Hard work and attention to detail are what Keith Yetzer says helped his business – YTS Companies, LLC, a seven-year TCIA member based in Maple Grove, Minnesota – earn its original Residential/Commercial Accreditation back in March 2016. Then, when it was time to go through their first Accreditation renewal this past spring, Yetzer says they had all their ducks in a row and were well prepared to go through the Utility Contractor Accreditation process as well.
“Randall McDonald (TCIA auditor) was so impressed with what we’d put together and submitted that he said, ‘Geez, you guys should go ahead with your Utility Contractor credential as well.’ We already had a lot of the processes in place to earn our dual Accreditation, so it basically was just a matter of filling out the paperwork.”
Yetzer points out that several key elements for earning their second Accreditation were already in place at YTS. “We already had a utility arborist on staff, and all the safety protocols were in place,” he notes. “A lot of what Randall was so impressed by had to do with our training and development, as well as our safety culture.”
YTS is one of three companies owned and operated by Yetzer and his partner and cousin, Doug Yetzer, who is V.P. and safety coordinator. They also run a large-scale site-clearing operation and a company that produces and distributes animal bedding. But it’s his tree care business that Yetzer hopes to grow over the next few years.
“We have an amazing team that is committed to growing and developing the best tree business around,” he says. “One of our biggest challenges is finding the right people to add to the group who fit in with our culture and direction as we grow.”
According to Yetzer, he started his tree care company in 2006 after spending a couple of weekends deer hunting. “I’d spent a lot of time in a tree stand, just thinking,” he says. “The next morning I woke up my wife and said, ‘We’re going to start a tree care company.’ She said, ‘What?!’
“I was still working full-time as a purchasing and fleet manager for a large utility contractor that operated in 11 states and had more than 2,000 employees,” Yetzer continues. “In 2013, I finally left that job and went full-time with my own business, in partnership with my cousin, Doug.”
Yetzer says YTS has a service area that covers the entire state of Minnesota, as well as North and South Dakota and Wisconsin. He also says he and a crew traveled as far as California two years ago to help with fire mitigation during that state’s disastrous wildfire season.
YTS handles a diverse mix of tree care customers, including residential, municipal, commercial and utility. The company has 22 full-time employees – five of whom are ISA Certified Arborists and two, including Yetzer, who are Certified Treecare Safety Professionals (CTSPs) – and does everything from tree removal and insect-disease diagnosis at the residential end to line clearance and right-of-way maintenance at the utility end. Storm damage, tree-risk assessment and plant health care are other segments of the company. “PHC is a really enjoyable part of the business to me, being able to accurately diagnose before treating,” says Yetzer. “Managing healthy trees is something we are really focused on.”
TCIA was a big part of his learning process, notes Yetzer. “When I first got into the business, I started to look for training materials I could use, particularly in the utility sector, and that’s when I turned to TCIA. I remember I started with their EHAP materials.”
As far as what distinguishes YTS from other companies in the area, Yetzer says without hesitation that it’s having a team that believes in the company’s vision, mission and core values, adding, “Professionalism, one of Yetzer Tree Service’s core values, and providing an exceptional customer experience, part of our vision statement, were huge driving forces in getting the dual Accreditation that further distinguishes the company.
“I think we’re one of only 12 or 14 companies in all of the U.S. to have that,” he says of the dual Accreditation. “It sets us apart as having a high level of integrity and safety. One of my team leaders, Greg Williams, said it’s the fact that we provide an exceptional customer experience by communication, follow through, competitive pricing and quality work, which has generated long-term partnerships with our clients. And another team member, my cousin, Andy Yetzer, said it’s the way we’re always trying to find creative ways to best serve our customers and make their lives easier.”
When the company went through its original Accreditation, Yetzer says it was to push to a higher level of professionalism. “We took the first one (Accreditation process) very seriously,” he explains. “There definitely were some things that needed to be done to improve procedures. For instance, we kind of had a facelift within our sales staff and restructured things, so now jobs are written up with more detail. Instead of just saying, ‘Remove tree in backyard,’ we now have orders written up with specifics like tree height and diameter, so operations can do the job better and more safely. Overall, we’re doing things better from a safety aspect.”
Andy Yetzer agrees. “Accreditations are a great way to validate that our standards and practices are in line with the highest industry standards. They also are a very important resource we can use to continue to make sure we’re doing things as safely and efficiently as possible as the industry evolves.”
Vince Dolan, CTSP and YTS operations manager, says having dual Accreditation “reminds us of the importance of having follow-up training and keeping accurate records for employees. It’s the importance of accountability for business success.”
Yetzer adds to his team members’ comments by noting how having dual Accreditation has raised interest among their municipal clients in particular. “People are asking us what this (credential) is all about,” he says. “It allows us to show customers that we’re doing things differently, to a higher level of professionalism and integrity. As Greg says, it provides our customers with peace of mind, knowing we’re providing our employees with constant education and training to be the best we can be in the industry.”