Horizontal Production Dynamic in Tree Care


Sometimes I think about the structure of a business and I wonder if production labor could be brought back to America with a more horizontal dynamic. That is, a company owned, operated and managed by its labor force rather than having a large pool of unskilled or narrowly skilled labor managed by a smaller group of white collar workers. With the contemporary system, you see businesses like tree service or maybe a restaurant with the people that perform the actual labor on one hand and the owner or management on the other hand. The wages of the entire labor force are probably not even close to what the few people in management are making. But is their job really that more important that it justifies the discrepancy in pay?

If you imagine what it would take to familiarize the labor force of a tree removal with all of the management details required to run that business, you probably imagine putting a few dozen workers through a university which would take upward of a million dollars. Nobody is going to want to bear that cost because it would take years to make up that investment in profits and the benefit of the company being run that way is unclear at best. But does it really take a college education to perform some of the management aspects of a tree service or any other business that requires manual labor being supervised by management?

Goals of Management

Look at the typical goals of management, using tree care as an example. Whether it's a small, locally owned business or a large national corporation, they still have to generate their own business through advertising, minimize costs, schedule and coordinate their labor, sign the checks, order supplies, maintain equipment and everything else. But the thing with management is, all of these tasks at some point are going to be performed by somebody with little or no specialized education. The owner isn't advertising his tree service and maybe not even the marketing manager. They are going to have an assistant or maybe even a secretary make the phone calls to order a tree service ad, or put up a tree service billboard or whatever it is. The owner isn't out there checking the condition of the saw blades or making sure the oil in the work truck has been changed, some regular hourly tree service employee is going to do that.

So why can't the employees all do this stuff? They often know better than the managers what condition the equipment is in. They know how long a tree service job is going to take at a given location and they can coordinate their work day around it. They know what tools they need to perform a certain task and any tree trimming employee is in a position to talk to the general public about what services their business has to offer. But employees in most companies have little to gain from stepping into management duties because they aren't rewarded any further than the same hourly rate they get no matter what.

Horizontal Structure

With a more horizontal structure where every employee was privy to the condition of the business, the direction of the tree service company, the need to generate more jobs and income, the drawback to contributing as an employee is gone. If the company does well then the employee does well. This way, an employee has motivation to perform better tree stump removal work or get the word out to everybody they meet about how great their tree service is, they would take pride in their tree cutting equipment and treat the tools and uniforms and everything else that costs their business money like it was their own.

One could say, “How do you keep a crew of a few dozen people focused when they all have their own ideas on how a company should be run?” Everybody is different and every employee would naturally gravitate toward certain areas of the business where they would be most effective. The people who like to talk and generate excitement could contribute to advertising. The more meticulous, orderly people would be happy to schedule and coordinate tree company crews where a manager might find the work tedious and tiring. But the one thing that would keep even a large workforce focused on a common goal in a tree surgeon business would be as simple as this: The faster you get jobs done, the less of a beating our equipment takes, the less waste of resources and manpower and time there is and the more jobs you generate through advertising, the more money you are going to make this year.

I think any tree trim worker could learn to hustle in any facet of the business with the dollar out there as a motivator.

I'm learning a lot from my friend Marty who owns a tree trimming & cutting business in Macon, GA for over 44 years. Here's his site:


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