Twenty-four year old Josh Weedon recently started his own tree surgery business with his brother Sam, 21. Pro Arb met up with the entrepreneurs to find out about their business, how they find working in the industry and what it’s like starting their own enterprise
What is your role within the company?
Sam and I are joint owners. I’m the groundsman and he does the climbing.
How long have you been in the industry?
I’ve been in the industry in some capacity for getting on for six years now. Sam has been in arboriculture for close to five.
Did you study arboriculture?
Yes, we studied at Dart Training while on an apprenticeship.
Why did you start your own business?
We were given the opportunity by a teacher at Dart Training we were working for at the time. He wanted to go more into full-time teaching and with running the business and having young children too, he felt he was spreading himself a bit too thin. He offered us the chance and we took it. We didn’t buy the company as a whole, just the equipment and a small regular client base. We started the new company under our own name.
What were the main pieces of kit you needed to buy to get going?
A van and a wood chipper are the obvious investments when running a tree surgery firm along with making sure all climbing and lowering equipment is up to date with LOLER regulations. We are always building our equipment up, looking for bargains. We now have seven or eight saws in various sizes, another van on the road and are currently searching for a bigger chipper to handle our increased workload.
How many staff do you have?
There are just the two of us at present. We have two vehicles that both get used.
Do you have plans to expand your team in the near future?
There are definitely plans to expand, maybe taking on an apprentice to go down the same route Sam and I took with Dart Training.
How do you get your work?
Word of mouth is our best way of getting work, but we advertise in local magazines too, which is working quite well for us. We are also on an Age Concern database that elderly people can use to find a trusted company, vetted by Age Concern to ensure customers don’t get substandard work or even worse be scammed. It was quite a rigorous process to get on it. Someone came out to watch us on a job and chat about work safety etc. Then there was another home visit to go over all relevant insurance documents. We also had to have three references from previous customers who said we did a good job. It seems to be working out for us and we are also registered on yell.com. We have our own website that generates work, too. We’ve also tried the local parish magazines, which haven’t worked so well.
Do you cover all types of arb work including commercial, domestic and local authority?
We do everything. We have a couple of contracts with big businesses; we have the Volkswagen contract in Nottingham and we do domestic work too. The domestic work mainly consists of small/medium tree work, reductions, thins, crown lifts and deadwoods. We do hedgework, facing top/ sides and reducing in height quite often. Recently we have been flooded with every tree surgeon’s favourite, conifers!
What’s the profit split between commercial and domestic work?
The majority of what we do is domestic tree care work; I would estimate that around 75% of our work is done within the domestic market.
Are there any training programmes in place for you and Sam presently?
We are still using Dart for our training needs. If we needed to attend any other courses, they are definitely who we would use.
What kind of courses would you take in the future? Would they be practically focused or might you do any business training?
Courses wise, I would definitely be interested in business training in the future. We come from an entrepreneurial family with most close members running or having run their own business, which helped me and my brother make the right decision when it came to starting our own company. As far as practical courses go, I’m interested in doing the arb first aid course, which is about bandaging larger wounds etc.
How have you found the industry so far in terms of legislation?
There is quite a lot of it, I must admit. It’s manageable for us though, we’re finding our way around it. It’s there for a reason so we have to follow it and do the best we can to overcome it.
What issues have you have faced this year in running your business?
The main issue for us is trying to keep the work consistent, to be honest. We’ve been lucky to be booked up three or four weeks ahead so far. There is always that worry, especially as we’re only just starting out.
You and your brother are very young to have your own business; do you think your age has been a hindrance in winning jobs and contracts?
It works as a positive and a negative. A lot of clients don’t mind at all but you do get the odd one who I can tell is wary. On the other hand it is a young man’s trade, with fewer people being able to keep up as they get older. And most female clients don’t mind two young guys in their garden wielding chainsaws and lifting heavy logs!
Do you get involved with the industry associations at all?
No, not yet. We are still a fairly new company and we’re just trying to get to grips with everything for now.
Is it something you will be looking at in the future?
Definitely yes. I think it’s important for companies like ours.
Do you think the arboriculture market is healthy?
I’d say it’s healthy at the minute. We see at least two or three tree surgeons a day while en route to and from jobs so there is work out there, it’s just getting your phone to ring that’s the hard part. We’ve had lots of recommendations and repeat business, which has helped the business grow.
What are the main issues that need to be tackled in the industry?
For me it’s TPOs (Tree Preservation Orders). I find sorting those out the hardest part of my job. It’s probably a learning curve for us, being a new business.
What more can be done to make arboriculture a career of choice?
It’s not a job where young people can come in and do work experience, mainly because of health and safety issues. If we could make that easier it might help. On work experience days arranged by schools, students can do electrics and plumbing, stuff like that, and it’s easier for them to tag along. I think giving young people hands-on experience would be the best way to get them into it.
What do you like doing outside of work?
We both like going to the gym, keeping fit and healthy and being generally active. Sam also plays water polo.
Weedons Tree Surgery and Garden Care
53 Charles Avenue,
Tel: 07905 675 171