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FOLLOWING PUBLICATION OF EACH ISSUE of the Ontario Arborist magazine, we load copies of our most popular columns and features here in our article bank. In addition to being an invaluable source of information, the online versions contain an added benefit not possible in the magazine – live links. So remember, if you read an article in print and want to visit a link but don't want to type in a long address, simply find the article here and click away. One caveat: articles date back almost 10 years so some of the links referenced in earlier publications may no longer be valid. We do our best to keep them current or remove outdated links but the web changes daily!
A patient lying on a hospital gurney after a car accident is unaware of the number of people working for them. From the kitchen staff to the pharmacist to the hospital administrator, there are many people doing their job to make the patient’s stay as short as possible. The same is true when an invasive insect causes a crisis. The specialists discussed here are only a small part of the team working on both sides of the border to save the North American ash and keep our cities green.
Many successful commercial arborist services were started by a young entrepreneur who had some experience in the trade, a bit of business sense and a lot of hope and energy. Early on, while in their 20s or 30s, they focus on creating cash flow by establishing a good client base. Cash flow is the means to make payments on leased equipment and vehicles as well as for their own survival needs such as food, rent, etc.
Past Ontario Arborist articles by Shayne Plowman and Edward Kennedy regarding the health or quality of a tree and the worthiness of letting it stand have been quite entertaining (see the May 2006 and July 2006 issues). The point of their articles was in regard to municipal bylaw mandates and ‘tree hugger’ attitudes that encourage preservation despite genuine issues with the specimen in question. Both Shayne’s suggestion that “some trees deserve to have a house fall on them” and Edward’s comment that “some people deserve to have a tree fall on them” were humourous, yet insightful taken in context. Both gentlemen focused on the removal of a failing tree or one that lacks contribution of any reasonable value or merit via its existence.
The old adage that what looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, must be a duck isn’t always true. While this rule does hold true in many respects of life and business, a common confusion that will be of interest to arborists involves the definition of towable equipment versus genuine trailers in accordance to the laws governing use of our roadways.
Arboriculture services often include, even as an incidental service only, consultation for the preparation of designs and plans that requires expert review, inspection, sampling, research, advice, opinion and other knowledge based skills, both from within the business as well as outside sources such as a soil test from a laboratory or cabling and bracing input from an engineer. The gathered information might simply be put into a report for use by others or can instead be used internally to assist in determining an appropriate course of action for the project at hand.
The tree business providing felling, pruning and other ‘workmanship’ only services should consider its risk exposure to allegations of errors and omissions. While there will not be as many of the issues that concern a consulting arborist, some are still very applicable. Most notable are those that relate to ‘omission’ matters, as committing an ‘error’ is less likely when an opinion was not requested. It is important to recognize that ‘omission’ legalities can and do arise from circumstances not forming part of the client’s service request. As professionals (at least in the client’s eyes), allegations might be brought forward suggesting that expertise, such as a recommendation or warning, should have been shared. It is especially important to appreciate that even if a court later determines that there was no legal obligation to express an opinion, the cost to defend such a suit can be costly. Even getting a case dropped can be expensive!
In my travels, a common discussion with arborists involves their frustration of not being understood. They often mention that those in government, clients and suppliers (generally the public at large) do not really know what an arborist does. A usual comment is that people tend to assume an arborist is little more than a contractor with a chain saw. Apparently the arborist is viewed superficially without appreciation for the full depth of knowledge and skill that is required to be a true expert of the trade.
Many small business owners don’t have a business succession plan in place leaving them unprepared for retirement, disability or death. A business succession plan determines how your business will be transferred to others and outlines the steps necessary to prepare for the transition. A good succession plan ensures that your wishes will be carried out if you should die suddenly or can no longer run your business. It can also help you ease into retirement or provide a retirement income.
They're called segregated funds because the assets of these funds are kept separate from the life insurance company’s other assets. Segregated funds are investment funds offered by insurance companies. Segregated funds, like mutual funds, pool investors’ money together under the direction of a team of professional investment managers to achieve growth. They are insurance contracts that offer the potential for growth with the following benefits: probate protection; the potential for creditor protection; and capital guarantees not available with mutual funds.
