Hamm’s ArborCare Achieves Accreditation, Redux

Back from the brink of failure, Hamm’s ArborCare now has 14 full-time employees, including a growing business in plant health care. Photos courtesy of Hamm’s ArborCare.

What might have been a disaster – both personally and professionally – turned out to be a valuable lesson in perseverance, vision and financial responsibility, according to Kevin Hamm, CTSP, BCMA and owner of Hamm’s ArborCare, Inc., a 22-year TCIA member company based in Pardeeville, Wisconsin.

Kevin Hamm

When asked about recently becoming accredited, Hamm explains that this wasn’t his first rodeo. “A little back story here,” he says. “We were accredited the first time from 2005 to 2008, and that was in the early days of Accreditation. But then the recession hit, and we let it slip.

“I was overleveraged at the time, and we actually were told that we probably wouldn’t be able to make it as a company and would have to declare bankruptcy,” he continues. “But I said ‘No,’ and by redesigning our business model, we fought our way out of that situation, and finally, in April of 2019, we were able to launch back into a full employee model. And I knew that part of that (new model) would be the goal of becoming accredited again.”

Hamm says his son-in-law and co-worker, Eli DeJong, was instrumental in helping him reach his Accreditation goal the second time around. “I’m a visionary,” he says, “and being a visionary without having an integrator is dangerous. So now I have an integrator in Eli. He also does all the logistics for the crews.”

Hamm adds that he has an excellent climber on his team in his 24-year-old son, Taylor. “Taylor is a dynamite climber and is very, very valuable to us. I used to climb competitively, but my knees aren’t what they used to be. I’m still out in the field, but now mostly in the lift. We have some others who are older, too – we call ourselves the
geriatric crew when we’re working together,” Hamm says with a laugh.

Hamm’s ArborCare now has 14 full-time employees, including sales and office staff and those doing tree work in pruning, removals and plant health care (PHC). The company serves primarily Dane and Columbia counties, which includes the city of Madison. According to Hamm, the majority of their work is residential with a few commercial and municipal clients as well. His company has done tree care for several historic properties belonging to the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin; Hamm says they’ll be shooting a YouTube video soon of work they’re doing at the Historic Indian Agency House built in Portage, Wisc., in 1832. “There’s a 55-inch-diameter elm in front of that house that we treat every three years,” he notes.

On the subject of YouTube, Hamm says his company is busy building a YouTube channel with content he hopes will bring some value to the tree care industry. Recent videos include a review of the new Vermeer AX19 Chipper, a speed-line tree-removal strategy and another review of the Dino 72 RXT lift. To watch these and more, go to
https://tinyurl.com/4hbnbwzm.

According to its owner, Hamm’s ArborCare is built on the foundation of three core values. These are:

Servant Leadership – “And I’ll demonstrate that,” he says. “I’m happy to pick up a rake and help out. It’s about considering others as more important than yourself.”

Extreme Ownership – “This is inspired by the book of the same name by former Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin,” says Hamm. “It’s about owning what you do. It’s also important for our employees to know that there is no penalty culture here at Hamm’s. We share our near misses and mistakes.”

Unlimited Abundance – “There’s no shortage of trees in this world,” he says. “And people who go after that abundance tend to find it. This causes us to pay it forward and add value to people’s lives.”

Extreme Ownership is “about owning what you do. It’s also important for our employees to know that there is no penalty culture,” says Kevin Hamm.

Spiraling off that final core value, Hamm says, “Why I exist is to set people free to enjoy a more abundant life – and I just happen to be an arborist.”

When asked what sets Hamm’s ArborCare apart from others in the area, Hamm responds, “Attention to safety. There’s always been a paradox between ‘safe’ and ‘production.’ But we have ‘safe production.’ We can operate safely and produce.

“There are always startups where you see them out working with no helmets, no chaps,” he continues. “When I’m out driving around, I could take photos of ‘Hamm’s’ and ‘not Hamm’s.’ It’s all about safety and professionalism. We put most of our emphasis on quality control and professional service. Meticulous cleanup and friendly customer service are often mentioned in customer reviews. I am daily grateful for the incredible team of people we have who are dedicated to that quality control and professionalism.”

If the Accreditation process “seems like an overwhelming thing to do, you’re probably not operating as you should be,” says Kevin Hamm.

Hamm and his son-in-law worked through the virtual process of becoming CTSPs in 2020 as part of going through the Accreditation process, which they began in November 2019. He says of Accreditation, “I wasn’t a stranger to it, so I was familiar with the process. And it seriously launched us back into the employee model. What’s cool about it is, it’s what you should be doing anyway in your business. It’s just that now you’re making it accountable to a third party. I’d say if it seems like an overwhelming thing to do, you’re probably not operating as you should be.

“Our business plan was done already. Basically, we just had a couple of small details to get down, like pre-trip documentation for our trucks for the DOT. We use Gusto for our payroll app, so we can load all our employee data in there and have training documented there as well. As we all know, if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen. I’d say the biggest difficulty we had was the (original) CTSP training that got canceled because of COVID.”

“Taylor is a dynamite climber and is very, very valuable to us,” Kevin Hamm says of his son, shown here.

Hamm stresses that Accreditation is a valuable certification in more ways than one. “First, in marketing,” he says. “It’s a good assurance to customers. The certificate we got is included in each estimate. We utilize Jobber, and we can include a link to our TCIA Accreditation certificate there and in our cover letter. We also can send that same certificate to all the municipal arborists in our area. It’s a distinction that sets us apart and helps make a name for us. There’s not enough of us doing this currently.”

Why should other companies become accredited? “Because it’s just good business,” says Hamm. “If you need to get things done and organized within your company, by all means go through Accreditation.”

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