About Trees Ltd – Kent Tree Surgeon


It’s not sour grapes….honestly

Tree Maintenance

It’s not sour grapes….honestly

Being professional Arboricultural company is not always easy. For me I want to build a brand that it respected and acknowledged as being educated, honest and safe. In my head, it’s the kind of company that I would engage with if I came across it. We all shout from the roof tops that there is no place for cowboys in our industry, yet why are there so many companies, firms, set-ups wanting to still cut corners, beat any written quote and essentially not know their industry. I had this situation yet again this week, chances are I did not get a slightly abnormal job for being too expensive. It sound as if it is but I promise It’s not sour grapes….honestly.

What is it then?

Ultimately I suppose it’s frustration. Frustration in trying to compete with people that don’t know the dangers present. Frustration with the “we’ll beat any price” adverts. Frustration with most tree work being viewed as a uninspiring purchase to the tree owners. For many folk paying to have their trees worked on is up there with washing machine purchases.


I focus my efforts 100% on quality, from the second I arrive at a prospective job to the second the team leaves the completed job site tidy, clean and no mishaps. It has proven to be a good approach. I think potential clients are already expecting us to be on the higher side of the 3 quotes that they may obtain – it’s where I want us as a company to be if I’m brutally honest.

Our literature is clear. concise and full of decent imagery, I spend money (quite a lot) on this website, SEO, social media – we are easily found on several platforms. They can review us as a company online on Facebook, Google and Checkatrade. The trucks are kept clean, they are nicely sign written. The lads turn up in branded clothing, with a decent risk assessment and job sheet. Tools are up to date, new and well looked after. The quotes that are provided are clear, informative and I’d like to think get the point across that the potential client is dealing with a company that really does know what they are talking about. It’s all carefully crafted in a hope to win us more work.

About Trees is accredited & approved with various quality and health & safety monitoring companies. We should be viewed as professionals and as such we should be able to speak with a bit of authority and… well yes demand a price that reflects this.

Marketing speak

My wife of nearly 15 years is in marketing, I’ve heard all of the techniques and theories going over these years.

This is my favourite one I think. Where we aim as a company to be is YELLOW high quality part of the triangle. We stray into the ORANGE section quite often too. This is where I think as professionals we should be, foolishly its also where I imagine my potential clients would like us to be.

I’m wrong quite often. There is a large percentage of potential clients that are firmly in the BLUE low cost frame of mind. I don’t mind this at all. It becomes a little difficult when they also want to add the PINK and YELLOW corners to the equation. I think we can rightly so call the “the best of both worlds” or “having your cake and eating it”

Problem is for a contractor like us this is not sustainable, you can have it cheap, but the trade off is the priority and the quality.

How is this relevant?

For me the relevance is, we can’t or rather, I’m not willing to provide high quality at cheap prices and high priority and I find it hard to understand why someone would. I still think there are customers that want high quality and are willing to accept that it comes at a reasonable price – not even high.

Take for example a tree I looked at this week, a Cupressus macrocarpa – Monterey cypress in the back garden of a impressive contemporary house (newish build). Everything about this house, the street is is located on, the owners make it firmly my target audience. They are classified as Affluent Executives in marketing terms. Think Smeg appliances and holidays to Santorini, they pay for quality. The tree as shown at the top is clearly suffering with one dead stem and a second stem of low vigour. It’s obvious the dead stem has been so for a while now. I suppose the traditional approach would have been to climb the good side and work from that side removing the bad side first and so on. I inspected the base of the tree and at 1m above ground level found this

it’s Brown-rot. Now, I’m not proclaiming to be an authority but I’m an Arborist with over 20 years under my belt. I know how serious this is when you find it, I know it reduces wood weight by unto 70%. I also know it makes the wood have all the characteristics of a digestive biscuit. Further on I know that when this Brown-rot is dry and crumbly this makes this tree quite unsafe to climb. Armed with this knowledge I formulated an approach to get the tree down safely, controlled and with as little risk to my men as possible. It has to be a MEWP

This I view as being the most professional approach I could offer. This tree is not a climber. True I had a long climbing career, and in my younger days would have attempted this. Most likely I’d have been lucky and the dead stem wouldn’t have failed. But we know more now, we have more tools under ours belts now, and access equipment that can get into rear gardens. At the very least legally we have to be more careful. What I’m saying is there are options, old fashioned ropes and harnesses are not alway the go to approach. BTW straight felling of this tree I believe is not an option. It’s pretty much touching the gravel board and panels behind. It has quite some weight over the rear side. And characteristics of the wood are so compromised that it would be a guess as to where it would go.

