Pat Covey and Davey Tree learn and grow through strategic acquisitions

Challenging the Davey way

The acquisitions have had a secondary benefit of adding to the pipeline of managerial candidates who can assume more responsibility in the organization, and most importantly, bring fresh ideas to the table. That’s been a benefit to Davey, an organization Covey says can get mired in its own way of thinking.

“We’ve done a nice job of working people into the management team from some of our acquisitions in particular. I think we’ve acquired some talent, some VPs, some upper-level people that allow us to not get a ‘Davey silo effect.’ You can tend to get that way with a management team that’s been here forever,” Covey says.

While having a bevy of managers who have been with the organization for a long time confers the benefit of wisdom, it can perpetuate the notion that the Davey way is the best way.

Before those new ideas can be heard, however, incoming managers must learn to work with a group of people who have been together for a long time. Those who have come in and been successful have learned to navigate by being tactful — sitting back, getting the lay of the land and addressing their issues at the right moment.

“Five years ago we probably looked a little bit differently from that perspective, but with the influx of new talent from outside I think the general view is that there’s a good acceptance of outside ideas and new ways to do things. I think we’ve improved a lot there,” Covey says.

The influx of new ideas has helped Davey examine its processes. An example is when it bought The Care of Trees in 2008. He says that company had bright people who were more progressive in the way they handled the client experience, selling and marketing. Realizing this, the management team at Davey took a step back, re-evaluated its client experience and devised a best-practice approach that began with extensive surveys and questionnaires to get feedback from clients.

“That was an eye-opener from the standpoint that it really forces you to re-examine your own perceptions of how well you’re doing. If you sit there and don’t get feedback, I think you can be swayed or disillusioned in the area where you think you’re doing everything right. But by getting the feedback from our clients, we learned a lot about what we needed to change and we made a lot of those changes.”

One key change Davey made was to automate its process of providing clients with in-the-field quotes. The company relied on an automated client relationship management tool accessed through mobile devices to provide professional-looking quotes.

“That’s kind of new for our industry. We don’t have a lot of competitors that are very far along with that process. We’ve really tried to break down some walls with regard to the technology we use and the way we interact with our clients,” Covey says.

Bigger, stronger, better

Being exposed to the way other companies operate has shown Davey that many of the challenges it faces are industry wide, and that it’s responding to those challenges at a very high level, which adds to the company’s confidence.

The company has now attached its name to several brands across the country — Hartney Greymont in Massachusetts, Maier Tree in Minnesota and Wolf Tree in Tennessee — proof that it’s strategic growth initiative is on track. And the company is still learning.

“We do a lot of things right, but we’re also willing to remain open-minded about new ways to do things, and we aren’t afraid to try and make changes,” Covey says. “All those things, from a cultural standpoint, have really helped us. That outside perspective, winning the battle, fighting through adversity of integrating companies has built confidence, and better business people.”

Takeaways

  • Step outside of your comfort zone.
  • Open up to new ideas.
  • Be true to your word.