Stand Out With a Uniform Program for Your Tree Service Crews

with Heidi Baumgart

Tree worker uniforms - should you buy branded clothing and gear for your crews? We share the pros and cons, what it costs, the many benefits (hiring & retention? yup!), design ideas, ordering process, and more.

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As a tree service business owner, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about the tools and equipment that you use, about making sure you've got the right people on board, or about the skills and training that you offer to your teams. But how much time do you spend thinking about what your crews are wearing?

On this episode of 10 Out of Ten, brought to you by Tree Care Marketing Solutions, we look at company uniform programs. Specifically, we look at how those programs can help you with the visibility of your company, the performance and safety of your crews, as well as with employee retention.

Joining us today is Heidi Baumgart from Arborwear. She's the Vice President of Marketing and Team Development and in her role in marketing, she covers everything from product development to product launch, sales enablement, e-commerce, which is a big thing these days (including branded e-commerce platforms or sites for companies to buy their clothing from), and branding for Arborwear in general. Welcome to the show, Heidi!

Heidi

Thank you so much for having me.

Monica

Okay, let's just jump right into the questions. And the first question is … what kinds of clothing are important to consider when you're putting together a uniform program for your company?

Heidi

Well, you know, the first things people tend to think of are tops and bottoms. So, all the versions of shirts and pants. Shirts are probably the biggest quantity, whether it's cotton T-shirts or other kinds of T-shirts or polos, short sleeve, or long sleeve shirts. Also pants, or in some cases, shorts, but predominantly pants. We also do outerwear, mid-layers, ball caps, beanies or stocking caps, socks, we've even logo'd boxer briefs! And then we have a full line of footwear. So, you know, kind of head to toe.

A lot of companies are also issuing safety apparel, including helmets, the audio systems that go with helmets, and chainsaw protection. And, again, it's head to toe. It's really all the things but the basics usually start with T-shirts and pants and kind of go from there.

Monica

Okay, so are there any things that would not be included in a uniform program?

Heidi

I guess it depends on the investment the company wants to make. The kinds of apparel that companies are required to give to their employees are anything safety-related, such as high visibility apparel or chainsaw protection. From there, it really is based on how much they want to invest in their employees as far as general apparel that gives them brand standards or that improves their working.

Monica

So that actually kind of leads to a follow-up question, which is how do you maintain that sort of uniform look across your different employees, given that different team members are going to have different roles?

Heidi

Yeah, great question. And this is one of my favorite things, when the sales team brings in the marketing department to help design a look. But a lot of times our customers already have great brand standards.

With some things, you're kind of locked into two different HVSA colors. So, if you're required to have yellow, or if your brand prefers orange, there's your starting color palette. If those kinds of colors aren’t required, then the rainbow is the limit as far as choosing different apparel colors. Oftentimes, we're selecting things that match the brand colors. And we're also doing a lot of darker colors, because you know, it's dirty work. For example, we have several different versions of two-tone shirts, where the body of the apparel is either navy, a forest green, or black. And then the second color is a complimentary, brighter safety color, just for visibility standards.

So, you kind of can choose based on color palette, and then from there, you add your brand standards.

Monica

So, one of the things with a uniform is obviously as somebody driving by a worksite you want to make sure they know who you are and who's working on that job. How do you brand your apparel so that it's clear what company you are?

Heidi

Arborwear handles all the embellishments for our customers and the two common ones are screen printing and embroidery. It just depends on the garment, like you wouldn't embroider rainwear, per se. We put logos in a variety of places. The two top places are on the left chest, that's just the common uniform way where you'll have maybe a two and a half or three-inch logo on your left chest, and secondly what we call a fullback. So those are the two really kind of common ones and we have designed our apparel so that we can accommodate those in almost all situations.

And some of our customers will do a full front (some of my favorite brands have utilized the entire full front of the shirt). And we've done sleeves, we've even done pants. There are logos in different places but it’s usually on the top left of your thigh when it’s on pants.

Of course, hats are great too. That small logo on the left of a hat is kind of the in thing right now. But of course, we've done lots of versions, like the full front logo or even side information. So individual teams or crews, or people who've worked on certain projects will get side logos to kind of differentiate them on hats, that's a really fun one that marketing often helps with.

So there's a lot of opportunity to brand your apparel, and our customers are absolutely using branding to differentiate themselves because even though they're in high vis and that looks pretty consistent. Whether you're an asphalt crew, a utility crew, a construction crew, or a tree crew of any kind, hi-vis this looks like hi-vis but there are still a lot of unique ways that we can use brands to differentiate the company in the work setting.

