A long history with the Tree Care Industry Association has shaped the values and successes of RTEC Treecare, according to company president Andy Ross, a CTSP and Certified Arborist who started RTEC as Ross Tree Expert Company in 1996. The tree care company, located in Falls Church, Virginia, has been a TCIA member since 1998. Currently it serves the D.C. Metro area, including northern Virginia and the cities of Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac in Maryland. Ross himself is a former TCIA Board member and served as Board chair in 2016.
When asked how he got started in the tree care industry, Ross replies, “It really was my parents who from the very beginning were conservationists and naturalists, so it was a pretty natural career move and an easy transition for me. My brother was a climber, and we worked together for a couple of years. I’ve always had a love for nature and the environment.
“Funny thing was, I actually picked up an article from TCIA early on,” he says of what helped shape his company, “and it said, ‘Six Things You Can Do to Professionalize Your Company,’ and I think it was something like get your crews uniforms, letter your trucks, start taking credit cards, make sure you have a signed, formal contract before starting work, do some form of advertising and focus on running as professional a company as possible.
“Content in TCI Magazine has come a long way since then!” he adds with a laugh. “But I just did those six things and we did well – and we’ve stayed true to them. It’s always been, ‘Let’s present ourselves as professional, knowledgeable subject-matter experts.’ When it comes to learning and growing, it’s been a lifelong journey and an ongoing commitment to the environment.”
RTEC has about 25 full-time employees, according to office manager Monika Rivero, who has been with the company 15 years. “We pride ourselves on the fact that, with the exception of interns, all our employees are full-time year-round,” she says. “Also, we serve a number of government entities, as well as residential and commercial clients.”
“We do tree preservation for a lot of historical buildings and grounds in the D.C. area,” Ross adds. “We’ve done some tree work on Capitol Hill, and some consulting. We’ve done work at the National Zoo, including root and soil management, and we’ve done a lot of large projects where the owners want a big, beautiful house but also are wanting to preserve the environment.
“My special interest is in trees that have historical interest and significance,” he notes. “For instance, Thomas Jefferson’s favorite tree is said to have been the willow oak. And we’ve pruned trees and found interesting things like bullets and horseshoes. Since we’re in the historical breadbasket of the country, if you will, we find a lot of interest from clients in these sorts of things.”
As part of its commitment to doing the right thing for people and planet, RTEC launched the Environmental Justice Alliance in 2019. EJA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that partners with industry professionals to provide environmental solutions for historically underserved communities. “Thus far, we have been able to help homeless-shelter residents, veterans and first responders in our community, and look forward to serving many more people in the near future,” says Hannah Garber, EJA executive director.
Both Ross and Rivero stress that RTEC Treecare has embraced a set of six Core Values that form the heart of the company team. These are:
1. Continuously Grow
2. Deliver Results
3. Have Integrity
4. Have Confidence and Modesty
5. Take Ownership
6. Be a Team Player
“We want our employees to know that we educate our people and invest in them,” Ross says. “I have found that the more I learned, the more I realized I didn’t know.”
According to Ross, he was a founding member of TCIA’s Accreditation Council, a group that included working arborists who were “tasked with conceptualizing what Accreditation would be all about. We wanted to find a way to differentiate between companies that were in the tree care business and those that were in business to do the right thing. It was the right thing to do at the time, even though we had a few verbal tomatoes thrown at us at first.”
Ross and his team took RTEC Treecare through the Accreditation process in 2005, becoming the first accredited tree care business in Virginia. “I look at it this way,” he says. “If 10% of all tree care companies in the U.S. are members of TCIA, and 10% of those are accredited, that means you are in the top 1% of all tree care companies. I find that to be an honor.
“We’ve always been a pretty progressive company,” he continues. “We start moving in new directions before others. We’re actively engaged year over year. For instance, I was right there getting my Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) credential right at the beginning. And all of this helps us look professional in the eyes of the consumer. We have to first invest in ourselves, making sure we know the science and that we evolve as the industry evolves. Things have changed dramatically in tree care over the years, and the practitioners really have to be on their game.”
According to Ross, “Leveraging our Accreditation brings us right back to our goal of professionalism. It’s a quick and easy way for others to differentiate between tree companies. Accreditation doesn’t mean we’ve arrived, it just means we’ve fulfilled the areas of compliance. I would challenge all tree companies to find ways to continue to improve.”
Rivero says Accreditation has created more and more recognition for RTEC Treecare among landscape architects, government entities and consumers. The company is an 11-time winner of TCIA’s Excellence in Arboriculture Award and has been recognized twice by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with its Small Business Achievement Award – the only tree company to be so honored.
Ross concludes by saying, “We strive to always improve internally, to keep processes tight and to continue to improve and grow. One of our Core Values is being confident yet humble. We don’t need to make somebody else look bad in order to make ourselves look good.”