mistakes or your near misses will be huge and crucial to that. The other kind of follow-up question I have in terms of training and programs, and the companies you work with regularly. Do you have an example, or maybe a client that you work with that really goes above and beyond for training and I’d love for you to share if you have one, what it looks like for them and maybe why they invested in the area so heavily.

Eric Petersen:

So industry wide what we hear a lot about is, it’s hard for companies to train and develop employees and keep them on their team because they see a bigger pay check at the company down the road. So the most successful ones that I’ve worked with understand that the amount that we put into our employees to start off with and train is the first step in retaining them as an employee long term, so they intentionally have set up the onboarding process for the first three or four weeks of that employee’s time with the company.

Eric Petersen:

And then build in check points, six months, year, 18 months and so forth, to make sure that they are staying in communication and staying engaged with that employee because they invested so much in training. So I didn’t really necessarily answer your direct question but I think it’s making sure that we have a developmental plan in that sense for each of the employees, where you can see if you start at the ground, you can work your way to a climber, you can work your way to an equipment operator or you can go into sales, almost developing a career path for them so that if you want to get to the second stage, whatever that might be, if that’s a [inaudible 00:14:55] health care technician, you need to do XYZ on training.

Eric Petersen:

So we help clients with visual career paths simply for that reason. We’re all visual in this industry. If you get put on a piece of paper, “Okay, this is where you are, this is where you want to get to, and you got to do these few training items and we agree,” it just helps in that whole development process and then, guess what? You just built your training program.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, that’s so cool to hear, too, because we’ve had other guests on the show, specifically in the tree care space, that that is becoming more and more important as you see a younger generation of work force come through, because that’s how millennials are driven, that they want to see a progression in their career. They would take less pay on the front end if you showed them that, hey, “Here’s your clear path towards success,” and how to grow in the role.

Ty Deemer:

And if you can align that with the safety of the team and their career, that’s a really cool way of thinking about it, because typically the way I’ve heard it discussed is only talking about the career path but not really addressing how safety and training can be associated with that.

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, absolutely. I think to do it successfully, you need to integrate it. So Ty, I’m sorry, to get back to your question, how have I seen it done successfully is a matter of that. So it will be certain checkpoints that have competency, checking for competency in this issue or this task with this piece of equipment. Okay, you check through that, now you can move on to be an equipment operator number two or level B, whatever that might be in your organization, right?

Eric Petersen:

It takes some time up front to kind of figure out where you can progress people, but I think tying it to safety, tying it to employee development in certification perhaps, in licenses, whatever that might be, qualifications is huge.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, absolutely.

Eric Petersen:

Then they know you’re invested in them and they’re going to want to see it through with you because you’ve helped them become a better arborist, a better salesperson, a better you name it.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, it all ties back to your initial comment, right, passion. Are you passionate about the growth of your employees? Are you passionate about their safety? And if you have that, yes, it does feel like a lot, but you can really flesh out a plan pretty quickly if you have the passion. And before we transition topics, just to piggy-back over what you mentioned earlier, the TCIA and the ISA both have incredible resources for you, if this is something you’re looking to invest in, not only on their website, and we can link to some of those things in the show notes, but also at their conferences.

Ty Deemer:

Hopefully in a post-COVID world, we’ll all see each other at a few conferences this fall, but every time I go to one of those conferences, you always learn something, so that’s another great avenue. Send one of your top performing crew leaders to go to the conference and learn a few things. That’s another way you could incentivize it.

Eric Petersen:

Absolutely. I could go on for days how much value I received individually by volunteering in ISA chapter events with the different chapters like the ones at TCI EXPO, [inaudible 00:18:19] going to the conferences. The sessions are always fantastic, but it’s also those sideline conversations that you have with the vendors, with the other people, the other peers that are there. Being involved in industry is huge and that’s the passion, too, but you can pick up on so much.

