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7 Business Trends for Arborists in 2019

December 14, 2018 13 min. read
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We asked arboriculture entrepreneurs and experts across many disciplines to tell us what’s on their radar going into the new year.

In 2018 we saw the rise of the online marketplace: Facebook, Google, Amazon—the big tech players got into the game, which was predicted by contributors in our 2018 trends article.

This year we’re seeing that no one single issue is dominating the narrative for business owners in the home services. Our contributors in arboriculture, HVAC, residential cleaning, landscaping, pool service, contracting, window cleaning, pressure washing, accounting, consulting, and more, have all identified trends and priorities across a variety of areas.

An important common denominator this year is the need to take a 360-degree view to growing and differentiating your business. Everything ladders up to creating a memorable service experience for customers in a crowded landscape, and it pays to take a holistic approach.

The themes of having a strong online presence, building out a team you can trust, continuously adjusting your digital marketing, and looking for automation and efficiency opportunities aren’t new—they’re table stakes. And maybe that’s the overarching theme: 2019 is the year of getting back to basics, and ensuring your business is ready to crush the year on all fronts.

– Sam Pillar, CEO, Jobber

1. Create processes to protect your business and keep your team safe

For 2019, I would say that if you haven’t put any effort into developing policies and procedures that protect your business, it’s time to make that happen. I do that primarily in two ways: first is through Jobber and using it to track all parts of the process of quoting, scheduling, and performing the work. Every quote we give is turned into a signed contract through Jobber before it makes it onto our schedule, no exceptions.

Once the crew is on site to work, they check in and add photos of any pre-existing damage on site so that we won’t be blamed later. This process has saved us from numerous potential issues with clients. Although 99 percent of our customers are awesome people, there’s always that one person who can make you lose sleep at night.

The second way that we protect our business is through our formal safety program. It amazes me how many tree services show up to a job and lack the very basic safety supplies and training. Develop and implement a formal training and safety program. It takes time so don’t be discouraged, just get started and build it one step at a time. Remember when it comes to OSHA, Worksafe or any other workers compensation organization, if you don’t have a record of it, it didn’t happen.

– Gordon Field, Owner, Field’s Tree Service Inc.

In 2019, employers in arboriculture ought to prioritize their Health & Safety programming. Start by determining what kind of health and safety program benchmarks are already out there. Then use these existing standards as a litmus test to evaluate your own programs and how they adhere to regulations yet most importantly allow your team to do their jobs as safely as possible.

Integrating Jobber’s forms functionality can help employers and workers easily fulfill the workplace inspection and Job Hazard Assessment obligations often included within effective Health and Safety programs.

In 2019, Advanced Tree Care aims to finalize our multi-year endeavor to meet IHSA’s Certificate Of Recognition (COR) Standard for Workplace Health & Safety.

– Kevin Mengers, Owner, Advanced Tree Care

2. Make sure you can be found where people are looking for you

The most important thing for small businesses when it comes to marketing is being found where people want to find you. You need to make sure you have your basics covered with: a Facebook page with the location info filled in, a Google My Business account with local information and service areas filled in, etc.

It’s getting harder and harder to be found and those are the basics. If you don’t have the basics covered, you don’t need to anything else. Don’t hire anyone to do SEO on your site. Don’t hire anyone to paid ads. Start with the basics.

– Nick Keyko, Director of Marketing, Jobber

Social media marketing is going to be the biggest aspect to drive business growth as business owners get ready for 2019. It allows you to find isolated groups of customers to market to: Our customers are gathering themselves within Facebook groups, in online garage sale groups, on the Nextdoor app, on Instagram.

It’s now a lot easier and a lot less expensive than it used to be to get in front of and acquire new customers. Meet your customer where they’re already familiar with buying. Look for a group, look for a page to join. Maybe create your own group, so that you can isolate your customers, so that you can allow them to experience the major benefits of your business as you constantly, continually, upgrade your page with new photos and new digital content.

– Greg Brooks, CEO, Brooks Landscaping

3. You must learn to do more with less when it comes to labor

One big thing for 2019 is labor issues. There have been a lot of issues with immigration and getting workers, so you’re doing more with less. A lot of landscapers I work with have not been able to find employees because they used to rely on the H-2B program (Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers) and that just got throttled. I know two companies that almost went out of business because they couldn’t hire anyone.

