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    Your client approach needs updating – Martin Gammie

    A fresh look at how we engage with clients and collaborate with other disciplines is long overdue,  says Martin Gammie. Arborists can’t always allow clients to dictate on key issues like timing.


    My recent work with the Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) on its latest best practice guidance document gave me an opportunity to consider the delivery of arboricultural services more broadly. What I hope to do here is stimulate thoughts on how we might change our approach to service delivery while focusing on two main areas:

    ● Engaging with the client
    ● Collaborative working with other disciplines

    The first question is perhaps ‘why change?’ To answer this we need to consider how successful we have been in delivering a sustainable urban treescape. Despite a greater awareness of arboriculture in our towns and cities, we are seeing a decrease in our urban canopy cover. I believe this is primarily down to ever increasing demand for development; failure to enforce planning controls; decreasing local government resources; a 30% failure rate in urban planting and an increase in adverse weather conditions.

    Engaging with the client

    How can changes in the way we engage with clients aff ect these issues? Every arborist I speak to appears to be busy and for the majority of us, work is generated from enquiries by our clients or
    invitations to tender.

    The fundamental problem with this reactive approach is that the client dictates the timing, which may not always be the best for you or indeed them.

    I am not suggesting all our clients should be educated in arboriculture, but providing them with a greater awareness of why we do what we do may help them realise when our services can be of
    most benefit.

    For example, having to redesign development proposals not only delays the transition of the application through the
    planning process, it costs money. Identification of the site constraints from the outset increases the likelihood of getting it right first time and ensuring the most cost effective route to success. We must then consider how to
    deliver a proactive approach. Here are some suggestions according to sector:

    ● Provide CPD seminars to developers and architects
    ● Promote the benefits of your services and why early engagement is cost effective
    ● Issue reminders for cyclical works such as tree inspections

    ● Engage with client base regularly reminding them of your services
    ● Promote proactive management plans for clients’ treestock
    ● Issue reminders for cyclical maintenance works

    Local government tree officers
    ● Provide in-house training for planning officers and councillors
    ● Develop a more strategic approach to their role
    ● Take a proactive approach to serving TPOs guided by local plans and land allocation
    ● Develop robust, enforceable planning conditions that are adaptable to requirements of specific applications

    Ensuring these measures are as effective as possible requires cohesion within the industry and this is best achieved through its professional bodies. However, these organisations are reliant on the active participation of their membership. The ability to influence policy and trends will only come through a united voice.
    In summary, we need to consider a more pro-active approach to service delivery. The next article will consider how this might be applied via collaborative working.


    Martin Gammie has spent over 30 years working in the forestry, arboriculture and landscape industries. He is currently Director at his own arboricultural consultancy, Consulting with Trees.

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