Impact of COVID on Tree Service Firms – Survey Results

How Is COVID19 Affecting Tree Service Industry
Image of Arborist Reproduced With Kind Permission Of Jeremy Hallahan, Owner of JH Tree Service Cut ’em Dahn of Ruffs Dale, Pennsylvania

Jump To Section

– What is Happening to Tree Service Businesses?
– What is the Impact of COVID on tree service firms?
– 14% Performing Only ‘Essential’ Services
– 21% Opting For A Voluntary Pause in Operations
– 22% Experience Fewer Customer Inquiries
– How Do You Recover Lost Business?
– 42% of Tree Firms Unaffected By COVID-19
– Research Methodology & Tables
– The Poll Question
– 6 Poll Response Options
– Statistical Relevance
– The Joint ISA & TCIA Statement – a reminder

Which are the ‘Essential’ Tree Services?
– What is MarketingDirector.com doing?
– Get More Customers

Tree service crews cannot work from home. Technology might one day send a self-driving truck without crew to attend to a problem tree via robotic link. The robo-truck would then remove and chip all brush and then self-drive to the next job remotely. But such virtual tree work is not currently feasible. Tree work needs human intervention on site. If a tree service crew is not on site, they’re not earning.

The joint statement by International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) was published mid March 2020. It clarified which type of tree work can be regarded as essential and non-essential to government authorities and members alike. The statement also encouraged tree service companies to review their bookings and bring forward ‘essential’ tree work. The statement also recommended that tree firms postpone non-essential tree work. A reminder of the statement’s key contents is shared at the end of this article.

Tree Work Is Low Risk

Tree contractors are low risk spreaders of COVID-19 according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). But we began to hear from several tree service clients that they were closing their businesses temporarily. How could this be? After all, the vast majority of tree firms are authorized to perform their essential services.

We wanted to know more about how other tree service owners are being affected by the pandemic. After all, the industry now generates some $24bn in revenue each year and employs 284,000 individuals (Ibisworld). Besides, we are always looking for ways to improve our own marketing support for tree service clients.

What is Happening to Tree Service Businesses?

Our 29th March research among 212 tree business owners shows exactly their reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic in North America. We outline 6 separate effects on the industry at this difficult time.

Our study shows that 58% of tree firms suffer from complete or partial loss of business income following the pandemic. As a consequence, of the 184,000 US tree businesses trading in 2020, more than 100,000 are losing significant income.

Our study reveals that owners are facing at least 4 new influences on their business fortunes associated with the emergency.

  • Necessary measures applied by federal, state and local county government to tackle the Corona Virus pandemic.
  • ​Voluntary decisions by many owners to protect their communities at significant losses to their businesses.
  • Fewer inquiries from customers
  • ​The Joint ISA/TCIA statement

What is the Impact of COVID on tree service firms?

A tabulated summary of the results of our research poll is shared below:

COVID19 Survey Results

It shows the rainbow of responses to a simple question (see head of table) on Saturday March 28th and Sunday March 29th. No less than 212 US tree enterprises responded.

The statistical relevance of our research is considered at the end of the article along with a breakdown of the response numbers.

14% Performing Only ‘Essential’ Services

14% of tree firms are prevented from doing non-essential work presently. Non-essential services include tree pruning, vista pruning, tree fertilization, tree irrigation and non-invasive tree pest control (ISA & TCIA). The proportion of ‘non-essential’ tree work will vary from tree business to tree business but it commonly forms between one third and one half of gross revenues. This percentage is likely to rise if further government restrictions are brought into force to deal with the virus pandemic.

21% Opting For A Voluntary Pause in Operations

An incredible 1 in 5 (21%) owners in the tree industry have voluntarily stood down their service operations and crew even though they are not legally compelled to do so. They are doing this expressly to reduce the chance of spreading the COVID-19 virus in their respective communities. On this basis, nearly 60,000 tree workers in the industry are not working at present.

This remarkable self-sacrifice shows how closely some businesses are bonded to their respective communities. Whilst there may be an element of self-preservation, many in this category must be conscious of their reputation in the community once the pandemic is over. ‘Doing the right thing’ will come at a heavy cost, however. How long they can stay closed without suffering from severe financial loss remains to be seen.

22% Experience Fewer Customer Inquiries

More than two in every ten firms (22%) relay that no virus-related federal, state or local state notices affect them directly at the moment. And yet their business is still being adversely affected. The problem arises from a reduced number of inquiries by customers. Clearly, some property owners are being cautious about exposing themselves to possible viral infection from tree contractors. Alternatively, their residential and commercial customers may be conserving financial resources to cope with the national emergency in the weeks to come.

