Old Growth Tree Service
Describe your success story.
I moved to Vail in 2001 following a snowboarding trip and that was my introduction to the Valley. I was living in Washington State at the time and managing a grocery business. I noticed that there was a Safeway at the bottom of the hill in Vail, and I was able to land a job there that allowed me to move here and pursue my passion for snowboarding and the outdoors. I owe a lot to the grocery business, because it showed me the incredible power of customer service and how to earn the long-term loyalty of people by simply following through and keeping promises.
Growing up, I was the kid who learned best through hands-on work and gravitated toward vocational programs. I studied agriculture, horticulture and forestry in school and attended college for forestry to pursue my love for trees. I founded Old Growth Tree Service in 2016 with my business partner, Matty Komar. We realized that a customer service business with laser-like focus on arboriculture could thrive in this Valley. The realization that starting with the customer first was big for us, and I believe that our success is largely due to this pivotal moment.
So, we bought a bucket truck, hired our first employee, and got to work. As arborists not affiliated with a landscaping company, a lot of the landcare businesses became our customers, multiplying our reach many times over. We essentially went from having one salesperson to dozens.
In the years since our founding, we’ve grown from three people and one truck, to 40 employees and more than 50 vehicles and pieces of equipment. We’ve added a plant health care business and a forestry business, and our customer base includes individual homeowners, property managers, B-to-B clients, HOAs, municipalities, county governments, and federal agencies.
In 2019 we became accredited by the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). The TCIA accreditation process is rigorous and examines everything from business plans to field operations and safety practices. I’m proud that we are the only tree care company in the Valley to have earned this accreditation, and 1 of only 13 in Colorado. That same year, we also began doing government contract work with wildland fire. Wildfires have devastated so many communities, and it is incredibly meaningful to us when we have the opportunity to help fight fires or work to prevent them through fire mitigation.
We’ve sustained an average of 50% year-over-year growth, and in 2021, we became a year-round business and began to offer benefits to our employees. We’ve accomplished a lot in a short amount of time, and being able to transition from a seasonal business to year-round and provide benefits for our employees is among our proudest accomplishments. At the end of the day, I’m driven by a desire to create a space for our employees to grow and thrive, so that they can live THEIR dream here in the Valley.
Since the start, integrity, hard work, and expertise have fueled our success. We make promises to our customers and we keep them. We are customer-centered and know that every phone call, email, or text message is an opportunity. We do our best to respond with a sense of urgency and gratitude; and we go to great lengths to ensure that we attend to every last detail. We hustle and make hay when the sun shines; and we work on the business and train during downtime.
Why did you choose to do business in the Vail Valley and what are the advantages of doing business here?
The Vail Valley is an extraordinary place. The natural environment and the recreational opportunities it provides drew me in, as it has people from all over the world. Trees are a defining element of our landscape, and the combination of urban development, poor soil, pests, and ongoing drought requires an added level of care to ensure that trees survive and thrive. As an arborist, I enjoy the challenge of working in a place that is home to so many biotic zones and vastly different species of plants.
Are you involved in the community? If so, how?
We work closely with many of the municipalities in the Valley as well as county agencies and other organizations. We’ve removed hazard trees at local schools, helped manage noxious weeds in open space lands, and contributed to the ongoing fire mitigation efforts underway throughout the Valley. It was particularly meaningful when we got the call to work on the Sylvan Lake Fire in 2021. We’ve also just started an arborist apprenticeship program through the U.S. Department of Labor that we hope to grow into a pathway for local youth to pursue a career in arboriculture.
How do you acquire and retain your staff? What do you look for when hiring?
We are a growing and dynamic company, and our track record provides clear evidence of the rewards of hard work and integrity. Our employees are drawn to us because they recognize the opportunity to be a part of a like-minded team and they enjoy the challenge of hard work outdoors that requires both brain and brawn. We look for people who know how to work safely and smartly, and who are willing to raise their hand and partner with us to capitalize on the next opportunity.
What advice would you give to someone entering our mountain economy?
The Vail Valley is a challenging place to start a business. It’s important to start from a place of passion — you’ve got to love what you do, live and breathe it, and nurture it as if it is your child. And if you’re invested and are able to connect with like-minded people, you’ll have all the business you could want. Customers in this Valley appreciate quality and are willing to pay for it, so long as you listen to and anticipate their needs, and go the extra mile to exceed their expectations.
Learn more at: Old Growth Tree Service