Eric Petersen:

When I got into the insurance side, I wanted to go in the tree care world, because that was my background and my passion, but I also initially in the early days, I played with other industries, electrical contractors and some plumbers and it’s not the same as it is in the green industry. The green industry, especially the tree care world, the arborists, they’re here to help everyone. We have this high-risk industry. We all know that and the ones that have found their way, navigated the waters to be successful, want to pass that on.

Eric Petersen:

And I haven’t heard of one very good, successful tree care company that isn’t willing to take on someone else and show them or teach them work. It’s not as competitive and holding tight to their secrets, because if everybody helps each other, the whole industry benefits, and I really enjoy that about the industry and why those association conferences are so great. So again, I commend that encouragement for sure, and those conferences, and show up to ask questions and talk to people, not just sitting back and then leave right away.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, for sure. I’ve loved this conversation so far and I can talk about the conferences all day long and that’s such a common theme that comes up on this show of just whether it’s a tree-climbing competition or the expos themselves, so much community and if you have a question, just ask it, because someone’s going to be there ready to answer it. I did want to shift topics, though. One thing with you kind of having the background in the industry, I feel like you do have a pretty good pulse on what these professionals interact with every day. What do you view as the greatest challenge for tree care professionals today?

Eric Petersen:

I think from a sales standpoint, their greatest challenge would be getting the public to understand that there is professional tree care out there and the reason you need to hire a professional, that’s from a sales standpoint. In running their business, it’s kind of that multi hat where most tree care companies are smaller in nature, and the owner or upper management, they’re doing a lot of different things.

Eric Petersen:

And being able to separate managing and running the business, from being in and doing the work, is very difficult for most people, regardless of industry. I’m sure your conversations on this podcast go that way, right?

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, so let’s separate those two topics, because I want to get into the sales side of things later because there’s definitely some things that risk management can address from a sales perspective, but when you talk about the owner-operator, there’s the phrase that you have to step outside of your business for it to really grow at some point. What does that look like for you when you interact with these companies? Is there kind of a rift there of not wanting to let go being out in the field, because that’s something that I feel like is probably the toughest part about it.

Ty Deemer:

You talked about passion earlier. It’s tough to let go of what you actually got into the business for, so what does it look like for you to tell an owner, “Hey, have you thought about stepping out a little bit?”

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, I think our initial conversations with our prospects go through more of a detailed fact-finding list survey right? You can flush out fairly easy where that individual’s passion is. Sometimes it is in managing a business and that’s fine, that’s great, because now we know how to work with them. If it is on the pure tree side, it’s talking about building that team for them. Who else can you have right now in your crew or your company or your family that can help you get the things done that you need to get done?

Eric Petersen:

And here’s a list of what we have to do, the safety program, the tailgate, the fleet maintenance, in all those different checkpoints that we’ve built into our process to help them get accomplished, and you can tell very easily when they start groaning or their eyes glass over, that’s not for them. Okay, that’s fine, we need to get it done, so let’s make sure we build a plan to recruit an office manager or build some team member up to make sure we take care of that.

Eric Petersen:

One of my friends in Wisconsin joined his father, was very passionate about tree work. They built a very good-sized business. He started managing and doing the book-keeping and doing the office stuff, and realized he wasn’t happy. He was happier out in the tree, so he went and hired someone that could handle the office stuff so he could get back to what he liked doing. And I think it was a risk for him because you’re kind of giving up some control, but it got him back in the place where he needed to be emotionally and it was better for him, and the company is thriving because of it. They have the right people in the right place.

Eric Petersen:

You have to take that introspective look and say, “Okay, where are my skills best utilized and what do I really want to do?” Part of our initial onboarding is figuring out that, “Okay, what does your company look like in three to five years?” And when you don’t have that idea of what it looks like, you have no idea of how you’re going to get there and that’s where this feels like just a chaos scramble all the time.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, that’s such a good point, too, because it all goes back to goal-setting, right? What are your goals for your tree care business? And if the goal is to grow to be a $3 million tree care business by the end of 2025, well, you’re going to have some objective tasks to get there. Staying, doing the same old, same old isn’t what’s going to accomplish it, but then on the other hand, there are tree care companies out there, and their owners are more focused on just consistency.

