When is it time to grow? Should we grow?

ROYCE

Well-Known Member
This year has been very crazy for us work wise.....stared off slow for about a month. Slow meaning we only had about a 2 week back log. Then it kicked up like 200%. This is my current crew and equipment size!

5 employees: 1 office assistant. Two of the 5 employees are certified arborist's

30 ton crane, log truck, chip tuck and hipper, bucket truck, tractor, dingo, stump grinder....PHC equipment

My current problem is trying to service all the clients that have hired us. I screen calls, I only bid on projects that I want to do...and I still have a lot of work...and the phones keep ringing and jobs keep getting accepted. I have raised my rates by 20% and this still hasn't had much of an affect other than padding the bank account. I mean, I don't get every job I look at!
With my current team and equipment I feel we are maxed out to our capacity on what we can get done in a day. A larger crane....bigger chip truck and chipper...etc is not really going to get my jobs done that much faster.....not enough to allow me to accomplish another days work.

My question is when do you know its time to grow? I have always wanted to stay a one crew tree company. Mainly because I was told that is the most efficient. I also didn't like the thought of having to keep 5 guys busy...well guess what...that has not been a problem so far.

Also...is this year the new normal for us...or is this just an unusual year and next year will slow right down again? its hard to plan for the future when your not sure where things are headed and what normal is. If this is the new normal then I want to position myself to take advantage of all this work.

MY PLAN: Crane removal crew: 4 employees with crane, chip truck and chipper and log truck!
Climbing/bucket crew: 2 employees with chip truck and chipper and bucket or climbing!

In order to pull his off I would need to hire one more guy and buy a second chip truck and chipper. This also gives me some flexibility too. Could send 5 guys on the crane crew and 1 goes out and does stump grinding, picks up logs, phc etc. Or 3 go one way and 3 go the other way.

kinda a long post but I would be interested in what others think. My other option is to stay just where I am at and say no to the work I can not get to fast enough.
 

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator
Talk with your accountant about the real costs of growing and adding another crew

Finding quality people to fill positions without creating gut aches and headaches is much harder
Than buying the iron tontaoe care of the material

Do you have a company nearby that has grown comfortably?

There sure is comfort in padding your bank account! If you're working comfortably why grow? I think the capitalistic notion that growth is mandatory is a bit like cancer
 

treebilly

Well-Known Member
Might be an unusual year but I'd look into expanding. Multiple crews can become a headache but can be rewarding as well. You seem like a smart enough business owner to handle it. It's a risk but only you know your market.
 

ROYCE

Well-Known Member
Talk with your accountant about the real costs of growing and adding another crew

Finding quality people to fill positions without creating gut aches and headaches is much harder
Than buying the iron tontaoe care of the material

Do you have a company nearby that has grown comfortably?

There sure is comfort in padding your bank account! If you're working comfortably why grow? I think the capitalistic notion that growth is mandatory is a bit like cancer
Good points. I guess the main reason for wanting to grow is to continually be able to service the customers that call us. I look at a lot of really good jobs and its hard to say no...when you know that someone else will not service these clients needs. But finding quality people is always a struggle.
 

evo

Well-Known Member
I’d say it depends more so on the quality of your crew. Can you give more than a job? I’m talking a career where someone can work for you for 20 years and retire? Will your quality start slipping, with two crews? Forget the equipment, as that is just the nuts and bolts. I smell another bubble building, growth is great, but sustainable is key. If you slow down how would you feel if you had to layoff half your employees? Are your employees tools or extensions of your family?
These are the questions I’d be trying to answer
 

bonner1040

Well-Known Member
If you were any good at what you do then that would be appropriate.
That's not very nice. Most of the people I know think I am at least OK at my job.

Is there a better arborist supply I don't know about? Someone with a nice website, broad assortment, lower prices, faster shipping or better service?

Last email I got from your team was at 6:45 pm on a Tuesday night I answered it at 7:30 pm, seems like I put the effort in at least.


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JD3000

Most well-known member
Do you have that employee to be the crew leader on other jobs when you're not there? Someone you trust completely to do jobs safely, efficiently, and profitably?
Someone to also do some employee training as well?
 

ROYCE

Well-Known Member
I’d say it depends more so on the quality of your crew. Can you give more than a job? I’m talking a career where someone can work for you for 20 years and retire? Will your quality start slipping, with two crews? Forget the equipment, as that is just the nuts and bolts. I smell another bubble building, growth is great, but sustainable is key. If you slow down how would you feel if you had to layoff half your employees? Are your employees tools or extensions of your family?
These are the questions I’d be trying to answer
I could keep the quality up with another crew. I have two really good guys right now that would be the foremans on the two crews. Yes, we offer way more than just a job with a paycheck. Retirement, vacation, sick time, gear stipend, year end bonus, company vehicles to senior members...etc. This would all continue.
The second crew would be set up to handle the smaller jobs that are not as efficient to do with a crew of 5 employees.

