Get More Storm Work & Emergency Tree Service Customers

with Tom Pope

Looking for more storm work? Want to grow your emergency tree services but not sure how? See how partnering with a company like HMI can bring you more storm cleanup jobs and emergency work without all the hassles!

On this episode of The Tree Care Business Show, Tree Care Marketing Solutions founder Monica Hemingway interviews Tom Pope of Horticultural Asset Management Inc. (HMI). HMI serves as an intermediary between tree care companies and customers who need emergency tree service, working with insurance companies to match the right customer with the appropriate tree service company. HMI creates peace of mind for customers, insurance providers, and tree care companies by connecting qualified customers to vetted tree service companies.

Don't want to watch or listen to the episode? Keep scrolling for the transcript!

Tree Care Business Show podcast logo.

12 July · Episode 9

Get More Storm Work & Emergency Tree Service Customers

49 Min, 21 Sec · By Monica Hemingway

Looking for more storm work? Want to grow your emergency tree services but not sure how? See how partnering with a company like HMI can bring you more storm cleanup jobs and emergency work without all the hassles!

Don't Miss Another Episode!

Get an email with each new episode - video, text, and audio - so you can listen on the go.

On this episode of The Tree Care Business Show, Tree Care Marketing Solutions founder Monica Hemingway interviews Tom Pope of Horticultural Asset Management Inc. (HMI). HMI serves as an intermediary between tree care companies and customers who need emergency tree service, working with insurance companies to match the right customer with the appropriate tree service company. HMI creates peace of mind for customers, insurance providers, and tree care companies by connecting qualified customers to vetted tree service companies.

Learn how HMI can help you, whether you’re a homeowner who needs help or a tree service company looking to streamline your emergency service pipeline.

[00:00:00] Monica: When a storm comes through, tree service companies know that the phone is probably going to blow up with people who've had a tree come down on their house or on another structure on their property. We also know that after a storm, fly-by-night storm chasers are going to come out of the woodwork, along with untrained and uninsured guys with a chainsaw.

Now, that leaves homeowners and insurance companies in a bit of a bind. How do they know that they're getting the quality of work that they need that is going to be done safely and professionally, and that is going to be done at a realistic price that doesn't take advantage of the fact that this is an emergency?

That's where a company like HMI comes in. Essentially, they act as the intermediary between insurance companies, tree service companies, and the homeowner, and they facilitate that important relationship between the homeowner and the tree care company. If you've ever wondered how that process works, how to become part of a network like that, or what the pros and cons are of joining a network like HMI’s, then you've come to the right place.

I'm your host, Monica Hemingway, and today we're going to look at how you can get more high quality leads after a major storm while minimizing paperwork and the headaches of dealing with insurance companies.

Joining us today is Tom Pope. He's an arborist and project manager with HMI. So, welcome to the show, Tom. It's a pleasure to have you here.

[00:00:09] Tom: Thank you so much, Monica. It's so nice to see you, so nice to get to talk with you, and such a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

[00:00:17] Monica: I'm just happy that we actually had booths next to each other at TCI EXPO, so we did have a chance to talk then as well.

So this'll be a sort of a follow-up

[00:00:26] Tom: On the very last day of it, on that Saturday afternoon as we were packing up, you stopped by and chatted briefly with myself and the excellent Natalie Van Gurin from our company. We were there kind of packing stuff up at our booth. Indeed.

[00:00:37] Monica: Yeah. It was a good show this year. It was nice.

So, before we get into all the details, can you just give us a sort of a brief overview of what HMI is? What do you do?

[00:00:51] Tom: Yeah. HMI - or actually the full name, the proper name is Horticultural Asset Management Incorporated - so I guess a proper acronym would really be HAM or HAMI.

I think it was determined early on that those weren't considered dignified enough for what we're trying to do, so we usually use the quasi-acronym, HMI, which is how we usually refer to ourselves and I think that we're known in the industry.

HMI has been around for, almost 20 years. We're actually celebrating our 20th birthday, our 20th anniversary this summer, we were founded in 2003. And after some experimenting with different business models in those early days, they became focused on an insurance work around 2008, specializing in work at intersection points between the insurance industry and the green industry, providing various kinds of support services to primarily insurance company clients on matters and topics pertaining to, again, green industry stuff. Trees and plants and landscapes and outdoor property, as we say.

And in that time, HMI has done all sorts of things that fall into that broad category, but over the years as it's shaken out, it's developed into essentially two main service lines, one being consultative services. We offer a wide range of consulting services, again, related to green industry subjects and trees and plants and landscapes, primarily to insurance or legal contexts and scenarios, although we do some non-insurance consulting as well.

And then tree removal, project management for tree removal claim work, primarily in storm damage scenarios, and that's probably what we’ve become best known for, what we do the most by transactional volume. And that's, probably what's of most relevance and most interest to the majority of your listeners and viewers for a show like this.

And then we do other things too. We've also begun to do more and more other sorts of project and contract work outside of insurance, including in non-claim or non-weather-related scenarios. So we're continuing to expand our offerings and provide more and more different kinds of services and opportunities, both to our partners in the green industry and to our clients.

