Monday, October 21, 2013

Small Business is Big Business - Local Tree Service

As of late I have been interested in small business. To satisfy my curiosity I have been following a small local tree service company in my hometown, Williamsburg Virginia. Let me be the first to tell you that having a small local tree service business is no easy task. During my time studying this small business in Williamsburg I have built a tremendous respect and admiration for small business owners every where.

These guys have an amazing service and product. They can do things that not many people can figure out and they are better than their competition. they also are well organized and manage the business side of things very well. I have learned a lot from my time with them.

Here are the Ingredients to a Successful Local Business:

  • Have a Product or Service that is not Easily Reproduced
Early on I suggested to the owner that he get into landscaping it only seemed logical to me. I mean he is talking to homeowners all the time who have him to do work in their yard and pay him good money to do so. So why not expand your business with existing clients?? Seemed obvious to me. But I was wrong.
The owner humbled me by explaining that landscaping doesn't have an acceptable return because so many people can do it. There is no real big margin and prices are constantly pushed down because so many folks are in that business. It was a good point.

  • Hire Good People - Train From With In
The owner hired a tree climber from New York about 500 miles away. They guy had a lot of experience, moved quick, and efficiently. The owner fired him 48 hours later. I was baffled. He said the climber was not safe enough and failed to make long term sustainable choices. I knew the owner had made a mistake. I mean this guy new what he was doing from what I could tell. I did notice that he had some opposition to bulky equipment belts like the owner climbed with. He sported less ropes and straps no gloves, etc. He went to a competitor. 2 weeks later received a call from the competitor, during the conversation the owner reported a joking sarcastic "thanks for the climber he is making me thousands a day" less than 60 days later that climber fell out of a tree. He no longer climbs. NO JOKE!!

The owner has trained the guy that bids and runs much of the business side of things from the ground up. It's paid off, the loyalty demonstrated from the so called employee is unparalleled.... Priceless.

  • Don't Be the Cheapest - Be the Best
The Owner is adamant about getting paid a fair and healthy price for the quality work he does. I have heard him tell perspective clients a 1,000 times, "...well, no, I'm not the cheapest by any means. But no one will be able to do this project better than me." He negotiates from the stand point "...can you really afford not to have me do this work for you?" The best part about his strategy is that he is right, I love it. 

Tree work is dangerous and complicated and people can get hurt, and property can get damaged. He does the work with concise expertise and unsurpassed ability. He also always does a little extra. One could argue that it is built into the price he charges but the results are a great reputation and overwhelming referral base.

He has told me that "the quickest way to go out of business is to be the cheapest". Now one could argue that Wal-Mart is the cheapest. But they don't really compete on price. They compete on efficiency.

  •  Invest in the Future of Your Business... ALWAYS
I am often baffled by how much and how consistently the owner reinvests the fruits of his labor back in to his business. He is constantly looking, researching, and buying new equipment. I would have trouble mirroring this habit of his even after seeing it work as it does. Another interesting strategy of his is that he spends the most advertising dollars during the slow season. He believes that this is necessary and it helps weed out the competition.

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