Ty Deemer:

We’ve got our book of business, we want to stay that way, and those are two very different road maps. And both are fine, exactly, but you have to decide what you want for your business to really create a plan. And the other point you made that I really like about it is, focus on what you’re passionate about. I’m a huge believer and it’s been a theme on this podcast for a company to be successful in a green industry business, you have to know your numbers.

Ty Deemer:

You need to know your profit margins, you need to know your accounts receivable, you need to know so much about your business, and there’s a lot of owners out there that aren’t numbers people. They don’t want to be numbers people. It’s like this difficulty of saying, “That’s fine, but you need someone on your team that is, and that’s willing to communicate to you where you stand.”

Ty Deemer:

And then same with the back office work. There’s so many people we talk to as a software business that helps people with managing their day where it’s like, “Yeah, no doubt. You don’t want to be staying up till 10:00 p.m. every night filling out proposals or scheduling. Get someone on your staff that can do it,” so it’s okay to delegate, that’s for sure.

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, and I think that ties into our overall theme in working with customers, and we use the word risk management all the time. Risk management to me is simply looking at all the different types of exposure that you have in the business. Some you can insure, fine. Some, you can’t, but really what could go wrong in your business and how can I insulate or minimize that impact? The risk management mindset, again, that’s another thing on safety.

Eric Petersen:

Sounds boring at times, but really will help you set up your business in a way that you’re going to survive those unexpected events at least through the bumps, and getting the right people to help you with that is huge internally.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, so I’d love to just talk through that process for a little bit, about what it looks like for a business you work with or someone listening to this podcast, what would it look like for them to evaluate the risks that could be assessed with their business and what could go wrong, because I think that would be an interesting topic at a high level for you to walk through. What are some of the things that listeners should probably be evaluating on a day to day or a weekly or a monthly or a yearly basis?

Eric Petersen:

Sure. I usually boil it down to just five things. It can be way more complicated than that, but first thing is easy. Let’s start easy, your stock, right? That’s your building, your property, your equipment, your stuff. What could happen? It gets stolen, it gets into fire, gets into flood. Okay, all that stuff can be insured, right? That’s fine, that’s easy, your stock.

Eric Petersen:

The second one would be your vehicles. Now, vehicles are similar to stock, but now we’re talking about moving on the road, we’re talking about at a job site and not just at your location. There’s some other things that you can do with it. Again, insurance is a good way there, but do you have a telematics program that can help you track your fleet as it’s on the road and give you data on how the drivers are doing? Those type of things. You think about all the different components to what goes on the vehicle.

Eric Petersen:

Those two pieces you mentioned about knowing your numbers, you also want to make sure you know what it costs to run those few pieces of equipment. How much each day does it cost to have that truck on your fleet? I don’t think many people, at least starting out, realize that there’s a big expense just sitting in your yard if you’re not using that piece of equipment, you’re not using that truck, right? So think about your stuff and your vehicles.

Eric Petersen:

Think about other people. What could other people do to you? They could say, “Yes, we want to take the job,” and then not follow through, hire someone else. They can sue you because you caused injury or damage to them, fine. Think about how other people can impact your business. What I didn’t ever talk about before was with COVID, but how other people impact your business that way, from a regulatory standpoint perhaps. OSHA, how is that going to impact you, so outside people coming in.

Eric Petersen:

Number four would be your employees or your people could be contractors but your employees, how are they impacted? What could happen? They could get hurt, they could not show up, they could… A bunch of different things could happen with your people, right? They can help you and they can hurt you.

