“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” A cliché? A silly statement? Yes and perhaps yes, but in some cases, also one with some truth behind it. For Jesse Montoya, founder of Your Way Tree Service, Inc. in Tarzana, CA, his business came from a tough situation he turned into a positive – lemons to lemonade, one might say.
In 2008, many companies were feeling the effects of The Great Recession, including those in the tree care industry. At the time, Jesse was working in sales for a local tree care company and, due to the tough economic climate, unexpectedly found himself laid off.
After weighing the options, Jesse decided to make a move he hadn’t previously considered and started his own company. With his sales background, a two-man crew, and a small fleet of rented equipment, Your Way Tree Service, Inc. was born in August 2009.
Finding Key Partners
Because of his background in residential tree care services, Jesse chose to start his company focused on those types of jobs and those types of customers.
“We started off doing basic tree care services,” he said of the early days. ”From tree trimming to full removal and, really, anything customers wanted in that realm, we’d do it.” His crew supplied its own tools and smaller equipment, and Jesse rented the two basic, larger machines needed – a chip truck and chipper – as well as additional equipment needed for specialty jobs, to complete the fleet.
By the second year in business, Jesse was ready to add another crew, as well as some permanent members to his equipment fleet. He knew he needed at least one chipper and began exploring options from a mix of manufacturers, both those he was familiar with and those he wasn’t.
“At my previous company, we worked almost exclusively with one brand so it was really the only one I knew,” he said.
However, Jesse felt there was more to the complete equipment picture than just the make and model of a machine. So as he researched different chipper manufacturers, he also took the time to investigate different dealerships, as he wanted to partner with a company that could also offer parts, service, and other support beyond the sale of equipment.
In 2010, Jesse bought his first chipper, a Vermeer 1800XL – a leap of faith, both in terms of investing in his business and working with a brand he hadn’t before.
“For me, the difference-maker in giving Vermeer equipment a try was the dealership,” he explained. That dealership was RDO Vermeer in Rancho Dominguez. After learning about the added support RDO Vermeer offered, Jesse felt confident in both his new partner and new Vermeer equipment.
With the new, slightly larger fleet of rented and owned equipment, and through a mix of cold-calling and word-of-mouth from happy customers, Your Way Tree Service, Inc. consistently grew.
The company also began diversifying its services, adding commercial customers to the mix. But Your Way Tree Services, Inc. wasn’t done diversifying. Again because of a pesky lemon, Jesse took an opportunity to make lemonade by adding something new to the company.
Another Lemon, More Lemonade
While the growing business was great, it wasn’t coming without cost. A common practice for tree care companies is to pay dumping fees for chips and limbs to be further ground up and disposed of after a completed job. As Your Way Tree Service, Inc. grew, so too did the cost it was incurring in fees.
“We were averaging 350 to 400 tons of material a day, often paying 25,000 up to 30,000 dollars a month in dumping fees,” Jesse recalls.
He began looking at equipment that would allow the company to manage the process, and be able to sell or give away the material vs. pay to dump it. He turned to the RDO Vermeer team for help in finding the right machine at a price that would make sense on the bottom line. They one-upped him on the request, taking him to the Vermeer factory in Pella, IA so he could see all the options available, talk with experts, and, ultimately, decide if investing in a machine would be the right move for his business.
“It ended up coming down to simple numbers,” he said. “After looking at options and talking to the RDO team about cost, the monthly dumping fees far exceeded the cost for me to own and operate my own grinder, and take care of this work myself.”
In November of 2017, Jesse added Vermeer’s TG5000 tub grinder to his fleet, a machine he says has been ideal for this new service of the business. The TG5000 has done more than take on the work to eliminate dumping fees, it has also allowed Your Way Tree Service, Inc. to expand into new areas of business, primarily land clearing. Jesse says the ROI was realized almost instantly after adding the machine, thanks to the combination of sheer dollar savings and further diversification.
Service hasn’t been an issue, even with the TG5000 being used every day. Not only does RDO Vermeer take care of servicing all his equipment quickly and conveniently, Jesse says the real game-changer is the loaner equipment he gets during those service periods, ensuring he’s never without a machine he needs.
“That was the biggest thing that sold me on RDO from the beginning and I’m very pleased they’ve lived up to the service commitment,” he said.
Continuing to Climb Higher
With the TG5000 being used every day and business continuing to boom, Jesse is already looking to add a second tub grinder to his fleet. He also recently purchased two more 1800XL chippers to keep up with the company’s needs.
Outside of Vermeer equipment, Your Way Tree Service, Inc. has benefitted from RDO Equipment Co.’s network of stores and partnerships with other major manufacturers, like John Deere. Recently Jesse worked with the RDO Equipment Co. team in nearby Riverside, CA, primarily a John Deere construction equipment store, to further expand his fleet. In order to load the TG5000 and move the finished material, he needed a loader, so he chose a John Deere 524K. It’s working well and he’s currently looking to add another machine from the Riverside store, this time a John Deere excavator.
But the real shining star in his equipment fleet comes back to that TG5000 grinder, a purchase that Jesse says, with a laugh, “Is the best and only thing I’ve done right for the business so far.”
Humble he may be, with Your Way Tree Service, Inc. now strong at 45 employees and preparing to celebrate its 10-year anniversary next summer, one could argue Jesse has done several things right for his business. And who knew it would all start by him taking a lost job, one of life’s toughest lemons, and turning it into some lemonade.
Learn more about Vermeer tree care and John Deere construction equipment solutions by visiting your local RDO Equipment Co. store.