Founder & Managing Director of TreeTools NZ.
Auckland, NEW ZEALAND.
YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY
10 years running TreeTools but Richard has been running businesses for more than 40 years.
BEST KNOWN FOR
Founding TreeTools NZ.
For arborists in New Zealand, Richard & the team need no introduction. On the surface, Treetools is an arborist equipment supplier based in Auckland. However what’s hard to convey through this interview is the level of support [both financial & personal] that Treetools provides to the arboricultural industry in New Zealand. As far as I can tell, Richard is a “businessman” in all of the very best meanings of the word; an unparalleled networker & “go-to guy” for anything climbing equipment related.
Far from it for me to comment on Richard’s age but something that has always stood out is that he’s equally at home talking to arborists [that I assume to be] less than half his age as he is industry veterans. This allows for a well needed exchange of information between generations who might not otherwise come into contact.
Richard tells me that that his ambition when setting up Treetools was to be the best arborist equipment shop in the world. I haven’t been to all the arborist equipment shops in the world but I’d say he’s got a fair shot at reaching that goal. The shop is immaculately presented & you can be sure that within minutes of entering that you will be provided with a one on one customer service experience that would put Harrods to shame.
Treetools celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and so it seemed like a good chance to have a look at the business. See below for the transcript of the interview between myself [Sam Turner] & the man behind Treetools - Richard Tregoweth.
Q1 “In your own words; could you give us an explanation of what is that you do?”
*Richard laughs quietly and with an air of experience*
A little bit of everything really, I have specific people responsible for specific roles within the company so a lot of what I do is “everything else”. A lot of web related stuff falls to me, as well as listening to the market and filtering information from both customers & suppliers.
Q2 “Who do you consider your greatest inspiration and why?
I couldn't give you a specific figure but I read a lot of books about business and like to pick specific ideas from specific people. The business [Treetools] is somewhat unique and therefore its hard to have an exact role model.
Q3 “What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?”
When I first entered the arboricultural industry it shocked me to find out how little some of the highest skilled arborists in New Zealand were being paid. Treetools [& others] have made a conscious effort to remedy this by raising the professionalism in the industry and to a certain extent there has been a noticeable difference. By no means have I been wholly responsible for this but it was definitely a conscious decision.
Q4 “What was the hardest part of your journey to success?”
From a retailer’s perspective something as seemingly routine as getting stock to arrive in the appropriate quantity & on time can be a real challenge. Another major hurdle was managing the change from an entirely family run business to one that included more than just family.
Q5 “In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges facing the industry in the future?”
In terms of gear - the flood of non certified product could be an issue in the future (particularly from a retailer’s perspective). Whilst I can see both the pros and cons involved in going through a certification process, a key feature is that it involves an independent third party check. The growing size of the market for non traditionally sourced products could also be problematic, in particular those from South East Asia. It’s been seen before where high quality European tools & equipment have been superseded by a lower cost alternative. This isn’t always synonymous with lower quality equipment, but if a socket set breaks because it wasn’t made properly, this is much less significant than if a karabiner holding someone’s life fails!
Q6 “What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?”
Continuous professional development - this is largely missing in the arboricultural industry at the moment - although there has been some change in the last ten years. Really I think an arborist’s salary should be proportional to the level of professional development carried out by the staff member & without this its hard for an employer to pay their staff fairly.