Every business owner knows that arranging insurance can be some what of a daunting task. It can be confusing, time consuming and especially frustrating if coverage is not securely in place when unfortunate circumstances arise. The following few paragraphs will share a few ideas, hints and tips on what to look for.
The headlines on Tuesday, September 20, 2008 were all focused on the largest single one day drop of the TSX, 840 points or 6.93% which occurred on the 29th. On the same day everyone was talking about the headlines, the TSX gained back 467 points or 4.15% – but without all the headlines. Where will the markets be next week or next year, who knows?
In a recent meeting, I was talking to a business owner about his insurance needs. While we reviewed his requirements he mentioned that while it would be nice to have all of his insurance needs covered, he would still like to have money for investing. While looking at the different types of insurance options available, term versus whole insurance, we tried to strike a balance.
Spring is a hectic time of year for me. Arborists are currently reporting their acquisitions and changes in advance of their coming busy period thus keeping copious amounts of paperwork flowing across my desk. In addition to the many vehicle additions, driver (employee) additions and certificate requests (jobs being bid), this is also the time that many clients have their annual insurance renewal. However, too many treat their ‘insurance renewal’ as exactly that. Their time and thought is to renew the existing insurance with a few changes or invest a little extra time into ‘keeping the broker honest’ by shopping for a few alternative quotations.
A variety of change in circumstances has led me along a path of deep introspection over the past few years with many self-asked questions pondering my personal purpose and existential reason for being. Such considerations are perhaps prompted by mid-life as looming on the horizon is my 40th birthday. As this occurs on September 11, it has, at least for the past eight years, provoked additional thoughts on the meaning of life in reflection of that terrible day in 2001.
The pitched whine of the fuel pump and fuel injection system warming up at the turn of the key indicate the machine’s anticipation of ignition. A brief pause after this pre-start up ritual, a squeeze of the clutch, and I thumb the starter button located on the right handle bar. The high speed electric starter motor sound is brief as it brings life to 996 cubic centimetres of twin-cylindered combustion space. Life at idle for this v-twin bike is a quiet whine, subtle as to not disturb the neighbours and cement their opinion that the arborist next door is both a maniac and adrenaline junkie.
A recently read book has some good stories about the value added benefit created when you enter the competitive marketplace. It also suggests that businesses should be ‘paid to play.’ Many of the lessons provided suggest the importance of ensuring your customer is aware that your participation in the bidding process is required. We may all recognize this as common sense; however do we realize that it is not unreasonable to request payment for this service? Business people seem to have a natural sense to offer competition for free. The prospect wants a bid, I’ll give a bid. Why not slow down and consider the question, “How important is my bid to the customer?” If not important, reconsider bidding at all. You are not likely to get the job and if so, there will be little money in it.
Many readers of the Ontario Arborist are individuals I consider great friends, close business associates, mentors and advisors. All of whom teach me incredible things about life, work, professionalism and business – and ironically, half of them aren’t even aware of it! Many of these people are business veterans who have laboured for decades to create corporations that are successful and sustaining. Over the years, I have observed a number of business models with significantly different systems and operational policies in place. Having started to “row” my own boat five years ago, pondering the pros and cons of each model has been a fairly constant occupation of my psyche in the hope of generating my own success story.
Throughout my career, be it electronics or insurance, the most common compliment received from clients, and a top reason noted for doing business together, revolved around service. While many were pleased with the product and pricing, service was almost always stated as the primary factor in decision making.
Arborists come in many flavours, including crew bosses, technical educators, salespeople, managers, consultants, researchers, bylaw officers and more. Our work involves communication with others every day and many of us will, at one time or another, talk publicly about aspects of our work or, more usually, trees.
The responsibilities and obligations of tree service entrepreneurs who begin to employ other people are often unfamiliar to the skilled tradesmen and women within the ranks of the Ontario arboriculture industry. Few of us obtain formal education in this subject area and in the end develop our knowledge and understanding via the U of OTJ – the University of On The Job.