Pursuing TCIA Accreditation during a time of rapid growth at Sperry Tree Care was part of the company’s overall strategic planning, according to owner Rob Miron. His business, based in Eugene, Oregon, has been a TCIA member since 1994 and was accredited in May 2022.
Sperry Tree was founded in 1991 by Miron’s stepfather, Nathaniel Sperry, “who still works one day a week and enjoys being part of the team,” says Miron. “I was very much raised in the business. I was nine years old when our folks started Sperry Tree out of our house, so it was a big part of my life. And I remember both my parents working from dark to dark to keep the company going. I went on payroll at 18.” That was 23 years ago, according to Miron. His brother, Andrew Miron, also is part of the team, as well as his sister, Elta Damron Sperry.
“Family is a significant part of our identity as a company,” Miron says. “Clients appreciate our family company loyalty and seeing a new generation move the business into the future.” He adds that Andrew, an accomplished arborist himself, hosts a podcast called “The Tree Thinking” to support, inform and entertain arborists while building community among like-minded professionals.
A couple of new projects Miron implemented when he acquired the company in 2019 include expanding Sperry Tree’s geographic footprint into the neighboring Corvallis area, as well as opening up the company’s own nursery. “We wanted to focus more on plantings and were having a hard time getting quality plant material,” says Miron. “Now we have a planting specialist, Erik Burke, whose background was working for Friends of Trees, a non-profit here in the Pacific Northwest that plants trees (and native shrubs) to improve our environment.
“Erik is really knowledgeable,” he adds, “and helps clients with placing the right tree in the right place. Having the nursery and doing plantings was almost like starting a new business. It’s so different from pruning and removals.”
With 19 full-time staff, Miron says that what sets Sperry Tree apart from other tree companies in his area is amazing customer service. “Our customer service is the foundation of our company,” he says. “We offer a 100% customer-service satisfaction guarantee.” He notes that almost all his employees are ISA Certified Arborists, and that two hold the Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) credential – the company’s field crew manager, Gritz Kuhn, and their training supervisor, Ryan O’Sullivan.
“Ryan has developed a whole in-house training program that’s helped everyone get up to speed on all the safety developments we’ve implemented over the past four years,” Miron says.
A young entrepreneur
As an aside, Miron mentions that he owned and operated a company called the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute during his 20s and 30s. The company offered small-group canopy-tour adventures for fun and personal growth, guiding families, friends and business associates as high as 280 feet into the trees. “Over the course of 15 years, I took more than 20,000 people up into the old-growth forest canopy,” he says, adding that he closed the company when he realized it was not economically feasible to continue operating.
As the relatively new owner of his family business, Miron says his favorite part is giving employees the chance to grow and excel in their lives. “I love watching new people come on board and then fall in love with arboriculture,” he says. “I value people and relationships. Any time you work on a tree crew, you develop relationships, good or bad – but hopefully good. I think our employees are our greatest asset.”
Responding to growth
When asked what motivated them to pursue Accreditation, Sperry Tree’s business manager, Michele Hatfield, says it was in part the opportunity to increase the company’s professionalism. “I joined Sperry in 2019 with a background primarily in marketing,” she explains. “I found out about Accreditation in reading through TCIA’s various publications and thought it would be a way to kind of put the shine on the company.
“We were in a high-growth time, which was a unique challenge in the life of the company. I did much of the (Accreditation) paperwork, and there was very little asked of us that we weren’t already doing. It was a matter of dusting off some of the cobwebs and shining a light on what we were doing. It definitely helped us streamline our on-boarding and integrate new people faster.”
Miron adds, “Accreditation took us from talking about issues to solving issues. For instance, we needed to formalize and document our employee safety meetings, and that part of the process was a lot of work. It’s one thing to have a casual talk with someone about where they’re at and how they’re doing, but then it’s too easy to walk away and not do anything about it or even forget what you said. But when you have an organized documentation process, all of that is in writing and helps with a forward path in training and compensation.”
“We got great feedback from employees who thought this was a great thing,” says Hatfield, “because now they know right where they stand.” Miron adds that his company’s Accreditation was a team effort, with staff taking part in many aspects of the process.
Growing Sperry Tree’s planting and nursery services is part of Miron’s vision for the future. Expanding the tree care end of things into even more geographic areas is as well. “It’s also important to keep the family business feeling,” he notes.
“And I want to give a shoutout to the city of Eugene for letting us use their conference room for our trainings.” These are open to the public, he says. “We’ve done trainings on things like tree ID and aerial rescue, and they’ve (the city) done trainings of their own, so we’re both supporting each other and bettering the urban forest.”
Miron concludes by saying, “I think going through the
Accreditation process and how it’s motivated us to get where we are has really changed the business. We wouldn’t be where we are today without TCIA.”
Patricia Chaudoin has been a freelance writer/editor for more than four decades, in areas as disparate as tree care, golf, weddings, luxury travel and international non-profit NGOs. She has been writing for TCI Magazine since July 2016.