The State Of The Association

Delivered by Mark Garvin during TCIA’s Winter Management Conference at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas, on February 3, 2014


I have had the privilege of serving this association for 18 years, the past four as president. The annual State of the Association address presented at Winter Management Conference is our opportunity to look back at the year that has passed, review our progress, and lay out our plans for the future.

I’ve been thinking about how I should describe the state of your association. In January I watched President Obama deliver the State of the Union address … and I can say we’re doing a lot better than he is. I’ll just run through a few highlights from last year.

2013 was a year of celebration, as we marked the 75th anniversary of this association dedicated to advancing tree care businesses. In TCI Magazine and at TCI EXPO, where we had a fascinating museum, we acknowledged the people, equipment and companies that transformed the industry. Many of you participated and joined in the celebration, and we thank you.

2013 was a year of reflection and refocus, as we worked to improve existing programs rather than roll out new ones. We made changes – some major, some minor – but all were considered with one thought in mind … enhancing member value.

2013 was a year of growth for Accreditation, with 376 facilities that have now earned this designation. One new program, Utility Contractor Accreditation for our line-clearance members, is attracting some very interested attention from the utilities.  

2013 was a record year for safety programs, with almost 1,200 Certified Treecare Safety Professionals, or CTSPs, around the country working to create a culture of safety in their organizations. The TCIA-endorsed ArborMAX insurance program, which includes an on-site loss-control audit for workers’ comp to help companies improve their safety performance, has exceeded all expectations.

2013 was a year of stability, if not progress, in government affairs. As our lobbyists in Washington tells us, what we prevented from happening is often as important as accomplishing something positive. It’s frustrating at times, but we are building alliances and making connections that will serve us when gridlock eventually ends, as it must. And we continue to work with the states when possible, notably this year in California, to write safety standards that work for the industry.

2013 was a year of growth for membership, especially in the provision of member services. From a growing mentor program, to a tree injection summit, an IPM summit, an SRT summit and dozens of free or low-cost chipper operator workshops, we are expanding member value in ways that are designed to be accessed locally and affordably.

2013 was a year of deeper commitment from our member manufacturers and suppliers. The sponsorship programs had another good year despite the economy. Our associate members see value in partnering with TCIA. Magazine ad sales were up … for the third year in a row. Our booth sales in Charlotte were way up. Our exhibitors were so pleased with TCI EXPO 2013 that 2014 in Hartford is already sold out.

I can’t think of a more ringing endorsement of the value our partners place on their interactions with those of you in this room and within the membership. Please make sure you thank them for their commitment to this association … all year long.

2013 was a year of financial success for the association. We continue to manage revenue and expenses in a conservative fashion. Despite an up-and-down year for the economy, TCIA posted a consolidated net income of $504,000.

More highlights from 2013:

In 2013, TCIA added two new regional coordinators, bringing the total to six staff located around the country to enhance member value, recruit new members, introduce programs and encourage volunteer involvement. Regional coordinators are bringing the value of association membership directly to regional meetings, training sessions and workshops.

Membership grew by 2.5 percent in 2013, from 2,190 to 2,245.

TCI EXPO in Charlotte had more than 200 exhibitors, for the first time ever, and the second highest number of total booths. The show was so popular with exhibitors that, as mentioned earlier, we’re sold out for Hartford in 2014.

At the NASCAR Hall of Fame, attendees definitely enjoyed the best-attended and most fun TCI EXPO Opening Reception ever.

TCIA’s 75th Anniversary celebration culminated at TCI EXPO with a 230-foot-long exhibit encompassing a historical timeline depicting key association and industry events. Tree care history was represented by hundreds of tools, machines, and equipment from more than eight decades supplied by members from around the country. Several privileged members were on site to help interpret the exhibit with their stories.

The Certified Treecare Safety Professionals workshop at TCI EXPO in Charlotte saw record enrollment of 87. At year’s end, new enrollments in the CTSP program reached 260. Also at year end, there are now almost 1,200 CTSPs around the country enhancing a culture of safety in their organizations. In terms of company involvement, more than 650 members, non-members, cities and utilities have enrolled trainers in this certification.

