Family tree care business relies on efficient equipment to overcome oil boom challenges
A lot has changed in tree care services over the past 50 years. Just ask Leonard Bullinger.
“Back then, we didn’t remove stumps. You just left the stumps to rot out on their own,” he recalls. “We didn’t purchase a stump cutter until 1978 — a Vermeer SC630.”
Bullinger grew up in the industry; his father founded Bullinger Tree Service located in Mandan, North Dakota, in 1952. Bullinger started working for him on evenings and weekends before starting full time. When his father passed away in 1989, he took over the business.
Remaining a family company has been very important to Bullinger. His wife and kids have worked there, and his son will be the third-generation owner once he retires.
“I enjoyed working with my dad,” Bullinger says. “With a family-owned business, people care more about you as an individual — you’re not just a number.”
Bullinger treats all of his 21 employees like family.
Bullinger Tree Service focuses on tree trimming for residential and commercial customers. Bullinger would like to expand. He says he could take on more business if he had more employees. However, hiring good help has proven to be quite the challenge.
“Since the oil boom hit North Dakota, finding workers has been a problem. There are ‘Help Wanted’ signs all around the Mandan-Bismarck area. There are just not enough people looking for non-oil jobs.”
Without the ideal manpower, Bullinger needs his crews to be as efficient as possible. He says Vermeer equipment helps them do that. His current fleet includes four Vermeer BC1500 brush chippers, one Vermeer SC1102 stump cutter, one Vermeer SC362 stump cutter and two Vermeer S600TX compact utility loaders.
“We’ve used three different brands of brush chippers, and Vermeer out-performed them all,” says Bullinger. “Vermeer brush chippers and stump cutters are much faster at processing material than those from other manufacturers.”
To stay ahead of customer demands, Bullinger helps make sure his employees are physically at their best. One way he does that is by using Vermeer equipment — specifically the compact utility loaders.
“The compact utility loaders help cut down on employee fatigue,” says Bullinger. “The crews don’t need to lift as much — we let the equipment do the work for us.”
Bullinger is committed to providing his customers with quality tree care work. He knows customer satisfaction is the key to the success. His company does very little advertising — as they rely on word-of-mouth referrals.
“You have to be up front with your customers. You tell them what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it and how much it’s going to cost.”
This mentality goes back to being a family-owned business. Bullinger treats each customer as he would family — and not just another number. A satisfied customer and a healthy tree have made the last 40 years all worth it for Bullinger.
“I’ve always enjoyed making the customer happy and seeing the final outcome of our work.”