I do think of my employees as family. But in running a business it is impossible to predict what will happen in the future. You can have great insight, plan according, position yourself to take advantage of future opportunities... yet still not be able to handle a major down-turn in the economy.

I think if my addition of another crew as giving myself a few more options. We are a very diverse company and I think that allows us to stay so busy. I had over 2K in logs not make it to the mill in time and because stained with a fungus. This happened because of not having enough employees to get the logs to the mill. Thats just one example where having another crew would allow more flexibility and allow us to be more efficient.
 

ROYCE

Well-Known Member
That's not very nice. Most of the people I know think I am at least OK at my job.

Is there a better arborist supply I don't know about? Someone with a nice website, broad assortment, lower prices, faster shipping or better service?

Last email I got from your team was at 6:45 pm on a Tuesday night I answered it at 7:30 pm, seems like I put the effort in at least.


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Your right....that was pretty harsh. My apologies. I still don't think you should raise your prices:)
 

ROYCE

Well-Known Member
Do you have that employee to be the crew leader on other jobs when you're not there? Someone you trust completely to do jobs safely, efficiently, and profitably?
Someone to also do some employee training as well?
Yes, I have two of them right now. They have made a pretty good commitment to the company and want to be around for the long haul. I think they see where this business could go...what it could develop into.
 

bonner1040

Well-Known Member
I know a lot of owner operators and moving from two to three, or three to four crews has always been a bigger struggle than going from one to two.

Feel free to call or email if you ever want to talk business!

As always we will try not to raise prices ;)


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evo

Well-Known Member
Sounds like your set. Plan for the best but be prepared for the worse. Just have a plan where you can down size gracefully when needed. It does sound like you have all your ducks in a row and set to expand. Glad your rolling so well!
 

ROYCE

Well-Known Member
Sounds like your set. Plan for the best but be prepared for the worse. Just have a plan where you can down size gracefully when needed. It does sound like you have all your ducks in a row and set to expand. Glad your rolling so well!
I once heard a quote that said "you make money to grow, not grow to make money". This growth is not motivated by money. Simply in trying to keep more of our customers happy. Let me say this!!

We did a great three day job for a customers. She was thrilled by the work we did and she referred us to her sister. I went out and looked at the job. This was the removal of a few trees around the property to make room for a new garage. She had received three other quotes before contacting us. She wanted to hire us because we came recommend by her sister and she knew she could trust us. Problem is...we are booked out 9 weeks and couldn't get to it right away. This is what bothers me....When your highly recommended and can not take care of their needs. A second crew would allow me to stay on top of this. Or....make the wait not be so long.
 

treebilly

Well-Known Member
This is where your small job crew can really help out. They can either handle it or handle another job while the A team comes in.
Doesn't being to busy suck! I'm not being a smart ass. It really does suck. I'm not quite in your shoes but I am booking for March right now. Knock that down to full time that's a month out.
 

flyingsquirrel25

Well-Known Member
The cool thing is it's not like you are looking to add 2, 3 or 5 more guys. You are looking at 1 and splitting up your current crew a little better to facilitate the two crews. I'm looking into the hiring game for the first time and it's a huge what if, scary. You have stability so if this year was just an anomaly simple adjustments can keep everyone employed, at the very least. The other cool thing, you don't need a 100k truck or 70k 18" chipper for this second crew, that's not what their tasks will entail. A smaller truck and smaller chipper are more than adequate for the 2 man (or three man) crew. And if all they do is pick up logs, grind stumps and pruning a small truck is best anyhow (maybe a second mini for a grinding crew).

You certainly have the talent to operate that second crew between you as a boss/manager and the guys you got working for ya, I think you will kill it. From what I can see from a far you are leaps and bounds ahead of most of the other clowns working that market.

Now... the real issue... finding that one guy that can do the job and fit in with the rest of the crew! That's the challenge!
 

Gorman

Well-Known Member
Royce, I’m in the same boat. My backlog has been growing from 4 to 6 and then 8 weeks. I have three employees and one is on firewood splitting 30 hours a week.
I was thinking about just buying another chipper at first and then splitting my crews so one takes a chipper with the forestry unit while I take a chip truck and chipper to climb somewhere else. I think I will have to sub a crew leader to whittle away at my work load. Hiring people around here is a terrible process.
 

Nish

Well-Known Member
Maybe hive off one or two of your guys to start a farm team to knock out simpler jobs with small trucks, combining crews when appropriate. The farm team's chipper and dump truck will also be your back up.
 

southsoundtree

Well-Known Member
I hear of one and a half crews. Half crew does little jobs, builder/ developer contractor emergency calls to clear some trees here and there, help the big crew, fill in for someone sick or on vacation.
 
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