How Do You Recover Lost Business?

Firstly, we recommend that tree service businesses make their revised health and safety measures clear in order to reassure nervous customers worried about being infected. Outline your amended working practices based on OSHA recommendations here  and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) whose interim guidance for businesses can be found here.

Tree Service Crew Member With PPE

We also suggest that improved marketing efforts could help to replace lost business and gain a greater share of available local work opportunities. Be ready to bounce back when the pandemic is over. Use the downtime to overhaul your company’s marketing strategy and tactics. The majority of ideas mentioned in our previous blog posts are low-cost; so choose which are relevant for your business size, goals and location.

For our part, we are trialing a different cocktail of digital channels to ensure that live calls continue to be sent to clients at previous if not greater volumes.

Image Reproduced With Kind Permission of Aerial Arborists, Tampa

42% of Tree Firms Unaffected By COVID-19

More positively, 42% of tree service businesses mention that their business income is presently unaffected by the Coronavirus pandemic in USA.
Thankfully, only 1% of tree firms are so far being compelled to shut down operations by business closure orders, sometimes referred to as ‘shelter-in-place’ orders.

Research Methodology & Tables

The Research was conducted using Facebook Polls in two separate tree service-related Groups. Polling started on Saturday 28th March. Respondents were presented with a simple question and 6 options from which they could self-select one that best described their current business situation. The question and the responses are listed below. At midnight on Sunday 29th March 2020, the results were collated after some 212 US tree service owners had participated. Responses from international participants were removed from the reported totals to improve survey relevance to the United States.

The Poll Question:

“As a Tree Service Owner, How Is Your Business Being Affected by New COVID-19 Regulations in Your Service Area? Please choose one of the following options that best describes your business situation:”

6 Poll Response Options:

The 6 permitted response options:

Raw Results Table - COVID Poll
MarketingDirector.com Facebook Poll, end March 2020

Statistical Relevance

We combined the responses from polls in two separate Facebook Groups, both popular among tree service owners. In absolute numbers, 212 participants is a respectable sample size where the results are statistically relevant. Caution was exercised when extrapolating the results for the national picture. This is partly because the respondents have self-selected to answer the poll. In professionally-commissioned research, respondents are chosen from a large sample ‘pool’. This ensures that US tree service companies of various sizes, types and locations would be fully representative of the overall business population in this service niche.

The Joint ISA & TCIA Statement – a reminder

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) issued a joint statement last week in relation to the viral emergency and the tree service industry. Commendably, it sought to clarify and include the vital elements of the tree industry’s work within the category of ‘Essential Services’. It also sought to encourage the US government at all levels to provide clear directives that ensure tree care companies and arborists can continue to provide vital services in this time of national emergency. The full statement is here in this pdf document.
  

Which are the ‘Essential’ Tree Services?

Essential services are those which ensure the safety of people, the protection of property and the treatment of trees affected or at risk of infestation by invasive tree pests. Hence, hazardous tree removal, hazardous tree limb removal, utility line clearance are all permitted. The fuller list outlines 11 discrete tree-related commercial activities.

What is MarketingDirector.com Doing To Combat COVID-19

All staff at MarketingDirector.com are taking physical isolation and social-distancing recommendations seriously. Unlike our tree service clients, we are better able to work from home as best we can, albeit in isolation from one another.

We are still open for business for tree service clients. This is because most of our digital marketing work can be conducted through home computers. Business is about 15% higher than normal for the number of calls generated from home-bound local prospects needing tree work. We have also switched on a secondary suite of digital channels to generate more calls for clients to account for any call volume volatility.

*Ibisworld confirms there are 184,256 “Tree Trimming Services” businesses in the US as of 2020. Ibisworld’s definition includes residential and commercial tree service businesses offering a full range of tree-related services including removal, pruning, stump-grinding or removal and tree pest control.


John Hackwood, Founder MarketingDirector.com Agency

John Hackwood helps tree service owners get new customers every month. He is an expert at helping them get clients using proprietary methods and making things super simple to understand. He has been a marketing professional since 1988 and is using this considerable experience to help small businesses in the US tree care sector.

His agency, MarketingDirector.com, only serves the US tree service industry. It specializes in using a unique cocktail of digital marketing techniques proven to drive live telephone calls direct to tree service owners. Its clients enjoy highly-qualified tree work inquiries from prospects in local service areas created for each client on a bespoke basis. Live phone calls are provided on an exclusive basis because they are not sold to anyone else.

If you’re interested in learning how John can help you grow your tree service business then click on blue button below.