Our efforts to help CTSPs network with their colleagues, such as through the CTSP Facebook page and an Open Forum at TCI EXPO, have drawn increasing involvement and unsolicited praise from participants.

Accreditation continued to expand in 2013. More and more towns are requiring or recommending it in bid specs, including Central Park in New York. Today, we have 376 facilities accredited around the country … and the number continues to grow.

The Young Business Leaders Group, launched in 2012, held online and face-to-face meetings so younger owners can network, share ideas and plan for the future with others at similar stages of their business careers. Coupled with the Business Mentors Network, TCIA matches mentors with mentees to share ideas on business development, sales and marketing, human resources, finance and more.

TCIA staff helped a growing list of members navigate OSHA enforcement proceedings successfully, establishing favorable precedent for other companies in the process.

The ArborMAX Insurance program beat growth projections again in 2013, providing revenue and vital safety information to the association. Onsite loss-control audits of companies are building a comprehensive picture of what works best and what is needed most to advance safety.

The new Chipper Operator Specialist program rolled out free or almost-free workshops around the country in 2013, with more than 800 arborists receiving training in safe chipper operations. The program continues to gain momentum, with another 1,000 or more likely to receive training in 2014.

The new Utility Contractor Accreditation, designed so utilities can have confidence that the companies they hire meet TCIA safety performance and best business practices standards, accredited its first three companies, with more in the process. The utilities, including Duke Energy, are interested in details of the program.

Only a late snowstorm prevented Winter Management Conference 2013 in St. Kitts from setting an attendance record.

The first IPM Summit, held in Florida in January 2013, attracted 47 attendees and its results will provide a sound foundation for a new ANSI Standard.

Cal OSHA adopted the standards that TCIA and our members helped draft. The standards comprise Article 12 of their general industry safety orders.

The 2013 WMC VFT Gala & Auction in St. Kitts attracted 120 attendees, raising more than $110,000. We had to turn down another dozen or so potential attendees, as the function facility couldn’t handle any more.

The Felix Golf Tournament in St. Kitts raised a total of $41,520, exceeding budget and thereby providing increased support for the students of arboriculture.

More than 175 students representing 18 colleges and universities throughout the country took full advantage of the opportunity to test their knowledge and participate in a variety of skills competitions at Student Career Days.

More than 100 arborists attended an A300 Tree Care Standards workshop in Sacramento in cooperation with the Western Chapter ISA. The A300 Committee is committed to education as an integral function of its mission.

TCIA expanded its outreach to “interested publics” this year, with staffed booths at American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) conference in Phoenix, Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International Expo in San Diego, and Garden Writers Annual Symposium in Quebec City.

Our newly released single rope technique manual, SRT Best Practices, certainly struck a nerve. We held a fully attended, invitation-only SRT Summit at TCI EXPO in Charlotte and will hold at least five SRT hands-on workshops in the coming year.

Peter Gerstenberger received the 2013 Millard F. Blair Exceptional Contributions to Practical Arboriculture award from ISA at their annual conference in Toronto.

Who says print is dead? Quality content still delivers readers, which attracts advertisers. TCI Magazine finished with total revenues for the year of $1,015,000, roughly $146,000 ahead of budget and a stunning $170,000 ahead of last year.

TCIA’s net income from operations for 2012-13 of $337,818 is the second highest in history. Our consolidated net income of $504,723 is also the second highest in the association’s history.

The first Tree Injection Summit filled the room to fire code capacity at the Bartlett Arboretum. TCIA is looking at holding at least one more (and possibly two) in 2014.

TCIA launched the only peer-to-peer networking groups dedicated to the tree care industry in 2013. The first meeting of the first group was here in the Bahamas. The group is a facilitated, self-governing, gathering of company leaders who are willing to share their backgrounds, skills, and industry experiences for the purpose of developing strategies, solutions and best practices for personal, professional or business development.