Heidi

So you mentioned something, you said “marketing can help you with that.” Are you referring to Arborwear’s marketing department? Can you help them decide where to put things and what to put on there?

Heidi

Yeah, we totally can help.

Some companies have marketing people or they've worked with marketing firms that have done a ton of branding and they say, “Hey, this is our logo color and here are our ideas on how it works for our apparel.” We've even worked where a branding firm kind of gave us their ideas. And we said hey, you know, actually, if you consider these colors of apparel instead, here's how we think it could really make your brand stand out.

We've also helped customers that don't have the resources to have some branding firm or have internal resources to do branding. In those cases, we've designed things for them. Some of my favorite ones that always come to mind are where companies will send a whole crew for a hurricane cleanup or a fire cleanup or something like that. And afterward, they want to send that crew a thank you for being on that team because they're gone for a month and working all hours. and so we've done some really fun logos, like Hurricane Ida crew or Hurricane Laura crew, or different sayings. These crews have already built camaraderie and it's such a moment in time. And so we are the marketing team here at Arborwear has designed fun branding that goes with our apparel that they're already buying. So we always love getting involved in that way with our customers.

Monica

What a fun idea. So it sounds like even if you're a smaller company without the internal resources, you can still get really nice branded apparel for your crews through a program like that.

Heidi

To work with Arborwear’s embellishment, we do have minimums like any company. So there are minimums to your order, we're not going to embroider just one item or screenprint just a couple of shirts. It takes so much work to set up your logo, plus all the back and forth of proofing, and then actually putting the embroidery on the loom and all that kind of stuff. So there are minimums. But most of our customers, especially when their outfitting crews, find that they're going to meet those minimums without a lot of fuss anyways.

Monica

So looking at turnaround, how early should people be thinking about ordering or placing an order for branded apparel? For many companies, springtime is so the time when they really start to ramp up production. How early should they start thinking about ordering in order to have everything in place before that?

Heidi

Well, like anything else ASAP. You know, giving yourself a couple of months, because there's a lot of decisions to be made. Our customer service and sales team are just such experts at all of that and they can walk you through the process. But if you want to spring uniform and you're going to have people onboarding, you could have people in early March, so you need to have that apparel in February, which means you need to be ordering it in January. It always helps to think about all the decisions that need to be made. So which apparel and then which logos and in what placements. And then we have to set up and proof those logos with you. That takes time as well. And then there's actually embellishing the garment and then shipping it to you. So you know, we make the process easy, but definitely the more lead time, the better.

For spring uniforms, we are absolutely working on spring uniforms in January, February, and March that people start wearing in March, April, and all through the summer. And then to be set in the fall very often it's kind of like August and September that we're working on all the winter uniforms. Those are those two really peak seasons.

Monica

So as a business owner, when you're placing an order for apparel for your crews, how do you decide which sizes to offer? How do you accommodate differences in body shape, or people's preferences around what kind of clothing they wear? And obviously, there's going to be differences men or women as well.

Heidi

This is definitely one of those things we deal with with every customer. Usually, you kind of know who's going to be on the crew, and you may already have received their sizes, which is always the optimal way to make an order.

One of the main things that we've done is, all of our colors are sort of custom to us, and they follow the range of all of our pants. So all of our pants come in a coal color so if you have part of your ground crew need to be in the Ground Flex pants, those are in coal, if you have climbers, and they're in Canopies or Ascenders those are in coal. We have women's styles in those same colors. So no matter the sizing or the fit that you need based on size, shape, gender, whatever it is, we're going to be offering you a range of different kinds of products.

We've also had people actually get different brands for people, predominately for tops. A great example could be you want to do a full uniform program. And again, your ground crew is going to get a certain kind of shirt, and then the climbers are going to get the arbor transpiration shirts, and then maybe your office staff needs something else. So they're going to get a button down shirt. Some of that is just being able to source different brands.

And you know, the other one is we're constantly adding women sizes, and we're adding what we call shoulder sizes, so smaller sizes and larger sizes as much as we can. We're a small company, a small manufacturer, but we're absolutely trying to add all those different fits and shapes. And the number one place that we're really paying attention to fit and function is chainsaw protection. So we are the only company that makes chainsaw pants in actual pant sizes, which seems like such a no brainer, but we are not a small, medium, large or one size fits all, or you pay the big price and then you have to customize it where if you were a 36 by 32 pant, you're gonna get a 36 by 32-inch chainsaw production pants.

