Growing With TCIA

August Hoppe gave the following address after being sworn in as chair of the TCIA Board of Directors during the Association’s annual business meeting, held February 12, 2024, during Winter Management Conference ’24 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

August Hoppe

Funny how this gavel has circled back. Our Hoppe Tree Service urban wood lab made this gavel about four years ago. It took us forever to make it, so hopefully no one loses it. I’ll do my best to keep track of it.

Before I really get going, I just want to promise you that I did not have AI write this speech. As good as AI is, I don’t think it can even fathom what it’s like trying to run a tree service, with all the weird stuff that happens. So I didn’t even try.

Everyone’s story of how they got into the industry is different, but I’d like to share a little bit of my story with you.

I grew up in the business. I’m third generation. I’ve been working professionally for 23 years – meaning that’s how long I’ve been getting paid, though I started a lot longer ago than that.

It started with my grandfather, Fred Hoppe. He came back from WWII, and his father told him he had to get a job. I still don’t know why he chose tree work, but that is pretty much why I’m here. I often wonder if he had gotten into the shoe business, if I would be selling shoes right now.

He worked for Larry Wachtel and Pat Buckley, two legends in the Milwaukee tree world. When my uncle, Mike, and my father, Dean, were old enough, they joined Grandpa, and the three of them struck out on their own.

Early lessons

I learned early on what it was like to be in a family business. Wait your turn to talk to Dad. I was fine with it. I knew he loved me, probably more than he loved the tree business, though I wasn’t 100% sure (that’s a joke). But this is what I grew up with, and seeing my dad’s dedication and his constant hard work did inspire me.

Dad and me during one of my early days on the job. All photos courtesy of August Hoppe
Dad and me during one of my early days on the job. All photos courtesy of August Hoppe

I learned a lot from my father. When I was 16 years old, before he would buy me my first saddle, he had me climb on a half-inch Arbor-Plex climbing line with a bowline-on-a-bight rope saddle. It was good enough for him, so he wanted to see if it was good enough for me. He didn’t want to buy me a saddle unless he had to. Of course, I said no, it was way too uncomfortable, and he ended up getting me a Weaver saddle. Smart move by my dad; I got a lot of tree work done with that Weaver saddle.

Now here is where the story gets interesting.

Our business was a classic two-men-and-a-truck operation. Actually, it was an old, blue Dodge one-ton and an old, rusty Vermeer 900-series chipper. That is the kind of company we were. At this point we had three employees – my father, my brother, also named Fred, and myself. We didn’t wear helmets, no chaps anywhere, and I probably only wore safety glasses when it was sunny, I can’t really remember.

Grandpa Fred Hoppe.
Grandpa Fred Hoppe.

Watershed moment

In the year 2000, things changed for us big time. I was 20 years old, and my brother was 17. We became members of TCIA. My brother and I went to our first TCI EXPO, and it was an amazing experience. I realized we belonged to an industry and there were a whole bunch of people doing what we were doing, and a lot of them were doing it a whole lot better. We bought some cool climbing gear, a Port-a-Wrap and three helmets, one for each of us and one for our father. And we were on our way.

Our father was receptive to change. He wore his helmet on the first workday after we got back from EXPO and every day after that. He believed in us, and with his 30 years of on-the-job experience, his open mindedness and our new ideas, we became a potent, growing tree service.

His top-secret business advice? Call people back. That was some of the best advice I ever received. I wrote up a lot of jobs because I was the only person to call the prospective client back and show up.

In 2006, we were the second company in Wisconsin to earn TCIA Accreditation. It took me probably eight months to get everything ready. We pretty much had to build everything out. Business plan, client-dispute policy, company training program, etc. – the whole bit. Accreditation definitely made our company better and stronger.

Passing of the torch

Our father passed in 2020. Now it’s just me and my brother running our business. Fred and I absolutely think differently, for sure, but I’ve learned that that’s OK. We are patient with each other – most of time.

It’s been great to see how Fred has grown as a professional as well. In three weeks, he will become president of the Wisconsin Arborist Association. I think that is pretty cool. I could not be prouder of him. If there is another example of a TCIA chair and a sibling being a chapter president at the same time, let me know!

This last summer, my 15-year-old daughter, Nora, became the fourth generation to work at the company, and the future is bright. Between my brother and me, we have four more kids in the pipeline, hopefully. Not that we will pressure them.

Dean Hoppe climbing, sans the PPE required today.
Dean Hoppe climbing, sans the PPE required today.

Advancing businesses

Our company has grown over the years, and TCIA has been a big part of the reason why. TCI EXPO, Accreditation, the peer-to-peer group and networking at Winter Management Conference (WMC) over the last 20 years are all reasons why our company has been successful.

