FROM THOSE WHO KNOW: Terry Tree Service
Three generations ago, a family tradition was born on the back of a hurricane that hit the Rochester, New York area. Despite the devastation left in the wake of the storm and the Great Depression, Thomas Terry Sr. founded a successful tree care company in 1936. The company began cleaning up storm debris and evolved into land clearing, residential, environmental services and utility line clearing tree work.
ROOTED IN TRADITION
His son, Tom Terry II — affectionately known as “Duke” — took over the company in 1959. Under Duke’s leadership, the company became the nation’s second largest tree care business.
Continuing the family legacy, Tom Terry III — known to his employees as “TT3” — created Terry Tree Service LLC in 1995, along with his business partner Tim Pope. Terry Tree Service continues to serve the residential and municipal tree care and land-clearing markets, and recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
“Annually, we do about 75,000 cubic yards (57,341.6 m3) of finished material for regrind and landscape mulch,” says Pope, vice president and CEO of Terry Tree Service.
Chasing storms our success.
A rich history prepared Terry Tree Service, as it stands today, to respond to challenges and adapt to uncertain circumstances, which has served the company well. Starting with just nine employees in 1995, the company’s workforce has swelled to over 220 employees in 2016. Terry and Pope attribute much of that growth to the same reason Terry Sr. formed his company back in 1936 — storms. Terry Tree employees travel all across the United States to areas affected by substantial storms and other natural disasters.
“After Hurricanes Rita and Wilma down in Florida, we found ourselves in Louisiana,” says Pope. “We worked in New Orleans for five years after Hurricane Katrina. In 2011, the country was inundated with tornadoes — we spent a few months in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri, cleaning up the destruction. We also worked Hurricane Irene in New York City, Long Island and Norfolk, Virginia. Not long after that, Super Storm Sandy pounded the entire East Coast. We have been fortunate to become known for our ability to respond quickly and provide leadership when natural disasters strike.”
With crews and equipment spread throughout the country, when hurricanes and storms like Irene and Sandy make landfall, Terry Tree Service has to evaluate the resources at its disposal and where improvements can be made.
Unpredictable weather requires reliable equipment
In order to respond quickly and effectively to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, Terry Tree Service had to invest in new equipment. The company turned to Vermeer Northeast to purchase its first horizontal grinder.
“Hurricane Sandy played a big role in swaying me toward the decision to purchase the HG6000,” says Terry. “We worked closely with FEMA and the US Army Corps of Engineers in New York City for three months after the storm. We were responsible for processing all vegetation storm debris from the five boroughs of New York, and the HG6000 was very fuel-efficient.”
Pope echoes his business partner’s praise for the HG6000.
“The size and the specification on the machine is what steered us in the direction to go with Vermeer,” he says. “For that application, we felt it was the best machine for the job.”
When your business model incorporates something as unpredictable as the weather, it becomes that much more important to eliminate other uncertainties. Terry Tree Service employees might go where the storms take them, but the equipment they bring with them remains a constant.
“Even when my grandfather and father were running their companies, we’ve always had Vermeer products,” says Terry. “The machines are always dependable. To me, they are some of the best out there in terms of durability and reliability.”
Traveling support system
Traveling as far as California for jobs, Terry and Pope say a dependable dealer support network is just as important to them as the equipment itself.
“When your crews travel as much and as far as ours do, having dealer support anywhere we go is crucial,” says Pope. “We like to say, ‘If there’s a problem, there’s no problem.’ Vermeer is on their way — that support is just absolutely critical to keeping us up and running every day.”
In addition to maintenance support, Terry and Pope appreciate their Vermeer dealer representatives’ commitment to training Terry Tree Service employees to use the equipment correctly. Proper training not only allows the operators to work more efficiently but it helps protect the investment of the machines.
“Our local representatives have been great about training our employees and helping them understand the machines,” says Pope. “It’s helped them be better, more productive operators.”
Finding, retaining employees
While Terry Tree Service has experienced impressive growth over the past 20 years, finding reliable employees remains one of its greatest challenges.
“Buying equipment is usually pretty easy — we know what we’re looking for and what we can expect from the machine,” says Pope. “Finding good operators to run that equipment can be a lot tougher.”
This issue is not unique to Terry Tree Service — many contractors across the country are facing the same task of building a solid workforce. Pope says once an employee joins the team, Terry Tree Service is committed to keeping them on long-term.
“We retain our folks,” he says. “It has always been our philosophy to surround ourselves with good people. When we find people that are self-motivated and hold the same values as our company, we do everything we can to keep them here.”
Evolving through industry challenges
When asked why Terry Tree Service has been able to weather the storm of a changing industry for more than three generations, Terry says a commitment to both growth and traditional values is imperative.
“We had to grow and expand our services but maintain the same standards with 200-plus employees as we did when we had nine employees.”
The standards that the Terry family clings to after more than seven decades include honesty, integrity and accountability — and it has served them and their reputation well over the years.
“You do what you say you’re going to do,” says Pope. “If there’s a problem, go fix it. Get it done and deliver the services your customers are paying for. That’s how to produce repeat business.”
Pope believes repeat customers and a solid reputation isn’t just good for the company’s bottom line. It means a consistent work atmosphere and stability for its employees. This, in turn, translates into a more satisfied, productive workforce and, ultimately, a more successful company.
“It’s rare to find a company succeeding in its third generation, especially in this industry,” Terry says. “The whole tree care industry has evolved and we had to evolve with it.”
Pope sums up the evolution of Terry Tree Service best.
“We’re growth-oriented, we expand our markets, we don’t sit still,” he says. “At the same time, our whole company, we all hold the same mentality — let’s give good service, and let’s keep moving forward.”
20 Year Anniversary