Monica

When you have a uniform program you're buying in bulk or larger quantities and it's not just for yourself. So you want to make sure you're buying quality. What should you be looking for to make sure you're getting something that’s going to last but that is also flexible enough, that it is breathable, that it would protect you from the elements that protect you from a chainsaw and all that?

Heidi

Well, especially for safety or certain kind of standards, there are standards that are out there. So, a great example is we're adding a lot more UPF rated clothing, especially tops. So it's 50 Plus UPF because if you're working outside that's a great feature to look for because you're in the sun, you're in the elements.

Monica

Here in Arizona where we're located, you need that because you're going to fry!

Heidi

Our transmission shade hoodie is amazing because it's also got a really lightweight hood. And so you get that protection and it's all UPF so that's a big one to look for. Breathable apparel is obviously a big one. Our most famous breathable item is actually probably our sweatshirts because they're cotton and they're rugged and they're famous because they're breathable and wearable.

We just came out with the most lightweight pants in our history. We're trying to serve warmer markets or warmer seasons, kind of no matter where you are geographically. They're super lightweight pants, but they're still the Arborwear rugged quality.

So it's weight, UPF, obviously HVSA, like all the class standards that are required for visibility. chainsaw protection, you know, those have standards. It can be kind of tricky when you're shopping to find those so know what standards you have to meet, and then see if the apparel fits those kinds of things.

Monica

One of the big challenges in the green industry as a whole, including in the tree care industry is attracting new team members and retaining talent. So how would you use something like a uniform program to help with those issues?

Heidi

We do what we call onboarding kits, or new hire kits. Some of those kits are just kind of a general welcome. And some of them actually include the beginning parts of their uniform. So their branded kits, it'll say something like welcome to XYZ tree care company. It'll say it right on the packaging tape even, so when you're opening the box you’re feeling welcomed. You open up, there's a letter from the owner, or their crew manager, whatever, whoever is appropriate. And then there’s say, a Nalgene water bottle, a t-shirt or a hoodie. Stickers are a popular one, hoorags, all kinds of little things like pens, maybe even an onboarding brochure, those kinds of items. Or book bags, even our popular ones are backpacks of different shapes and sizes, safety glasses, earplugs. So then you're getting this oh, wow, this is a great company that I'm working for. So you're going into it with a positive attitude.

And then once you get there, there are different programs that we've done for customers. For example, it could be after they hit their 60 days, they get a specific piece of apparel, that it's like you're officially on the crew, because you've got you know, such and such jacket, or you've got the team hoodie. But you have to be there for a little while. And then we've done great retention programs. So I mentioned we do them for things like a hurricane cleanup. And so then you get like a thank you gift. But we've also just done that for hey, you've been here for a year (we call those “workaversaries” here). So hey, you know, every workaversary, 1, 3, 5, whatever it is, you get a better item. And those are the kind of programs that again, kind of seem obvious, but that people like and have come to look forward to getting. It’s like, hey, when I hit this milestone, I get these items. It's amazing. If you just like feel like you look good, you'll feel yourself, you'll feel better about working for the company. So there's no better representative for the company when you're interacting with customers or prospects. Yeah, absolutely. When you look more professional, for sure.

Monica

Okay, so I think that wraps it up for today. If anybody wanted to get in touch with you directly, how would they do that?

Heidi

Well, the best, easiest way would be to email Arborwear at info@arborwear.com. If you want to reach me personally, it's marketing@arborwear.com. You can also call us and someone's going to answer. We have actual live people on the phones here. Some people are surprised when they call and they get somebody on the line right away! The phone number is on the site. We're Eastern Standard Time, but eight to five, you're going to get a real live, fantastic helping human here at our work. We're a small business and we treat all of our customers like family. So give us a call!

Monica

All right, thank you very much, Heidi, this has been really informative. I know our listeners will appreciate all the insights you've shared with them on uniform programs for their team and their group.

Thanks for joining us on this episode of 10 Out of Ten where we took a look at company uniform programs and how having the right clothing, including branded apparel, can make all the difference not only in the visibility and performance of your teams, but in retaining employees as well. You can get more details on our website at treecaremarketingsolutions.com/10-uniforms. And you'll also see details there on all the other episodes of 10 Out of Ten. I look forward to seeing you again soon!

Contact

Arborwear

Heidi Baumgart, VP of Marketing and Team Development

Phone: 888-578-TREE (8733)

Office: 440-384-3662

hbaumgart@arborwear.com

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