If you have tree service experience and startup funds for equipment, it's relatively easy to start a tree service business. First, you'll need to take a few basic steps to formalize your business in the eyes of the law. Next, you'll need to think about the logistics of the business, such as the equipment you'll use and the people you'll hire and train to do the job.
Obtain Your Tree Service Business License
First, you need to register your tree-trimming business with your local chamber of commerce by filling out a form and paying a nominal registration fee. Your next stop should be to the bank to open a business account, which enables you to keep finances separate from your personal accounts.
If you live in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland or Rhode Island, you'll need to go one step further and obtain a tree service license or hire employees who already have this license to do the actual tree work while you manage the business. Although the requirements vary by state, to get a tree service license, you'll usually need to show proof of a certain level of field experience and/or education plus pass a licensing exam.
Get Adequate Insurance
Trimming and removing trees can go wrong in the blink of an eye if a heavy branch falls in an unexpected place. You'll need adequate insurance in case of accidental damage to a client's property as well as to your own equipment or to an employee.
Talk to an insurance agent about the coverage that makes the most sense for your tree service business. This usually includes general liability insurance, commercial vehicle insurance, business property insurance and workers' compensation insurance. You may also want to have professional liability insurance if you routinely give tree advice to clients because they can sue you for "poor advice" if following your recommendations leads to loss or damage.
Tree Service Equipment and Storage
The equipment needed to start a tree removal business isn't cheap, so it's important to secure startup funding. Whether you use your own savings, apply for a business loan or find an investor, you'll need to choose a few pieces of machinery to get you started. As your average tree company revenue grows, you can add to your fleet and take on a greater variety of jobs.
For example, you'll need basic tools like chainsaws, snippers and safety equipment as well as heavy machinery like a bucket truck and chipper. You might be able to rent other equipment, like a stump grinder, for the jobs that require it until you can afford to add one to your fleet. Don't forget to budget for a pickup truck to haul equipment.
Wait to buy machinery like a hydroax or whole-tree chipper until you have the funds to scale up your business to include land clearing. Otherwise, focus on the tools you need to keep the average residential customer happy.
Safety Training for Tree Removal
The most important factor to keep in mind as a tree service business owner is safety, and you need to make sure your crew practices safe tree care and removal at all times. This affects not only your insurance rates but also your reputation as a trustworthy tree service business. Make sure each employee you hire goes through a company safety training program to give everyone the same foundation.
As you set up your tree service business, take the time to establish your policies and procedures, especially those that relate to safety and job performance. It's normal to adjust and clarify these policies over time, but having them written out at the beginning of your journey as a business owner can put you on the path to success.
- If you lack the knowledge required, consider working at a tree farm or nursery to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of tree care.
- If you are planning on also offering tree planting as a part of your service, you will need to get a state sales tax number so that you can purchase from wholesalers. This number prevents you from having to pay sales tax when you purchase the trees--or other landscaping materials--because you will be paying sales tax after you sell the trees to your customers.
- Don’t forget that you will need a place to dispose of any debris from your tree service.
- Be prepared to have down times. Unless you live in a climate that has mild weather year-round, your business will slow or stop in the winter months.
- In some states it may be necessary for your business to be bonded in order to get a business license.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics full-time tree service workers have a higher than average rate of work-related injury and illness.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.