In December and January, Tree Services surveyed 250 arborists and tree care company owners on the state of the industry, including questions about safety, overcoming various challenges, budgeting, equipment and more:

  • 64 percent of respondents classified themselves as tree care business owners, 23 percent as managers/supervisors/foremen and the remaining 13 percent as crew members, consultants and “other.”
  • 30 percent of respondents have an arboriculture-related degree (bachelor’s, master’s or associate).

How many employees does your company have?

  • 68% – 1 to 10
  • 12% – 51 to over 100
  • 11% – 11 to 25
  • 9% – 26 to 50

Are you an International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist?

  • 47% – Yes
  • 35% – No
  • 18% – Not currently, but I plan to be someday

Our Take

The tree care profession has been growing rapidly over the past decade. With that being said, there’s a significant amount of knowledge required to perform at the highest level. ISA credentials help consumers identify qualified, knowledgeable tree care professionals. According to the ISA, “earning a credential is a voluntary activity, but it demonstrates that you have the proper knowledge and skills, as well as a high level of dedication to your profession and your community.”

Your Take

“[Becoming ISA-certified someday] is important to me because I’ve found that throughout my working life, formal education and certification opens doors. Certification provides credibility.”

Chris Todd, White Glove Tree Services (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

“[Becoming ISA certified] was significantly important to me in terms of knowledge, creditability and financially. The certification is a direct reflection of the commitment being made to the profession.”

Mick Bostwick, Four Seasons Tree Care (Vista, California)

“I just put in my application [to become ISA-certified]. I’ve wanted to get certified for several years now, but have never took the time to do it. I’m going through it now to prove to my customers that we are indeed held to an ethical code and high standards.”

Andrew Owens, Turning Leaf Tree Service (Swannanoa, North Carolina)


What piece of equipment couldn’t you do without?

Top 5 Answers:

  • Chipper
  • Truck
  • Chain saw
  • Skid steer
  • Aerial lift

Our Take

Chippers were far and away the most frequent answer to the question. One of the essentials of tree care, chippers are at the core of how many tree care companies make their money. Manufacturers are constantly developing new models with features like improved ease of use and increased horsepower.


What is your company’s 2017 budget, as compared to 2016?

  • 43% – About the same
  • 23% – Up more than 10 percent
  • 15% – Up 10 percent
  • 13% – Up 5 percent
  • 4% – Down 5 percent
  • 1% – Down more than 10 percent
  • 1% – Down 10 percent

Your Take

“I think that embracing business technology (such as ArborGold software) and business guidance from industry trade associations have helped us to increase our focus on improving our sales volume. We have plans to upgrade our fleet in 2017 to a nimbler truck and chipper setup that will be able to quickly navigate our increasingly congested urban roads. We are also developing new profit centers in the business. For example, rather than simply chipping up our byproducts, we have begun milling our locally harvested wood into marketable raw materials and finished custom products.”

Matthew Clemons, Fort Worth Arborist Company (Fort Worth, Texas)


What’s the biggest challenge you face as a tree care professional?

  • 54% – Finding reliable help
  • 15% – Mother Nature
  • 14% – Forced to use older equipment
  • 11% – Managing employees/staff issues
  • 6% – Working safely and injury-free

Our Take

Finding reliable help is the biggest challenge, by far, that our respondents face as tree care professionals. As many tree care company owners all over the U.S. can attest to, the need for skilled workers has never been higher.

Your Take

“I live in a rural area, so finding someone who has at least a tiny bit of experience [is difficult]. Finding someone who is willing to learn is even harder.”

Daniel Giovacchini, Outdoor Solutions (Crescent City, California)

“By having to use older equipment, I’m forced to continually spend time and money on broken down tools. In 2017, I plan on purchasing equipment that’s more suitable for the task at hand — not necessarily new equipment, but better-suited tools.”

Buddy Rodanski, Arbor Aide (Sand Springs, Oklahoma)

“[Handling staff issues] is an ongoing process. We commit an annual dollar amount, per person, for training and education. We attend the annual Tree Care Industry Expo and we participate in the educational sessions they provide to bring back information to share with the company as a whole. We have also enrolled our senior managers in leadership development, team building and communication programs to expanded their skills.”

