OCAA News July-Aug 2011

The summer season is in full swing and the majority of arborists are dealing with stress or burnout as a result of busy schedules. I have been intrigued for many years as to why tree care companies create a belief among clients that tree work is a seasonal affair. The question of when the job can be done is often followed by “within the next few weeks” creating a sense of urgency. However, some of the best run companies have realized that it is better to spread the work out over four seasons by doing what needs to be done in the summer and planning with their clients to perform non-essential maintenance work from late fall to early spring.

The response by a well-planned company to the above question becomes one of trying to determine if and why the client needs the job done immediately or if it can be performed at a later date. When clients ask for a cheaper price, accommodate them by planning it as a late fall/winter job if this is a reasonable scenario (or simply provide a fall/winter discount up front if applicable). 

Business management courses examine the benefits of budgeting one’s company expenses over the course of a year-long period rather than within a condensed time frame. Banks and money lenders constantly examine financial sheets for the monthly forecasts over the course of a year and will lend based on this comfort level. Furthermore, governments and utilities perform tree work year round. 

Despite all of the aforementioned, commercial tree care companies generally cram an entire year’s worth of work into a six to eight month time frame. Long days and weekend jobs allow this to be accomplished. Some companies are designed by the owners to take the winter off, but most are forced to take these months off due to a lack of work. Since the phone rarely rings in the winter and won’t stop in the summer, we feel the need to perform as much of that work as quickly as possible to pad the bank account to sustain us during the long winter season. 

Working ourselves to the bone forces us to overlook the stress relief that summer can provide. As I sit next to my five year-old daughter this morning on Canada Day, I ask her a simple question: “What is your favourite season of the year?” Summer is her quick response. My other daughter and wife agree. Yet, many arborists identify summer as their favourite season of work. 

We are fortunate that our job is performed outdoors during what are arguably the best months of the year. Yes, it is also our busiest time of year and to some extent, the most stressful. Keep in mind that summer is the best time to spend with your family and friends and the easiest season to relieve workplace stresses by going out and enjoying the outdoors (and even though you may love your work, you should love your downtime more). 

Remember, time is fleeting. As a young entrepreneur, I encourage you to take some time off and enjoy summer with your family and friends as it truly only lasts a couple of months. Allow your employees to do the same. If you can train your clients that arboriculture is a twelve-month job and non-essential work can be done during the winter, I know that your overall business will be healthier, your employees will be happier, your family life will be more enjoyable and your business stress will decrease. I could go on but it is a long weekend and I’m heading out on my boat for the next four days. Whatever you were doing on the long weekend, I hope you enjoyed it and relieved some stress – the weather looks like it will be fabulous. 
— OCAA Director Mark Graves

Our mission is to enhance and promote the care and benefit of trees for present and future generations in Ontario through education, research and awareness.