Eric Petersen:

And then last thing is yourself. Unfortunately a business owner typically looks at that last, or they don’t plan for what could happen to them from a disability standpoint, from an injury standpoint, from life happening. They get divorced and now their head is out of the game and they’re not focused on the business. All those different things can happen, so those are the five simple areas, your stuff, your vehicles, your people, other people, and yourself that we look at. If that gives you a simple answer and [inaudible 00:29:42] I just rambled on there.

Ty Deemer:

No, it does, for sure, because from a perspective of a tree care business center, it’s insurance and risk management. It is relatively broad. It’s how do you narrow it down into how to generally think about it and the first one that my mind was drawn to was the people side of things, whether it was people outside of your business or inside of the business, because people, there’s an element to them. We’re all unpredictable. You don’t know what’s going to come of it, so that’s really interesting. I’m sure that’s something that probably you address quite regularly with your clients.

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, within those five areas, you can insure a lot. You can buy insurance policies for a lot but that’s not risk management. I mean, risk management is really seeing what could happen and then doing something about it. I need to make that point all the time, Ty, to people. If they buy an insurance policy, they feel it’s practicing risk management. It’s not. You’re doing part of it, so I’m glad you’re buying an insurance policy but are there other things that you can do, that you don’t even need the insurance policy for it?

Eric Petersen:

Let’s use insurance as a last resort. Let’s put the safety and training program in place. Let’s put our employee handbook in place so we don’t get an employee lawsuit. Let’s do all those things and then if we still feel uncomfortable because something might happen, we can buy an insurance policy.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, that’s awesome, and I’m sure this will kind of connect to people a little bit but I’d love for you to talk about how risk management can be used in terms of business development and sales. We know that a lot of times, from the perspective of our customers, that that’s a huge part of how they need to be able to sell work, that it’s clearly communicated, that they’re up to regulations, and I’d love to hear your take on how risk management can impact the business and sales side of things.

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, I look at it as a perspective, we’ve all done this. You all heard about it. It’s not the job that you lost that put you out of business, it’s the job that you want, right? You get into a job that you weren’t equipped for, you weren’t staffed for. You saw big dollars perhaps, it might be a little outside your scope, and you went for it, so now you’re scrambling. You’re trying to pick up the pieces. You probably have [inaudible 00:32:07] outside of what you’re looking at.

Eric Petersen:

So really, when I look at risk management from a sales standpoint, I’m really focused on, “Let’s understand who we are as a company and what we do best, and let’s build our marketing and our sales and everything around that, so that we know our numbers, so that we know what we need to do and how to do the job efficiently, how to do it safely.” We can become that expert in that area.

Eric Petersen:

If that’s using tree spades, let’s give him a tree spade. If that’s doing just client health care, great. If that’s doing big removals with cranes and big, heavy iron, great. Well, let’s figure it out, what we do best from a time, expertise, equipment and passion, most important thing, and then let’s build our sales and marketing efforts around that, so when we get on the job site or the sales to do the estimate, we can talk intelligently, passionately, with the customer and then our proposal and our services just flow behind this and it makes that whole process not a process but an experience, right?

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, absolutely. I’m just thinking of all the different ways we could go down rabbit holes with this conversation, because it really is one of those things. So much of it, what you’re talking about, can be solved in a proposal that sets clear expectations with the customer, and then other parts of it, like when you really fine tune what you’re talking about from a business development standpoint, knowing what you’re good at.

Ty Deemer:

Not even what you’re good at, but what you enjoy to do. Once you flesh out all of the minutiae and the detail there, you’re actually able to say no to projects that you just don’t want to do. We had a guest on last season, Noel Boyer, who talked about that. He basically brought up the point that they have figured out the types of services they want to offer to the point where, they’ll have work that just doesn’t sound like his crews would enjoy it, so he’ll just say, “Hey, no, this other company in that area would love to do that for you. We’re just booked out right now.”

Ty Deemer:

And that’s when, talk about passion and talk about making sure your employees are happy, if you’re able to turn down jobs that aren’t appealing to your team because you’re operating off of all that info, that’s powerful.