Doing more with less is a trend. Anything that makes labor more efficient is a hot button.

– Mike Leventry, Owner, Verdant Plant Healthcare

There’s a real paradigm shift that I believe is felt in any industry in any type of role whether you’re employing more seasonal or long-term employees: People are not willing to stay in places where their personal values don’t align with the company. Everyone is looking to make an impact.

The majority of us aren’t saving lives, but we can still have an impact. You can put a smile on someone’s face, and they’ll tell a friend at a dinner party that they had a great experience with your tree care business.

The people you want to have as employees, who are going to help build your company, are searching for a way to make an impact.

Think through the following questions:
1. Why am I asking people to be here?
2. What is our purpose as an organization?

You will win, you will scale, you will achieve revenue growth if you take time to focus on the impact, the vision, and the culture of your business. Organizations who think those things are fluffy and don’t have a place in business will continue to operate at mediocre growth.

And customers have higher expectations than they ever have. So why not have employees that meet those changing expectations?

– Danielle Strang, Head of People Operations, Jobber

An identifiable and measurable recruiting system should be in place for your tree service business. Also, a measurable training program should be installed within your business to promote growth from within.

Our team is seeking technology that can assist with the tracking of employee training and development.

– Phil Jubert, President of Biome, Save Your Shade

Employee issues are always the number one pain point for small business owners and it is only going to get worse for those unwilling to change. No longer is it enough to post a help wanted ad and hope for the best. Smart owners are shifting to head-hunting for top talent and focusing on building recruiting systems.

With unemployment at an all-time low coupled with the fact that millennials are moving away from the trades, it is a perfect storm.

The owners who get ahead of this issue have a massive opportunity to build incredible teams of A-players but it will only happen by them taking serious the idea of head-hunting. Most great job candidates are already working somewhere else and it is the small business owners responsibility to lure them away with a better offer and a compelling company culture.

– Josh Latimer, Founder, SendJim and Automate Grow Sell

4. Level up your paid marketing game in the digital space

Google is coming out with a tool that will become more widespread in 2019: local service ads.

At the very top of a results page, it will show three or four arborists in your area that you can book directly from Google without ever visiting the arborist’s website. Right now, you still have to click an ad, visit the website, and then find out how to book your service.

This feature is becoming available throughout the US and is likely on its way to Canada. Early adopters are paying $20 to $30 per lead, but this will go up and likely double as others adopt the service—so get on there before everyone else figures this out!

You also don’t need to worry about finding an agency to help with your Google Ads spend: it’s set it and forget it. It’s built with the entrepreneur in mind, eliminating Google Ads management time.

– Rafael Valdez, PPC Analyst, Jobber

Facebook continues to outpace any other ads platform in terms of revenue growth. For a long time, Google AdWords was the biggest digital advertising platform for every type of business, but when Facebook unleashed its new advertising platform it specifically started outpacing Google on mobile.

In particular, people are spending more on Facebook mobile ads than they are on Google mobile ads. Facebook will continue to dominate the mobile advertising space, and increasingly become an important channel for small businesses.

Looking at trends, I think more and more, people will be going to Facebook on their phones to find their next service provider making it a strong lead source for small businesses. That will bleed into you needing to be able to accept new work from Facebook.

– Nick Keyko, Director of Marketing, Jobber

5. Be in tune with the homeowner’s appreciation for the environment

Today’s homeowner is a more discerning consumer of tree care and landscape services. They may not realize right away that one of the most expensive aspects of home maintenance is tree maintenance.

Today’s homeowner has a greater appreciation for their trees, in light of the shrinking urban forest canopy as well as headline social and environmental issues such as global warming, the California forest fires, water shortages and even the Emerald Ash borer epidemic. The GenX/GenY consumer tends to be more concerned with preserving the environment and their surroundings. Make sure you are a part of the Tree Care Industry Association, and always aware of the most current events.

– Sachin Mohan, Vice President Corporate Relations & Marketing, Tree Care Industry Association

There’s a growing recognition of the importance of outdoor space and connecting to the living landscape to our health and well-being—and a need to get kids off their devices and joysticks and reconnect to the outdoors.

A key trend that landscapers should keep in mind is their role in creating and managing these spaces for children, families, and pets. Nature starts at your back door.