Mick Bostwick, Four Seasons Tree Care (Vista, California)


Generally, do you feel good about the tree care industry?

  • 89% – Yes, I feel our industry seems to be on the upswing
  • 11% – No, I feel our industry doesn’t have a positive outlook

Our Take

The tree care industry is growing in leaps and bounds, especially in terms of technology and professionalism. Organizations like the ISA and the Tree Care Industry Association do a great job in helping foster the future of the arboriculture industry. For these numbers to continue to grow, it’s imperative that the current generation of tree care pros take time to mentor and develop the next, younger generation. This ensures stability and longterm sustainability of this truly essential industry — our planet’s original “green” industry.


What’s one piece of equipment you’d like to upgrade?

Top 5 Answers

  • Truck
  • Chipper
  • Aerial lift
  • Stump grinder
  • Loader

Our Take

Your company’s work truck is how you get to your customers and it holds the tools and mechanisms that allow you to do your job each day. As one tree care pro put it, in a discussion thread on Tree Services’ forum website TreeServicesSite.com, “I think your equipment says a lot about your business. If you show up to a customer’s house with a backfiring, rickety, hydraulic oil-leaking bucket truck with a crooked boom, they probably won’t recommend you to their neighbors.” If you’re looking to upgrade your work truck, check with your trusted manufacturer. Work trucks can be built and customized to specifically fit your company’s needs and financial situation.

Your Take

“A lighter chain saw. As a municipal agency, we are always behind the curve.”

Dorothy Rowan, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (New York)

“We have good equipment; we just need skilled employees.”

Anonymous respondent

“We have a 60-foot bucket. It would be nice to have a 75-foot elevator lift.”

Michael Marett, urban forester (Sandy City, Utah)


How often do meetings about safety occur at your company?

  • 35% – Weekly
  • 30% – Daily
  • 22% – Whenever it’s needed
  • 13% – Monthly

Our Take

We frequently promote the importance of safety meetings and it appears most of our survey respondents are on board, as 65 percent said their company conducts either weekly or daily safety meetings. We hope that in coming years this percentage increases. These meetings don’t have to be long, verbose or laborious. Keep it simple — as a start, take a few minutes each Monday morning to make sure employees are wearing their PPE and provide some basic safety reminders. We also recommend daily pre-job briefings.

Your Take

“[Safety meetings] are at the very top of our list of priorities for the entire company — our people are our number one asset! Our profession is wrought with needless injuries. By holding weekly safety meetings and enforcing job site safety meetings for our crews, we’re demonstrating a consistent commitment that reflects the culture of our company.”

Mick Bostwick, Four Seasons Tree Care (Vista, California)

“We don’t have a formal safety meeting every day, but we do have a very thorough pre-job briefing. My crew has a great safety attitude, and we’re always talking about more ways we can work safer.”

Andrew Owens, Turning Leaf Tree Service (Swannanoa, North Carolina)

“Our weekly safety meetings have helped to increase awareness among the production staff and sales/management staff. The weekly meetings give the business a formatted forum that helps everyone on our team become better communicators. They also improve cohesion between sectors within the business that would otherwise not cross paths during the work day.”

Matthew Clemons, Fort Worth Arborist Company (Fort Worth, Texas)


Which methods of technology do you use on the job, for work purposes?

* Respondents could choose more than one answer

  • 65% – Mobile apps on phone
  • 32% – Laptop computer
  • 30% – Tablet
  • 26% – Bluetooth technology
  • 21% – None of these

Our Take

Your smartphone is rapidly becoming an essential tool both in the office and, more importantly, out in field. Almost two-thirds of our survey respondents use mobile apps on their smartphones for work purposes. There are apps available that can help with tree identification, tree inventory, doing estimates, generating invoices, staying ahead of the weather and improving your tree healthcare skills — just to name a few.

Your Take

“I’m old-fashioned, I just check the weather.”

Anonymous respondent

“We video every part of tree removal via head cams, both on the climber and ground personnel. We also use Bluetooth communication.”

Ryan Thomas Powell, Powell and Sons Urban Forestry (Fishers, Indiana)

“Paper, pencil and maps.”