Eric Petersen:

Absolutely and if I always relay that back to the word risk management, that’s what you’re doing. You’re limiting some of the risks that your employees and your team are going to take on by not doing that oddball job. I don’t think there are many tree care companies, especially the ones that are listening, that are short on work. But I guarantee the ones that are listening have all done jobs that they shouldn’t have because it seemed easy or it seemed like a good idea, and we all know it, it ends up not being.

Eric Petersen:

So analyzing your risks for who we want to work with our target clientele and what we want to do, it’s something in that sales process and that flow of risk management and consulting that we do, that really helps with tree care companies. And it really helps meet their goals and get to that next level.

Ty Deemer:

That brings up a really interesting topic I think we could dive into next on the sales front, is what are your thought processes on paying for a consulting fee for tree care work? Is that something you encourage your clients to do, or what’s your take there?

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, great question. We have been encouraging people to start charging for estimates simply because the bonus, like I just mentioned, for most of part of the country [inaudible 00:35:47] and you have to find a way to simply get the people qualified out, who is just looking for a low price and who wants to have a professional take care of their trees, and the way that we’ve seen it be successful is that estimate.

Eric Petersen:

It’s a touchy subject. We know people don’t like doing that, but simply it’s $25, it’s $50, if you have a radius knee. If it’s, I don’t know, 10 miles away from the shop, it’s $50. You pick whatever makes sense for your company, and then that amount, they pay it when you did the estimate. When you get out there, either call the office via credit card or do it with a check on site. Then you take that off if they go with you, take it off the bit, so it’s not like it’s costing them extra, but they’re paying for your expertise at the time.

Eric Petersen:

I think we all agree that we all give away too much free information, right, and there’s certifications and investigations that these sales people have received over the years of value, so getting some compensation for that is critical and it outlines who you want to work with way better, because if they see the value in that and are willing to pay for your estimate and your knowledge, it’s not like you’re doing a full risk assessment.

Eric Petersen:

I’m not saying that, but you’re just giving them the information at that time. And set expectation, I think you mentioned that. That’s huge because you want to make sure they know it’s not a full risk assessment of that tree here in the yard, make sure it’s details on this is only what we’re talking about that.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, and I don’t break up the topic because it’s a solution for every business. Not every tree care business is in the space or the time frame where they can charge for an estimate, but if you are experiencing the problem of saying, “Whoa, we have a very full schedule,” It could be a really easy way to manage risk and prioritize jobs in an efficient way. But if you aren’t ready to take that dive, I feel like the estimate is still a really important time to manage risk. And what would be some of the red flags or notifiers of maybe a job someone listening should say, “Ooh, we need to watch out for these to avoid this work.”

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, great, great point. A lot of the claims that we get involved with on what’s called professional liability, those are the mistakes, errors and omissions mistakes that tree care companies have, revolve around not having it declared specifically in the clear proposal format. It’s too open-ended, so obviously in a lot of companies, the salesperson goes out, sells the job, knows what they’re seeing when they write it down, but it doesn’t necessarily always get translated back down to the work order when the crew goes out to do the work.

Eric Petersen:

And if that salesperson isn’t there on the job site, which most of the time is the case, that’s where the mistakes happen, so clear notes and communication on the front end is vital. Property trees, trees that are on property lines always cause issues, so the simple answer, don’t do it unless you have approval from the other one. If it’s close, get written communication from the other property owner.

Eric Petersen:

Sometimes that’s hard to do, but you have to stick to it and say, “No, it’s really important for us to lower our risk that we have everyone that’s potentially involved with this tree on the same page, because it’s close. It’s close to the border and I don’t want to mess with that. I don’t want to have them yelling at me or suing me for trespass,” or that kind of stuff, so property line trees you have to be careful of.

Eric Petersen:

Being clear, east-west directions. East-west, north-south, do that on each of the proposals when you’re talking about trees. Sometimes you can’t mark trees for a number of reasons, but if it’s possible, it’s a removal and you can mark it with spray paint, and the homeowner’s okay, do that. Do it right away. Mark it with tape, tape can get ripped off, but if it’s a removal and you can mark it with spray paint, do that because then you’re not cutting down the wrong tree.

