As a woman-owned business, Tree Top, Inc. – based in Wellington, Colorado, and serving the greater Ft. Collins area of the Front Range – holds closely to its core statement of “Relationship Centered, Results Driven.” President and chief operating officer Anna Knotts owns 51% of the company, while her husband, James, who founded Tree Top in 2002 and is an ISA Certified Arborist, is 49% owner and carries the title of operations manager. The two have built the business, a seven-year TCIA member company, on what Knotts calls “a real connection to trees and a desire to see them thrive.”
According to Knotts, she helped James from the beginning by doing a lot of the management and administrative work for the business. “I was the one organizing everything; meeting with the lawyer, accountant, etcetera,” she notes. “Then we changed to a corporation in 2008 and I became president in 2017, running the business end of things. It made sense, and it empowered me. People started taking me seriously.”
Knotts explains that they use a comprehensive business operating system for Tree Top. She adds, “He’s the visionary, I’m the integrator.”
Currently, Tree Top has 13 year-round, full-time employees and does primarily residential work (60-70%), with the remaining being commercial clients, including HOAs and business parks. Knotts says that one business goal over the next few years is to increase the commercial end to at least 60%.
“We’ve found that along the Front Range, people are very aware of their trees,” she notes, “so we focus on PHC and correct pruning to keep them healthy, not on removals. Other companies around here specialize on removals and have all the cranes and big, heavy equipment. That’s not us. Our catch phrase is ‘Better Arborists, Better Trees.’ We want to better our community through better tree care.
“We’ve noticed that in some of the business parks, the trees are suffering because the developers don’t use arborists to plant the trees,” Knotts continues. “Sometimes they sit around too long before they’re planted, or they’re planted too deep. And that’s a challenge. Healthy trees benefit the people. Where the trees look good, the people feel good. They may not realize why, but it’s true.” She adds that if there’s one thing that came out of the pandemic, it’s that people took notice of their trees. “I read somewhere that 2020 was ‘The year that the world invested in the outdoors.’”
Knotts feels that what sets Tree Top apart from other tree care companies in the area is encompassed in their core statement. “Being a small company, we’re more relationship focused. We want people to know that we’re caring for their trees for the long term, and that we’re dedicated to the correct pruning standards, plant health care and especially to safety.
“The same goes for our employees,” she adds. “It’s never just transactional. We have a great company culture. The camaraderie is very real. We have our core values of trust, integrity, cooperation, balance and tenacity, and we always discuss these with new hires and in our quarterly conversations. We stress that balance and cooperation go together. For example, we offer flexible work schedules, and we have efficient equipment that doesn’t break their backs.
“The tree care industry requires hard work, so we promote tenacity because,” Knotts says, “we think diligence and persistence are the highest indicators of personal and team success.”
Accreditation came onto their radar several years ago, thanks to various TCIA sources, says Knotts, including Winter Management Conference. “We explored it more while we were at Winter Management. We’d been wanting to become accredited, but didn’t realize how close we were until the auditor said we only needed a few things to reach Accreditation.”
Tree Top’s human resources generalist, Randi Grady, was the main driving force behind the Accreditation process, according to Knotts. “Randi kept everything moving along,” she says. “She made lists and got everyone their assignments.”
“I’m pretty good at taking something and breaking it down,” says Grady. “Seeing it all at once in the beginning was a little overwhelming, but it didn’t take long to get it organized.” She adds that the entire process took about three months and was completed at the end of 2019.
Some details they discovered while completing Accreditation were easy to fix, says Knotts, like putting up a shield in front of the grinder and erecting barricades for the fuel tanks. “The hard part for me was doing the business plan,” she notes. “I expanded it from two pages to several more.”
Grady says she learned a few things she wasn’t aware of during the process, like the fact that the TCIA Illness and Injury Prevention manual could be used as their safety manual. She notes that she also implemented quarterly safety-
committee meetings and organized more focused weekly tailgate trainings as a result of Accreditation.
Knotts admits they could be promoting their Accreditation credential more for marketing. “I don’t think we’ve gone after it as well as we could,” she says. “But we have gotten some employees who knew what Accreditation means in our industry and valued it. One of our employees had worked for an accredited company back east before he came to us.
“Also, we have had some other tree care companies contact us because we are accredited, asking us to do jobs for their customers with properties outside of their operating area. It really does set us apart, and we’re the only small tree care business in the area that’s accredited.
“I think every serious company should look at doing something like this,” she continues. “It makes you more professional and keeps you accountable to everyone.”
“And it lets you know you’re doing things right,” adds Grady.