Anonymous respondent

“I use ArborPlus for my tree inventories. I like it, but haven’t used any other software.”

Andrew Owens, Turning Leaf Tree Service (Swannanoa, North Carolina)


If you could do it all over again, would you become an arborist/tree care professional?

  • 84% – Yes, I love my chosen field
  • 16% – No, I wish I would’ve gone into something else

Our Take

Essentially, eight out of 10 survey respondents said they love being in the arboriculture/tree care industry. We’ve always found tree care professionals to be a passionate, dedicated and proud group. We salute all of you who go to work each day with a love for your job.

Your Take

“My favorite part of being a tree care professional is advocating for the health and well-being of people among trees, through an understanding of maintaining particular areas and setting aside others where we can live in harmony with nature.”

Buddy Rodanski, Arbor Aide (Sand Springs, Oklahoma)

“I truly like helping people and there’s no question that we do that. Also, the physical component [of the job] keeps me in far better shape than I would be otherwise, which is important to me. I almost forgot… I love trees!”

Chris Todd, White Glove Tree Services (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

“My favorite part of this profession is the satisfied clients and being able to educate them in proper tree care.”

Joe Mattox, Premier Forestry (New Bern, North Carolina)


Do you think the tree care industry is more safety-conscious, or safety-ware, then it was say, 10 years ago?

  • 94% – Yes, the industry has become more safety-aware
  • 6% – No, not really

Our Take

Events like the ISA Conference & Trade Show and TCI Expo feature invaluable safety seminars and discussions that help this cause. The next step is reducing the number of yearly fatal (and non-fatal) accidents on job sites across the country.

Your Take

“There seems to be a stronger push for more and continued training, as there are multiple options for safety and training seminars and classes. Also, the tools and equipment we use are safer than what we used several years ago. Safety is what gets us home each day.”

Joe Mattox, Premier Forestry (New Bern, North Carolina)

“I believe the tree care industry is more safety conscious because co-workers my age and younger are being introduced to the industry with safety protocol already in place. They develop those good habits, for example using PPE.”

Buddy Rodanski, Arbor Aide (Sand Springs, Oklahoma)


Do you think it’s easier, or harder, to make a living as a tree care profesisonal than say, 10 yeas ago?

  • 52% – It’s harder to make a living in this business now than it was 10 years ago
  • 48% – It’s easier to make a living in this business now than it was 10 years ago

Our Take

There isn’t much separating the two answers here, but the numbers say that more respondents feel it’s harder to make a living in the tree care profession now than a decade ago. Possible reasons for this are increasing competition in certain cities and regions, expanding business costs (labor, equipment, etc.) and the fact consumers may choose to spend their money on things other than tree care. On the other side, why for some is it easier to make a living in the business now, as compared to 10 years ago? How about the fact that technology has made business much easier, or that professionalism and online (web and social media) marketing have increased within the industry?

Your Take

“I’m only five years in this business, but even in that time, there seems to have been a proliferation of tree service companies in our area. Thus, there has been some downward pressure on pricing, which is what leads me to my feeling that it’s a little tougher these days.”

Chris Todd, White Glove Tree Services (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

“I attribute this difficulty directly to our labor costs. Aside from the hidden costs of labor, such as payroll taxes and general labor burden, direct labor costs in our market are up 33 percent since 2006. Meanwhile, our hourly rate for the same labor has only increased 13 percent in the same timeframe.”

Matthew Clemons, Fort Worth Arborist Company (Fort Worth, Texas)


Which of these causes you the most stress?

  • 45% – Staff/personnel issues
  • 36% – Trying to balance work and personal life
  • 10% – Not enough business
  • 9% – The safety of my workers

Our Take

Dealing with employees in the proper and effective manner — especially those that cause problems — is a task that takes sensitivity, experience and good communication throughout your organization. Also troubling is the fact that 36 percent of respondents say that trying to balance work and personal life causes them the most stress. Working long hours for days, weeks and even months at a time can wreak havoc on family life at home. Therefore, it’s important to take time to decompress after the day is done and leave work at work.


 View the full survey results here.