Training and Safety are Top Priorities for Growing Tree Care Business
Texas arborist strives for continued perfect safety record
“There’s never a dull moment,” Amy agrees.
Then, you see equal parts jest and mutual respect shared by the two owners and leaders of Burkett Arbor Care. Working with your significant other isn’t always easy, but these two have a natural chemistry that enables them to successfully direct a growing tree care business in the San Antonio area.
Serving residential, government and municipal customers, Burkett typically has around 14 employees operating 3-4 work crews in the south Texas city. For years, they had a wider service area extending well into adjoining suburban communities, but recent demand growth has caused the company to scale back the geography it serves.
“We are working at our capacity right now even after dialing back our radius,” said Amy, who serves as president and business manager for Burkett Arbor Care. “We have a grasp on the equipment we need, and our customer network is strong.”
Equipment that builds efficiency
Burkett Arbor Care wasn’t always working on such a strong footing. A large, multiyear contract job that involved the removal of more than 700 trees and pruning of approximately 3,500 trees taxed the growing business, requiring the exclusive attention of up to six full-time team members. The job stretched the company thin and Tyler said it was the most challenging work he’s led. But in that challenge came an opportunity. The rush of work helped him build his equipment lineup, which has since helped create new efficiencies and enabled Burkett crews to get more work done in a shorter amount of time.
“Once we got those 700 trees removed, that’s when we decided to start running a (Vermeer) SC362 stump cutter, along with our Vermeer BC1000XL and Vermeer BC1800XL brush chippers and Vermeer CTX100 mini skid steers,” Tyler said. “The mini skid steers have changed our labor estimations greatly. The first job we used them on, it would have taken us two days to move the logs and we did it all in three hours.
“We can make a monthly payment on this equipment just in the labor we’re saving alone,” he added.
A safe workplace
Despite evolutionary steps like the addition of Vermeer equipment, one thing has remained constant throughout the 13-year history of Burkett Arbor Care: the emphasis on safety. The company has a priority. One that guides every job.
“Safety and science: These things have always been at the root of what we do,” Tyler said. “We’ve never had any lost time or work because of an injury or incident since we’ve been in business. And we work hard to keep it that way.”
Training is one way Tyler and Amy Burkett work to sustain their company’s safety record. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) offer safety training courses that help workers — regardless of their position or skill level — learn what they need to know to operate safely. Safety training is just part of the overall educational environment the Burketts constantly work to maintain in and around their business.
“All of our workers, regardless of their ambitions, go through TCIA training. It’s a great broad-spectrum training for the general employee who might not necessarily want to become a certified arborist,” Tyler said. “For us, TCIA has opened up a huge network of people we can rely on who have experienced the same problems we face. They’re people from all around the country, so they’re not hesitant to share strategies with you.”
Focus on the future
The combination of equipment and emphasis on safety in everything they do has the Burketts focused on the future. Through their growing industry experience, both on the jobsite and in TCIA and ISA programs, they feel armed to continue to build their business in the right ways.
“Being part of TCIA is an investment. There’s a lot of travel involved, and you have to be away from work. But the things you learn and the people you meet are priceless,” Tyler said. “I really believe in everything these groups do. We’ve had some life-changing experiences, and it’s all helped us set a new bar to shoot for all the time. Participating in TCIA and ISA events and programs has changed our career trajectory, for sure.”
As they continue to evolve their family business, Amy and Tyler say they’ll also continue to work with Vermeer Texas-Louisiana, their local dealer, to not only help them maintain the right fleet of equipment, but also stay ahead of the curve with employee training and general equipment know-how to maximize the utility and efficiency of the right combinations of man and machine. The best way to accomplish that is through the relationship the Burketts have with their sales representative at Vermeer Texas-Louisiana, Fernando Menjares.
“As far as our dealer relationship goes, I feel like I have the best contact out of anybody I know. I like to mess with him and joke with him, but he’s always there for me,” Tyler said.
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