Eric Petersen:

I guess I’m just rambling on some ideas, but really, it’s the communication from the beginning, knowing what the customer wants and therefore what the salesperson heard and how that translates down to the crew. And I’m sure you have plenty of good examples on the right software or proposal system that can make that seamless so that you don’t lose [inaudible 00:40:22] yellow sticky notes or yellow paper in the truck when you’re [crosstalk 00:40:26]

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, absolutely. People that have listened to a lot of these episodes know, we don’t talk about SingleOps a whole bunch, but one thing I will tell you, to talk about what you just addressed with managing risk, is whether it’s SingleOps or whether it’s another software tool out there, there are just softwares that are built for exactly what you’re talking about, to make sure everything you need from a proposal is communicated via work order to your crews.

Ty Deemer:

Even what you’re talking about one level up from spray painting a tree or taping it, do a satellite image with pens to talk about where trees are in a yard. That eliminates spray paint on trees or the risk of it getting ripped off. It’s on your crew’s phone when they go to the job site. Even seeing some of our customers leverage notes to their crew about little things, like “Watch out for this sprinkler head in this area” or “Hey, the Johnsons have a dog. Please make sure you close the gate” type deal.

Ty Deemer:

Little notes like that, it’s managing risk, right? It’s like I’m managing the risk of having a pissed-off Miss Johnson that we left her dog out, so there are a ton of great tools that can help you with that as well. Before we kind of go to the back half of our conversation, Eric, we talked about risk in sales, risk management via sales. We’ve talked about it through business development and then through training. Is there any other area of a business where you feel like you could touch on that, that you feel you really help your clients with, besides those two that we talked about?

Eric Petersen:

I think if we take a step above that, it’s the overall strategy or planning for the business, right? I mean, that is where it all starts and then it trickles down to training, it trickles down to the sales and the marketing and all that, so taking the time to actually do strategic planning, to do business planning, is hard to do. It really was hard for me to do within our agency for so many years, even though I had all these conversations with all of our guys and I was saying, “Yeah, you got to do this. This is the right way to do it.”

Eric Petersen:

It’s hard. It’s hard to stop and put yourself outside the business and look at it and say, “Okay, here’s where we are, being honest with ourselves. This is where we need to go. We have to get these things in place.” So helping people with a simple way to do strategic planning or business planning is key and crucial and then it highlights those other issues like we talked about. Employee development. It highlights the sales and estimating efforts. So taking a step back, really looking at your business from a higher perspective is critical.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, and then checking in on that perspective [crosstalk 00:43:17] throughout the year is another one I love. One of my favorite conversations we’ve had on this podcast was a guest from season two that talked about the power of a weekly meeting for him and his business, where they’re talking from a numbers perspective. They really only focus on accounts receivable. That’s how they have decided, “Hey, if that’s where we needed to be, we’ll be a successful business.” And even just having that weekly check-in, it just gives your team and your leadership team a way. It gives you a direction. And that reminds us. That’s so healthy to remind us why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Eric Petersen:

Absolutely, absolutely.

Ty Deemer:

So cool, so we’re coming towards the end of our show and we spend a lot of time on this podcast being reflective a good bit, talking about situations in the past or maybe scenarios that we’ve interacted with. I always like to kind of round it off and ask guests just what comes next for you in ArboRisk and what are you most excited about as we’re kind of walking into spring, weather’s warming up, people are getting busier like we talked about before we recorded. So what kind of comes next and what are you most excited about?

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, I guess for us internally, because we’ve been so heavily involved in the tree care world and talking about all these issues we just talked about today, we’re revising, revamping our Thrive program, which is essentially a risk management, member-based program that can give you one-on-one coaching and consulting. We’re looking to add in specific programs or I guess a module, if you will, for a small business, so it walks through training, equipment purchase and so basic that way.

