Tree care spotlight: The McAllister Tree Service journey
McAllister Tree Service in Cornelia, Georgia, boasts 23 years of experience in tree removal and maintenance — tackling even the most difficult jobs. But, just like any thriving company, McAllister Tree has humble beginnings.
“My venture into the tree care industry started as a side job working with a buddy, and we did that from 1987 to 1997 as part-time, weekend work,” said company owner, Don McAllister. “In 1997, I went into it full time with two other guys and now we have 100 employees. Of the original two employees, one is even still with the company.”
Before Don took the entrepreneurial plunge, he was working full time as a night-shift welder in a plant.
“I could basically make as much on a weekend as I could all week working, so I finally just decided to go for it,” Don said.
Though he already had 10 years of part-time tree care experience on his resume, Don said the first year of full-time business ownership was no cake walk.
“The first year was rough,” McAllister said. “There was definitely a learning curve to really know how to run a business; it probably took a good five years to get things rolling. We had older equipment at the time and there was a lot of tear up. I almost had to become my own mechanic to stay in business.”
Don said that if he could do it again, he would bite the bullet and get better equipment upfront.
“At first, I tried to avoid spending money on quality equipment — I didn’t understand the value of it like I do now,” McAllister said. “I thought it was so expensive, I didn’t realize the investment would pay off as well as it does. I would work all day and then I’d end up working half the night on my old equipment to be ready for the next day.”
“Now I mainly buy new equipment, I just had to get over that sticker price,” Don said. “Decent equipment is a big deal, you can’t look at it the same as spending money on a Cadillac. That’s a lot different.”
Don said McAllister Tree currently owns 105 pieces of equipment, including nearly 20 Vermeer brush chippers, a few Vermeer mini skid steers, block trailers, bush hogs and more.
“It all goes out to work every day,” Don said. “We go out to look at trees for risk assessments, removals, treatments for any kind of parasites or fungus — really anything there is to do with trees, we do it but removal and power line trimming is our main thing.”
McAllister Tree Service is currently comprised of 80 percent utility contracts and 20 percent residential tree work, according to Don.
“It was all residential accounts until about 10 years ago when I landed a small utility account in Northeast Georgia, which eventually expanded into all of their Northeast Georgia locations now,” Don said.
His team of 100 is filled with ISA certified arborists and tree climbers. Don’s words of wisdom to other tree care hopefuls? Get educated, buy new and save money where you can.
“Get your skill level where it needs to be; that’s a huge deal,” Don said. “You need to learn everything you can possibly learn about your job and buy new equipment. Production is everything — the more you can do, the more money you can make. We also try to calculate how much each job will cost us in order to find cost-saving measures when we can.”
As far as marketing tactics, Don stands by his current strategy — do quality work and all you need is your name in the Yellow Pages.
“As far as marketing, I’ve never really had to do much,” Don said. “As soon as we would finish a job, it seemed like three more would pop up from referrals. It’s all about your quality of work that keeps you going. We try to outwork our competition, but we also try to be better trained.”
For more tips and trends to consider when starting your own tree care business, view more articles on TreeViews.com.
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