Success Story: The Davey Tree Expert Company

Read the story below or click here to see it in full as it was published on the Northwest Quarterly website.

Published: April 16, 2013

 

The Davey Tree Expert Company knows the key to running a successful operation comes down to providing exceptional customer service. Bill Whitmire, vice president of operations for the national company’s residential/commercial services division, based in Wheeling, promises experienced and knowledgeable tree and lawn services.

“There are many companies that can prune a tree,” says Whitmire. “For Davey Tree, it’s all about the client experience. Any time they interact with someone from Davey – whether it’s the person climbing the tree or answering the phone – the client has to feel good about it. What’s the experience like? Did we do what we said we were going to do? Did we do it on time? Was the invoice right? Was the arborist friendly and knowledgeable? That’s what we’re striving for. What makes us different is our technical expertise. We provide a total solution to a client and his or her property. Our brand promise is total satisfaction.”

Davey Tree provides tree and lawn care services throughout the United States and Canada. Between Davey and its subsidiary, The Care of Trees, this Ohio-based company has 12 locations throughout the Chicago area, including an office in West Chicago, at 395 Industrial Dr. Its residential and commercial services include tree and lawn care, tree pruning and removal, plant health care, applications for disease and insect issues, and soil care applications.

Davey Tree was founded in Kent, Ohio, in 1880, by John Davey, considered the father of the science of tree surgery. When Davey moved to Ohio from Somersetshire, England, in 1873, the U.S. was in a severe depression. But Davey’s skills with plants quickly became well-known, and he was never lacking for work. Soon, Davey became the town’s “tree man.” He started The Davey Tree Expert Company on the premise that trees could be saved and made to flourish, with proper attention. After he published The Tree Doctor in 1901, demand for John Davey’s tree care services continued to grow, expanding from Ohio into Pennsylvania, New York, Washington, D.C., and even Canadian cities such as Toronto and Ottawa.

Davey’s son, Martin, became president of the company in 1906. Under Martin’s leadership, the company tended trees on highly visible properties, including New York’s Central Park. Davey also planted trees in Philadelphia to represent each of the 13 colonies during the U.S. Sesquicentennial, helping to further grow the business in popularity across the country. Today, Davey’s company is the 16th largest employee-owned business in the U.S., with more than 7,000 employees.

“John Davey was more of the instructor who gave us the modern tree care approach that we have today,” Whitmire says. “His love was for the trees, and the technical aspect of how to care for trees provided the foundation. His son, Martin Davey, who was a two-term governor of Ohio, took that love of trees and turned it into the business it is today.”

That’s what Evelyn Carlin has discovered. For more than three decades, the Inverness resident has lived on a one-acre lot that has plenty of trees, including evergreen and spruce, which line her spacious backyard. Two years ago, thanks to recommendations from friends, Carlin hired Davey Tree to care for her trees and cut down one that was failing. “They’re super,” she says. “They’re responsible, and they know their business. If I ask for something small, they go all-out. I’ve worked with other companies before, and I’m sorry I didn’t find Davey Tree 34 years ago.”

Expertise in tree care has become more professional in the past 10 years, because companies are now certified through two organizations: the Tree Care Industry Association and the International Society of Arboriculture. Companies are held to higher standards of education, training and safety. Davey Tree stresses the importance of education, for both the customer and its employees, and its website provides a forum for users to ask questions of professional arborists. In addition, some Davey Tree employees are selected to attend a rigorous 30-day program, which further enhances their level of expertise.

“It’s great for the consumer and the industry,” Whitmire says. “You want your tree professional to have the proper experience and background.”

Expertise and education are especially important, because the average homeowner doesn’t always understand the difficulty his or her trees have in a suburban environment. Landscaping is important to any home, and can add 20 percent or more to the value of the property. How you care for trees today will have an impact on their condition years from now.

“You don’t just pop them in the ground and expect things to be beautiful for the next 20 years,” Whitmire says. “Trees take a lot longer to feel the impact of environmental effects. If you don’t water your petunias in a day or two, you know they’re going to wilt. But you may not see the impact of drought stress to a mature oak tree for three to five years. Trees are slower to visually show the impact of drought. Most people don’t understand that.”

One of the largest landscape issues to plague homeowners in the past 15 years is the emerald ash borer, a tiny green bug that arrived in North America in the 1990s. Detected in 2002, this invasive species has now spread to 14 states and parts of Canada. It has killed 50 to 100 million ash trees so far, and threatens to kill most of the 7.5 billion ash trees throughout North America.

“It’s a huge issue,” Whitmire says. “When the emerald ash borer started in Michigan 14 years ago, the conventional thinking was that you couldn’t stop it. You had to cut your trees down and start over. That has evolved tremendously. You might not save all of them, but you can manage it through applications that are highly effective.”

If you suspect your trees might be impacted, Whitmire recommends scheduling a visit with a certified arborist. He or she can evaluate the trees and give you protection options based on the age of the trees, the location and your budget.

“The industry is doing a much better job helping trees to survive in their environments,” Whitmire says. “There’s a lot of research going into what happens to the chemical’s interaction, soil interaction and biological interactions between trees, the roots and the surface. There’s science and technology being developed that’s really going to help clients maximize the potential of their landscape material.”

Whitmire’s mother and two aunts worked in the Davey corporate office dating back to 1935. Whitmire started in the Akron, Ohio, office about 35 years ago. Now, his son Collin is a field production manager for The Care of Trees in the Crystal Lake office, and has worked for the company for 10 years.

“This business is about people and their love of trees and landscape,” Whitmire says. “When we gain a new customer, we want to establish a long-term, trusted relationship. We don’t want to come in and just cut down a tree. We want to take care of your property, and make sure you have a trusted adviser that will be with you as long as you own your home. At Davey, we’re in it for the long haul.”

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