Quote time

After weighing up the site, condition of the tree etc. etc. a quote was emailed off to the client (potential). It pointed out the nature of Brown-rot – the removal of Cellulose and Hemicellulose from the wood structure, the risks this posses to both the tree and traditional climbing techniques and so on.

The price I gave reflected the hire of the MEWP our own IPAF qualified Arborist, 2 grounds members, tree dismantled with care and control and all arisings removed from site. The price was £680+VAT.

It was deemed too expensive, I know the prospect will get other quotes that will be less than ours, I know that there is a high chance they will not know or even notice the tell tale signs of Brown-rot. I’m also pretty certain there will be a climbing arborist up this tree. There’s every chance he/she will be lucky the tree will come down perfectly well and everyone will ask why About Trees decided it was dangerous and provided such an over inflated price.

It’s not an over inflated price, it’s a price for a professional approach based on professional knowledge.

I’m not willing to rely on luck. That’s my lads up those trees. They have children, I’m not taking the risk.

That’s why I’m sticking in the YELLOW high quality side of the triangle.

It’s not sour grapes….honestly

The question remains – How do we make our industry and all the professionalism it brings on a par to a Smeg refrigerator?


I find myself feeling a little bit paternal to the team, I want them to know I have their back, just as I’m exposed letting them be the face of the company, I’m also there for them. I’ve had people before with personal problems at home, difficult family life, tricky ex girlfriends and I’ve tried hard to support and understand. In the past I’ve enjoyed the fact that I’m a Boss and have lads on site to do the hard work. I’ve rocked up in the morning issued the job sheets and left the them to it, truth is whilst trying not to interfere with their way of running the job it just comes across as me not being interested which is far from the truth. My desire to not micro-manage, constantly be calling for progress reports or be Alpha male had been conceived as me just not giving a damn. This is easily changed; I started to go out on site with the team more often. Yes I got under their feet and tried to impart knowledge (that they already know) but at least on those days we are all in it together. I also realised how much of the banter I’d been missing. We also try to have regular tool-box talks. Whilst a bit American and touchy feelythey are really beneficial – team members feel valued and able to raise concerns regarding kit, jobs, timescales etc.

Sub Contractors

Getting subbies in brings a whole new ball game. In truth I feel for sub contractors, these people work HARD! Face it, you’re paying your subbie easily upwards of £160 per day, you’re going want you pound of flesh. I’ve tried to resist this urge, generally they do come in on larger jobs, and so it’s very nature is that these are harder days in fact the whole team works harder on these days. The reason you pay them more? No holiday, no sick, no pension, their PPE, their tools and so on. That’s their risk not yours. It’s not an excuse to load them up. When they are working with us they are part of our team, not some pit pony to be worked and worked and worked. This approach has worked for me, subbies want to come in for me, they’ll change stuff around for us in their diaries and my view is work more conscientiously for us. My experience has shown subbies to be amazing professionals who perform day in day out, learn how different companies work and adjust accordingly, they are worth the money, treat them well. Some may say it’s crazy but when we have subbies in I’m quite happy for the whole team to job and knock.

No expert

I’m really no expert, this is my take on trying to manage people, I’ve never brought in to the school of thought that “there’s plenty more where they came from”mentality this builds no trust or appreciation. Like clients it’s much easier to keep existing employees ones that keep finding new ones. Treat people well, understand that they will clock off and not think about work to the next day, and take them for a pint on a Friday – sorted