When it comes to providing professional tree care, Bofinger’s Tree Service, a 13-year TCIA member company based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, believes strongly in building relationships. The company started up in 2001 and is owned by George Bofinger, an ISA Certified Arborist, TRAQ certified arborist and a Baton Rouge native. George’s wife, Lacy, who provides marketing and social media for the company, says it’s the history George has with the area that has created such strong bonds with the community.
“It’s the Bofinger name, it’s who we are,” she explains when asked what sets them apart from other tree services in the area. “There’s a real loyalty there among his clients. Some are even his former grade-school teachers. And most clients have their favorites (crew members) they ask for, like Kenny, who’s great at tree pruning. One client has tea and lemonade ready for Kenny and his crew every time they go there. He’s like family!”
Lacy adds, “George also makes his crew dress nicely, and they’re a good-looking bunch. And he buys nice equipment and keeps it well maintained and clean, so it looks good and works well. Plus, it’s the training and education we provide, so everybody is well trained – and they know they’ll get a raise every time they get a new certification. It may be small, but it’s something.”
Lacy explains that George started his business by helping out a friend doing tree work for some neighbors. “George thought it would be fun to climb, so he became a self-taught climber and started his business more than 20 years ago. He sent out a letter to everyone he knew. He started with a knuckleboom, a truck and trailer and two guys. After a few years, shortly after we were married, he bought a bucket truck from Cox cable that they were getting rid of.”
Bofinger’s currently has 18 full-time employees doing everything from tree trimming and removals to plant health care, cabling and bracing and storm-damage cleanup. According to Lacy, their specialties are tree preservation and technical takedowns. She adds that they frequently get the take-down jobs that others don’t want to touch.
At the time this article was written, Hurricane Ida had recently passed through the area and created “total chaos,” according to Lacy. “We are very, very busy right now,” she says, adding that they were already booked out eight weeks before the storm hit, and now it’s 12 weeks or more. “We’re just going from customer to customer. All day, George has to tell people (who aren’t regular customers), ‘Sorry, I can’t help you right now.’ We’re trying not to do the neighbor thing (working their way down the street). “We have learned from past storms to value our regular customers and not go from house to house, but from customer to customer. The relationship matters when it comes to storm work.”
She adds, “We’re just doing storm work for the next four weeks. Some people are saying we’re being too optimistic, that we’ll be doing storm cleanup until December. But we have to get back to regular tree work at some point.”
Bofinger’s jumped on the Accreditation bandwagon in 2013, becoming one of the first to be accredited in Louisiana. As for motivation, Lacy says, “George just came to me one day and said, ‘I think we need to take this to the next level.’ We were growing at the time, and I think it took us from something of a mom-and-pop operation, if you will, to a more professional business.
“The thing that struck me (about Accreditation) was that it required a lot of organizational work,” Lacy notes, “just the number of folders required and the filing system needed. But I think the organization it brought was important to us at that time, because we were growing and we really needed those parameters. Now we have things like our office-duty handbook, which helps everyone in the office know how to do every single process. And we’re pretty fast-working people, so we got it all done pretty quickly.”
From a safety standpoint, Lacy says, “George has always been safety first. But Accreditation gave us the right tools to use, and I think our safety program really was strengthened.”
Another bonus of becoming accredited, according to Lacy, is the relationships she and George have established within the TCIA community. “We’ve made relationships across the country that have really helped us grow,” she notes. “From PHC to equipment to other tree care issues, we have people we can reach out to. We’ve even taken trips apart from TCIA with a great group of people.
“Education is so important here at Bofinger’s,” she continues. “We attend almost all the TCIA events, and we almost always bring another person to (TCI) EXPO to earn their CTSP credential. In fact, we have an entire wall of certificates and credentials in our office.”
At one point, Lacy says, George also was part of TCIA’s mentoring program. “But it was a huge commitment for him, and he just couldn’t keep up with it. He’s currently the only one in upper management, and he’s our only salesperson right now. So he’s stretched pretty thin.”
According to Lacy, she would 100% recommend going through the Accreditation process. “The relationships you make and the safety tools you come away with are totally worth it,” she says.