2013 was the second year of our new strategic plan. It was with that plan in mind that we rolled out new initiatives. The plan stresses three elements:

  • Grow membership by creating a stronger community among members.
  • Create real value for members through training and education – with a focus on safety.
  • Be recognized by the public and the industry as the leader in setting professional standards for the tree care profession.

To create a stronger community among members, we added two new regional outreach coordinators this year, bringing our total to six. For those of you who work in these areas on the map (figure ?), I urge you to reach out and make a connection with them. And we’re not going to stop with six. We are looking to add new coordinators in those parts of the country where we have a strong concentration of members.

What do you need to help run your business more profitably? What sort of training do you want to see in your area – for yourself and your employees? Our coordinators attend local meetings, organize training, and gather members together to network and find solutions to common problems. They are your local contacts, and their job is to serve you as members. Call them. They work for you.

To create a stronger community among members, we launched a new peer-to-peer networking group so members from different parts of the country can get together and dig deep into their businesses with other business owners. The first group held their first meeting at Winter Management Conference 2014. If you are interested in joining, contact us and we’ll tell you how it works.

To enhance member value, you all are about to receive a letter asking for your participation in a survey. For almost as long as I have worked for this association, I have been asked by long-time members when we were going to produce another Productivity and Financial Targeting (PROFIT) report. I had no idea what that was. It turns out, the 1991 TCIA PROFIT report was based on the financial information provided by 77 participating firms.

This year, we’re launching the TCIA Operating Cost Survey. As a participant in the survey, you will receive a copy of the Operating Cost Benchmark Report and a personalized Performance Analysis Report. This 25-page report compares your firm with similar firms and provides suggestions for improving your firm’s profitability.

You’ll receive a Performance Scorecard, with your firm compared with others on Strategic Profit Model Ratios, Income Statement, Financial Ratios, Asset Productivity Ratios and Employee Productivity Ratios.

To collect the data and ensure confidentiality, TCIA has hired the Profit Planning Group to conduct the survey. You will send your questionnaire directly to Profit Planning Group and they will return your Performance Analysis Report directly to you.

Profit Planning Group has conducted over 100 financial surveys annually for over 20 years with no breach of confidentiality.

You will or already should have received a letter alerting you to this important business tool. Participation is FREE. It is a benefit of your membership with TCIA. We urge you to take the time necessary to complete it.

The second new initiative from our strategic plan, “to create real value for members through training and education – with a focus on safety” was launched quietly last year. It is called the Arborist Safety Training Institute, or ASTI. The goal of the Safety Training Institute is to provide free or almost free safety training to the industry.

To fund that training for you, we are committed to raising $2 million. When we have reached that goal, we will roll out local training workshops around the country that will be offered to members at very low cost. Whatever you need for training – chipper operator, felling, rigging, electrical hazards, chain saw safety, aerial lift operation, or aerial rescue – you name it and the institute will fund it, locally and affordably.

As I said, we began meeting with and soliciting members last year … and I am very pleased to report that in just a short time we have pledges totaling $750,000.

I would like to acknowledge some of the early pioneers for this initiative, starting with your outgoing chairman, Ben Tresselt, who made the first pledge of $25,000. In fact, your current Board of Directors has pledged more than $250,000 to this effort.

I’d like to ask everyone here today who has made a pledge to please stand: Ben and the Board, August Hoppe, Mundy Wilson Piper, Stacy Hughes, Kevin Caldwell, Rolf Briggs, Greg Good, Greg Krogstad, and Tim Gamma. I’d like to offer a special thanks to three companies: Andy Felix of Tree Tech Inc. and Peter Sortwell of Arborwell, each of whom pledged $50,000 to help improve safety in the industry, and Tom Roger from Lewis Tree, who has pledged $75,000.

Thank you all, the industry will long remember your pioneering efforts.

Lastly, I would like to thank our board of directors and all of our members for your continued faith in the mission of TCIA. The community that makes up the world of arboriculture is truly a remarkable collection of people who make a positive difference in their communities … each and every day. It has been an honor to represent this association for almost 20 years. I am very excited about the new programs we are launching to help advance your businesses in the years ahead.