How to Start a Tree Service Small Business

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.