Eric Petersen:

And then for a larger business, that we bring in different consultants that fill in that mold. I’m really excited to continue our risk management consulting part and helping the tree care industry understand that, just like safety, the word risk management isn’t necessarily boring. It’s very important for your business, so that’s probably the most exciting thing internally in our agency.

Eric Petersen:

But I’m super excited about just how professional the tree care world has become, in that in the short 18 years I’ve been [inaudible 00:45:35] it’s really neat to see in developing the passion that people have for making it safer, for making it more efficient, all of it. We all know the cool equipment that’s out there now. That’s the exciting thing for the industry.

Eric Petersen:

I really hope that as an industry we can start doing more apprenticeship programs and helping get the word out to the high schools, the high school guidance counselors, and really starting to develop this grass roots recruiting effort because, let’s face it, we all know we’re at a labor shortage, right? So really trying to help industry from the labor shortage issue. And then other personal things that we’re doing, I serve on the NZZ 133, a couple task groups from the committees. That’s been great and very beneficial to help give back to the industry that way and see the perspective of how to help with the actual words of that, that make a difference in the industry.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, that’s great, Eric and I feel very aligned with you in a lot of that. It has been cool even in my shorter time being involved in the tree care industry, all of the investments being made in advancing the space. And it’s cool, too because the community side of it was already so strong from the get-go and they had mastered that so early on, and now it’s like the innovation and the growth side of it is really being matched with it.

Ty Deemer:

Final little blip before we close the conversation, if people have been listening to this conversation and have enjoyed our topics about insurance and risk management, and feel like, “Man, this is probably something that I don’t know really what I need to do yet, but I need to talk to somebody about it,” how could someone come in contact with you or your team at ArboRisk?

Eric Petersen:

Yeah, our website is arboriskinsurance.com. I’m sure you’ll have a tag in the feed here but there’s a quick little Get Started button that we ask a few little bits and pieces of information on your business. Fill that out and one of our team members will get back to you right away. Then we set up time to do what we call the risk survey and we dig a little deeper. We’ll spend a half hour, 40 minutes, learning about you and your business before we even get into the insurance stuff, because again, the insurance is important, but if we don’t know who you are as a business, and where you’re going to go, we can’t properly insure you.

Eric Petersen:

So that’s the best way, start on arboriskinsurance.com. Click the Get Started button and fill out a short form and we’ll be back in touch with you. We’re also having a Become Extraordinary workshop that’s going to be going out in May, the middle of May, so take a look at that. It’s on our website as well, so that’s a three-part, interactive workshop that we can still have a round table discussion on certain topics. It feels fantastic to give the opportunity to have other tree care companies learn from each other in a structured way.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, that’s fantastic, Eric, so we covered a ton of great topics today across about a 45 to 50-minute conversation, a lot around how tree care businesses can begin thinking about how to manage risk, whether it’s through the training and safety, career development, sales, business planning. I really enjoyed the conversation and look forward to hopefully seeing you on a trade show floor later this year, but Eric, thank you so much for being on the show.

Eric Petersen:

Thank you, Ty. Keep up the great work. We really appreciate being part of this and helping build a better industry, so thank you very much.

Ty Deemer:

Absolutely, and for those that are listening, you can expect another episode next Thursday and would encourage you to continue sharing Green Industry Perspectives with your network. We strive to be a podcast that can let tree care and landscape professionals know about best practices, tactics and tips, so leave us a review, share the episode and we look forward to talking to you next week.

Ty Deemer:

Thanks for listening to this episode of Green Industry Perspectives, presented by SingleOps. If you got some value out of this episode, drop us a five-star review on your favorite streaming platform, and don’t forget to become a pro member of the podcast at singleops.com/podcast. As a pro member, you’ll get notified of each new episode. Access to exclusive bonus content, and be entered in to win some great prizes. Thanks, and don’t forget to tune in next week.