Accreditation helps shape Monster Tree Service of North Charlotte Metro

The whole team at Monster Tree Service of North Charlotte Metro was excited about earning TCIA Accreditation. All photos courtesy of Monster Tree Service of North Charlotte Metro.

Becoming TCIA accredited as a young company was important to Chris Brown, owner of three-year-old Monster Tree Service of North Charlotte Metro, based in Cornelius, North Carolina. “Operating a young company and with significant growth aspirations, I really felt it was important to start building a strong professional foundation early on, while we are still relatively small,” Brown says. “Building that foundation now felt like a more likely path to success than just growing by the seat of our pants and then later trying to shift the culture and processes of a larger company. After all, it’s easier to steer a rowboat than a cargo ship.”

Brown comes by his business acumen naturally, having been an executive at Lowe’s Home Improvement’s corporate offices in Mooresville, N.C., for 15 years, where he honed his strategic-planning expertise leading multi-billion-dollar business units. When the time seemed opportune for him to strike out on his own, Brown says he started researching small-business opportunities and found Monster Tree Service to his liking. “I really liked the business model and felt it was a good fit with my own strengths and personality,” he explains. “So I did the work to start operations in August 2019.

“While Monster is a franchise, I liked that there was flexibility to operate the business exactly as I see fit as long as I upheld the brand standards. As such, the team and I independently sought to be among the first Monster locations to be accredited.

“I went into this not knowing the specifics of tree care, and I certainly wasn’t naïve enough to think it would be easy,” Brown continues. “It’s a hell of a hard business. The first year-and-a-half was really challenging, to be sure. But we’ve learned from our mistakes and focused on creating a positive people culture, and now it no longer feels like we’re on a razor’s edge, like it did at first.”

One important player on that team is Zach Connell, who has been with Brown from the beginning and is the company’s general manager. “We recognized early on that our skillsets and personalities dovetail well together, and we just have great chemistry,” Brown says. “The respect and trust between us is immense, such that we are capable of challenging each other when we work to solve problems. We consider each other close personal friends.”

Accreditation differentiates Monster of North Charlotte Metro in the industry, which helps with both recruiting and with customers, says Chris Brown.

Though Brown did not have a strong arboriculture background when he started the business, he feels it is critical to become intimate with the industry to be an effective steward for the business and to promote proper tree care and safety. For this reason, he is studying to take the ISA Certified Arborist exam in the fall and hopes to become a Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) in September. Connell already is a Certified Arborist and CTSP.

Monster has been a TCIA member company since 2010, so, as a franchise, Brown’s location was a member out of the gate when he started his operations in 2019. When he was considering what would help differentiate his company in the local area, Brown says, “I reviewed the most respectable tree services and asked myself, ‘What do they have that we don’t?’ And Accreditation was among those things. Now that we have it, it’s a contributing part to what differentiates us in the industry, both with recruiting and with our customers.

“We have excellent communication, well-maintained and attractive equipment, uniformed employees, detailed electronic proposals, superb job cleanup, Certified Arborists, CTSP credentials, project-financing options, continuous improvement and company-supported training, health care, 401(k), a focused safety culture and now the credibility that comes with TCIA Accreditation,” he says. “Our safety culture now is as strong as ever. And all of these things together tell a story of who we are in relation to our competitors, and our customers and employees respond to that. However, despite offering big-business benefits to our customers and employees, we have been able to maintain the family atmosphere and flexibility of a small company.”

The company started the Accreditation process by qualifying crew members for their roles, including having them complete the appropriate
TCIA Tree Academy certifications

Brown says many of his current team of 14 full-time employees contributed to the Accreditation process, which they worked on in 2021. “Before I signed up (for Accreditation), I wanted buy-in from the entire team, to know that this was a goal we all wanted to accomplish together,” he notes. “All team members had to contribute, and that way everyone shared in the feeling of accomplishment once Accreditation was achieved. My people are very proud to be part of the team that has such an elite designation.”

According to Brown, one of the most challenging aspects of the Accreditation process was writing a new business plan. “I already had a written business plan that qualified for the Accreditation checklist, but it had become dated,” he says. “Spending time with the team discussing and debating the different paths our future can take, and then memorializing that on paper, was one of the most time-consuming parts of Accreditation, but also one of the most valuable.”

“Our safety culture now is as strong as ever,” says Chris Brown.

Along the way, Brown says he learned a lot about his company. “I discovered that lots of small changes make a big difference. While no single part of the 80-plus-line checklist was overly challenging, over time the changes became noticeable. Employees commented on the positive changes and the ‘feel’ that the company was becoming better and more professional. They’d say, ‘We don’t know exactly why, but it just feels different, and it’s all good.’

“Throughout the Accreditation process, we were careful not to overburden the crew with too many changes or things to work on at once, so we purposefully sequenced the process. For example, we started by qualifying the crew members for their roles, and our preferred method was having them complete the appropriate TCIA Tree Academy certifications. Next, we switched from paper to electronic DVIRs (Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports) to drive more consistency and accountability for this regulatory task. Then we moved on to electronic job briefings. Sequencing in this manner made Accreditation digestible for the crew and, taking one step at a time, we transformed our standards and processes.”

Employees commented on the positive changes and the “feel” that the company was becoming better and more professional as a result of
Accreditation.

As for the future of Monster Tree Service of North Charlotte Metro, Brown says, “I see us as having a reputation for being one of the best local employers in the tree industry, as well as being among the most respected tree services in the area with our customers. I anticipate that in five years, we’ll have grown two to three times our current size, offering a full range of arboriculture services.”

And that will, no doubt, in part be accomplished through his company’s TCIA Accreditation.

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