In my little company in Springfield, Missouri, we have spent almost 20 years building our assets. I’m usually the guy jumping up and down about my number-one asset, my team of great people. But today I want to talk about our #2 most valuable company asset. We have all the usual stuff – bucket trucks, chippers, stump grinders, cranes and lots of tools. We have a strong market and a pretty decent domain name and website. But none of these things make it to the top of the list. So, what is my #2 asset? Without a doubt, it is our reputation!
The definition of reputation, according to lexico.com, is, “A widespread belief that someone or something has a particular habit or characteristic.” My company has a reputation for being professional, polite, reasonably priced and safe. We have a 12-week backlog of work because our reputation tells both existing and prospective customers that we are worth the wait. Our reputation is the reason I know that if a fire burned the whole operation to the ground tomorrow, we would be able to recover and rebuild on the foundation of a strong customer base. Our reputation has allowed us to grow each year, despite a nominal investment in marketing our services.
How can we not only build a great reputation, but then protect it? It takes years of hard work to build this public belief that you possess a particular desirable characteristic. I think it starts with your image. It’s great to have nice clean trucks, uniformed employees and great office staff. It’s even more important, however, to never let anyone see you out doing less-than-professional work. This means keeping your crew in PPE – 100% of the time. It means you hold yourself to a higher standard for proper pruning and mitigation of property damage on tree removals. It means you help your customers make the right decisions regarding what is appropriate for their valuable trees. It means you communicate with customers to set their expectations in line with what you will deliver to them.
Sometimes prospective clients ask us to butcher or top their trees, because they say they don’t care about them. This is an opportunity to spend the time to educate them on why that’s a bad idea, and to offer alternative solutions. If they still insist on arboricultural malpractice, then it’s time to walk away. I have told literally dozens of prospective customers that my reputation is more valuable than their money.
Your reputation has real monetary value. Unresolved customer complaints, poor communication and backsliding on your professional standards will lower the value of your asset. While you protect your physical assets with routine maintenance and insurance, make sure you protect your greatest intangible asset, your reputation.
Noel Boyer, Board Certified Master Arborist (BCMA) and Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP), is owner of All About Trees, LLC, a 12-year TCIA member company based in Springfield, Missouri. He also is a member of TCIA’s Board of Directors.