– Kris Kiser, President, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

6. Drop the hard-line sales tactics if you want to win people over

Stop taking orders for tree work, or stop the hard sell tactics and starting selling your service by educating your client on proper tree care. People are smart and have a greater awareness of the issues impacting them than ever before. If they own a property with trees, they know the value.

Most people go to their doctor’s office having Googled their symptoms and wanting precise answers for their ailment. The same can be said of tree care. Have a smart website, know your client needs, educate them about what you are offering, and don’t be an order-taker or a used car salesman.

Yes, you may be in the tree business, but you’re really in the customer satisfaction business. Under-promise and over-deliver. Leaving that pile of mulch, a stack of firewood, or lawn that looks better than when you arrive always helps and costs little or nothing.

– Sachin Mohan, Vice President Corporate Relations & Marketing, Tree Care Industry Association

We find that most service companies give their prospects an ‘ultimatum’ when they give a quote. They don’t mean to, but what often happens is that a company will give out a single price for services that the potential customer views as a ‘take it or leave it price.’ The only way for them to get context on that pricing is to call a competitor in order to see how their pricing compares. In today’s research buying style that is typically done through email or a few text messages and ultimately the potential customer makes their decision once they have enough information that surely won’t be determined in an ‘ultimatum’ style quote.

The other type of quote that is very common in the service world is the ‘line item’ style pricing. This gives the customer more information but comes with a lot of other baggage. Often when a customer looks at a bunch of lines adding up to a single price, they feel an internal obligation to scrutinize each line and often will ask to cut a few lines off the estimate or in the end, maybe ask for a few of the line items to be “thrown in for free” so that the business can close the deal.

If you look at how customers are used to buying in today’s market, they like to choose from packages. Often this gives them all of the context they need to make a decision right away with enough options, but it also puts the emphasis on the value being connected to price, rather than features to be haggled over. By laying out a ‘good, better, best’ option for customers to choose from, you’ll find that you’ll close more jobs at higher prices and your customers will thank you!

– Curt Kempton, Founder, Responsibid and Symphosize

7. Never stop looking for automation and efficiency opportunities

For most service companies your single largest monthly expense is payroll. Automating business processes with software can provide huge employee savings, improve the quality of your service, automate your marketing, and greatly reduce your management time. And if someone asks you “Why don’t you just make a spreadsheet for that” feel free to quietly smirk on the inside.

– Lars Kristensen, CEO and co-founder, NiceJob

Automate your business as much as possible, and keep an eye on emerging technologies that help you do this. For a long time, powerful automation tools didn’t exist for small business owners—they were targeted at large businesses with big budgets.

Small businesses are now getting access to this tech for a fraction of the price and, in some ways, it’s better than enterprise level tools. Look at accounting software: at the enterprise level it’s very expensive, always needs to be updated, and it’s hard to use, with a clunky user interface. QuickBooks Online is easy to use, always up to date—and available for a fraction of the price. Software companies are now developing new tools for small businesses first, then sending them up-market, so there is more software innovation than ever in the small business space.

These automation tools are not only going to help you reduce costs, maybe you can delay hiring an administrator or a bookkeeper, but they should also give you better visibility into your business so you can operate more strategically.

– Darren Wood, Director of Finance and Operations, Jobber

Improve your time management. Use your calendars effectively. Block tasks and have specific time allocations to them. This way you don’t spend too much time with one item. Also, keeps you on pace to complete important tasks without missing anything. This is an important process that helps to control your workflow and keeps you organized. Here’s an example:

8:30am to 9:15am: CEO time
9:30am to 10:30am: prospecting calls
10:30am to 12:00pm: onsite
12:00pm to 1:00pm: lunch/flex time
1:00pm to 1:25pm: follow up with X project
1:25pm to 2:00pm: flex time
2:00pm to 2:30pm: marketing review
3:00pm to 4:00pm: sales meeting

– Brad Halliwell, Business Coach, Halliwell Business Coaching

If small home service business owners are still doing things manually or using a lot of paper, seriously consider going digital and use software built for their type of business. Their competitors are leveraging modern software to maximize performance and win customers, don’t get left behind.

Good software should be accessible from anywhere on any device, be simple to use, save you time, reduce risk, and is customer friendly (if there’s a customer touchpoint). Service business software like Jobber checks all of those boxes.

– Quan Ly, Partner, CPA, McRally LLP Chartered Accountants

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