The mission of TCIA is to advance tree care businesses. There are countless examples of other companies growing with the support of TCIA, just like our company has. The more you put in, the more you will benefit from your participation.

One of my goals is to make sure our Association stays around a long time and can continue to help companies like mine grow, become professional and develop their business strategies so they can provide well-paying jobs for their employees and show the world how great tree care can be.

Diverse opinions

I’m excited to be here. In Mexico, of course, but also here with this board trying our hardest to make the industry better. I want to acknowledge these folks.

Vice chair Noel (Boyer) has been great. He’s like a shoulder to cry on sometimes when I need him. Jim (Houston), Tad (Jacobs) and Josh (Morin), who’s ending his term at this meeting. Thanks for all your dedication and efforts over the last eight years. Art (Batson), Austin (Bonnema) and Eric Petersen, thank you. And for the first time I can remember, we have three women on the board – Amy Burkett, Jennifer McPhee and Megan Townsend – and I think that is great.

There is a lot of passion on this board and, of course, different personalities and perspectives. We don’t always agree, but that’s definitely OK, because in the end, we all want what is best for the industry.

Our board works for our members. We understand that. We have small-sized businesses with only a couple of employees all the way up to national brands with thousands of employees, and everything in between, represented on our board.

Game changers

Our job is meaningful. We set strategic objectives for TCIA. We govern and are watchful caretakers of our Association’s finances. As a board, we are excited to help set game-changing priorities and strategies for the Association.

I want to share a few of those.

Game changer 1: Increase data and research capability, to understand how many tree care companies are truly out there, allowing us to make smart internal decisions and provide valued resources to our members.

Game changer 2: A new consultative sales approach that emphasizes listening to the needs of our long-time members as well as new and prospective members. Every tree care company is different, and this focuses on creating customized solutions for individual members and showing value to so many of those companies out there that should be members.

Game changer 3: TCIA offerings will be organized around our six domains. Let’s see if I can remember them.

  • Business Strategy
  • Safety
  • Training
  • Workforce Development
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Advocacy and Regulatory Compliance

There, I got them all. There are so many services TCIA offers that it can make one dizzy. Restructuring to create a simpler system for both members and staff alike will definitely improve things.

Game changer 4: Media and marketing of the Association. The way people consume media is changing. TCIA is zeroing in and focusing on the best ways to reach our members and consumers, especially in the digital world in which we live.

Dad climbing with Lake Michigan in the background.
Dad climbing with Lake Michigan in the background.

Looking ahead

I have a positive outlook for the future. I’m looking forward to what this next year and future years can bring. And I’m excited about trends I am seeing.

Increased collaboration between ISA, TCIA and the Tree Research and Education Endowment (TREE) Fund. Each organization finding their lane in the tree industry and maximizing the impact for all three organizations. This helps all of us. We are too small an industry to be working independently and not together.

Awareness of the benefits of apprenticeship as a training model to bring tree work into the ranks of the skilled trades. We are still seeing only the tip of the iceberg as to how apprenticeship can power our industry and help with recruitment, retention and professionalism as a skilled trade. We must continue to involve more and more young people in our industry. Apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship and workforce-training programs are growing in popularity and creating more and more pathways into our industry, and that is another thing that is great.

There is exciting news on the public-policy front: A new TCIA committee of members is forming to help shape priorities for our industry and government relations. This committee will work with our lobbyists to make sure our industry is heard, not only in Washington, D.C., but also in state houses around the country.

The world’s largest tree care show, TCI EXPO, is strong and is continuing to grow and be reimagined, with new features and opportunities for new people to come and see what our industry is capable of.

The public perception of the importance of trees and green space is growing, whether it is related to public health, preservation of larger trees and/or tree planting. There continue to be so many opportunities for our businesses to seize the day and rise to meet the needs of our consumers.

Our challenges still exist. Professionalism in our industry, labor shortages, employee retention, safety, the OSHA standard – all of these things are still out there. We won’t solve them overnight, but we will continue to work diligently to meet the challenges and improve them.


I see a lot of friendly old faces in the audience. I also see a lot of new ones. Enjoy your time here. We have a great lineup of speakers with real-world themes and topics you can take back to your businesses. Network with others, ask questions.

One thing I have learned during my 20 years of coming to WMC is that everyone is so open and willing to help and there are awesome people here. Somebody at this conference told me years ago that one of the best things you can do here is sit down next to someone different for breakfast every morning. It’s amazing what you can learn doing that.

Thank you for your time, thanks for being a member and thanks for being here. Feel free to connect with me or any of the board members. We represent you.

Thank you!

August Hoppe is owner and president of Hoppe Tree Service LLC, an accredited, 24-year TCIA member company based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and chair of TCIA’s Board of Directors.

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