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Meet Steve Marshall of The Urban Lumberjack

Today we’d like to introduce you to Steve Marshall.

Steve, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Back in 1979, I started my own business in the field of tree care. Armed with little more than youthful energy, a desire to work for myself and a pair of linesman’s pole-climbing spikes, I was lucky in that I lived in Ventura – home of many a Palm tree – and that, with the passage of Proposition 13 (limiting how much cities could charge homeowners for property taxes), Ventura was out of funds for tree care and many individuals would pay a young tree rat to prune the City-owned Palm in from of their property. Fortunately for both me AND the world of trees at large, the local community college offered a course in arboriculture and I learned something of the science behind the labor. I moved to Los Angeles and have continued to operate my own tree-care firm. Over the years, I became State Licensed Contractor, an ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) Certified Arborist, a qualified Tree Risk Assessor and became a member of the American Society of Consulting Arborists.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Like many a contractor, I was good at my business but not a businessman. It took many years of mistakes to understand how to smoothly operate an ongoing firm.

The advent of the internet has also meant a lot of changes. When I started my business, I was often the only bidding party and got most jobs that I bid but there were far fewer calls as I was too small to advertise and was mostly dependent on “word-of-mouth”. Nowadays, almost everyone consults the internet and the competition is fierce but there are far more opportunities to bid for jobs as your firm’s existence is exposed to many more potential clients through sites like this one. Favorable reviews are money in the bank….and people have been kind to my firm.

Please tell us about The Urban Lumberjack.
I have come to believe that one of the most valuable services a tree-care firm can render to its clients is educational. Trees are not mysterious or arbitrary plants – they have evolved over millions of years to develop sensible techniques to survive and thrive in their environments and once you understand why they make the choices they do in growing and developing in their space – once you speak “tree” – they are something of an “open book”. Explaining their behavior and what it means to the clients illuminates what – if anything – the tree wants and needs to stay healthy and strong. Therefore, what I seek to offer my clients that is an honest assessment of what is best for their tree, which sometimes is nothing beyond benevolent neglect.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I’d have enlarged my labor force and focused earlier on educating myself in the science behind my trade and in the methodology of business.

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