Since the 1980s, Wonderland Tree Care + Landscapes, based in Oyster Bay, New York, has been able to keep all their staff on during the off-season by providing tree care services.
The company started as a tree care company that eventually added landscape services. David Golon, general manager for Wonderland Tree Care + Landscapes, says the need for landscaping services grew after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. He says they’ve found a niche in moving and planting big trees, which has allowed their landscape division to grow.
Unlike other landscape companies in the northern states, Wonderland Tree Care + Landscapes does not do any snow removal work. Over the winter, they conduct large shade tree pruning, ornamental and shrub pruning, and tree removals.
Wonderland Tree Care + Landscapes employs 18 workers in the field and has a total of 25 employees. All of their employees are cross-trained in arboriculture. Golon says as long as it isn’t actively snowing, they’re able to work. Due to poor driving conditions, their employees are off on snow days. He says their hourly employees typically average out 2,080 hours for the full year thanks to overtime worked during the spring and fall.
Golon says that because they can retain their staff year-round, they have the cream of the crop in terms of employees.
“The attitude amongst all the crew, they’re happy, they want to stay on,” Golon says. “They’re happy and so they help. When they’re out on jobs in the fall, they’re happy to refer back extra work to the office and say, ‘Hey, go see Mrs. Jones about this.’ The crews are helpful in spurring that extra work for the winter.”
Golon says they’re actively growing and have brought on five new team members this year and plan to add more next year, but they’re not bringing on any additional workers over the winter to ensure everyone on staff has enough to do.
“We are currently not hiring because we have enough employees on staff and we have a waitlist of guys who want to work here,” Golon says. “So, it really helps us attract people. You’re not competing in the same marketplace for employees as other companies because you have this totally different benefit of not being laid off and put on unemployment for the winter.”
While keeping their staff on year-round is beneficial for recruiting and retention, Golon says it is a lot of work on the sales team to produce enough work for the team for the winter.
“Selling tree work in the winter is tougher because clients don’t think about their trees as much in the winter and don’t think it’s as necessary,” Golon says. “Yet it’s a better season to prune trees as you can see what you’re doing a lot better.”
The company also utilizes direct mail to help sell their winter tree work. Golon says they sent out around 15,000 postcards recently.
He says the weather does impact their productivity as they have to shovel or snow blow paths. He says in the spring, they will send crews back to clean up any debris they weren’t able to get in the snow.
Golon suggests other landscape companies find a variety of jobs to broaden their services so you can keep working through the winter. Wonderland Tree Care + Landscapes also has some landscape work they can conduct during the winter, like prep work for the following year. He says they also have some crew members who work in the field during the growing season and in the winter, they work in the shop, repairing, painting and service equipment.