[00:03:35] Monica: Okay. So if we're looking at the green industry side of things, it's not just tree service then, it's landscape and other aspects of the green industry.

[00:03:45] Tom: Yeah, we do, although our bread and butter - again, what we do the most of by volume and I think what we are best known for and where, you know, probably the greatest opportunities exist, at least currently - is in tree work.

But, yeah, we do - the ‘H’ does stand for horticulture, and I myself have a horticulture degree and that's my background, and that's - a lot of the soul of our business is all across the green industry, but tree work is and has been a big part of that. Probably the biggest part of what we do.

[00:04:20] Monica: Okay. So we're talking storm work and we're talking insurance.

[00:04:25] Tom: For the most part, yes.

[00:04:26] Monica: Two things that, for many people, both of them raise the blood pressure and, you know.

[00:04:33] Tom: As well they should.

[00:04:35] Monica: So, what is the role that HM I plays there?

[00:04:40] Tom: Well, HMI, provides value to both parties. HMI serves as a project manager and sort of an intermediary between the tree companies and our insurance company clients. HMI has established contractual relationships, program agreements with a number of insurance company clients, including big, well-known insurance names as the companies who have commercials on the Super Bowl and well-known jingles and taglines and that sort of thing, as well as some smaller regional carriers.

And those clients, when their policyholders experience damage, typically in storm events - although that can occasionally be in other sorts of damage scenarios too, but most especially in storm events - if they have damage involving trees that they file a claim for and if their insurance company is lucky enough to be an HMI client and they request tree services, then those files can get routed to us.

And then we in turn take those files, review them, vet them, contact the homeowner, verify that we have working contact information, that it is a valid, high-quality lead, and we assign it to a local tree affiliate in their area, one of the members of our network in that homeowner's local area based on their zip code.

And then we help to manage the process along the way for both sides, again, serving as sort of an intermediary between the two, handling the paperwork and the credentialing and the information flow between - actually, between all three parties: between the tree company, the homeowner, and the insurance company client to ensure that things move as swiftly and smoothly as they can, for the best interest of everybody involved.

And we've been doing this for years. We've at this point run thousands and thousands of these claims, and for the most part, really successfully. Obviously, there's ups and downs with everything, but I think on the whole we've provided a lot of good value to all three sets of clients. We view the insurance companies,  our tree care partners, and the homeowners all as important customers and clients of ours, and I think all three benefit greatly from the work that we do.

[00:07:08] Monica: Well, just one of the few things that you said - you mentioned paperwork. That alone probably makes it worthwhile, to have somebody handling the paperwork.

[00:07:16] Tom: Agreed.

[00:07:16] Monica: So, from the standpoint then of a tree service, what would the process  they’re part of your network, one of your partners - what would the process look like for them?

[00:07:28] Tom: Yeah. So the process in those scenarios, in a situation where a storm goes through in a given area and trees start falling and people start filing insurance claims for the damage associated with those trees falling, then HMI, as I say, will start receiving those files from our clients and we distribute them, assign them to our local affiliates in that area.

And so, those affiliate companies receive those files from us by email. It's an email you'll get, your inbox will start popping with HMI emails, with each one containing a little bit of information about the specific request, the specific claim, the insurance company, the claim number, the homeowner's name and contact information and so forth.

And then the company is asked to contact the homeowner and offer them the best reasonable help they can - under the circumstances, clearly - and sometimes in big storm events some triaging has to occur. But we ask that they at minimum communicate well with the homeowner. And in those cases, things tend to go very well.

We get a consistently high close rate - conversion rate on these. Importantly, the homeowner is not obligated to hire us, to hire HMI or our tree care companies. They are free to hire somebody else if they want to or handle the tree removal work some other way on their own if they want to or whatever.

But if you provide - if you're prompt and communicative and provide good service, then our, affiliate companies close a very high percentage of these leads and they, again, for the most part go very well, very smoothly for everybody involved.

[00:09:19] Monica: So are there any pricing guidelines for the companies that are - they're providing an estimate to the homeowner?

Are there any guidelines they have to stick within? Is it up to their discretion entirely to decide what the price of the job is going to be? How does that part work?

[00:09:37] Tom: Yeah. Ultimately, the pricing is entirely their discretion because the companies we work with are affiliated with us, but, of course, they're separate entities from us and they are - it's their business ultimately to determine what the correct price for their work is.

We have general guidelines from having now run, again, thousands and thousands of these claims in all kinds of scenarios, big and small, in every conceivable situation all across the country for years and years. We’ve seen so many of these that, based on that experience, we have some general kind of observations and guidelines about what typical pricing is, which doesn't necessarily mean it's right or wrong, but at least kind of what typical pricing is and what - you know, when we see something that seems abnormally high or low we may, you know, at least ask some questions to try to understand what the rationale for is.

But at the end of the day, the companies that we work with are entitled to charge whatever the correct price for a given situation is, and as long as we can explain it and understand it, then we can support it, and it’s seldom, if ever a problem.

[00:10:43] Monica: Okay. And so, do you have to approve those estimates or is it, it is what it is, the company sets it?

[00:10:50] Tom: Well, we don't approve it per se. Part of our role, kind of the - in that the role functioning as that intermediary between the tree company and the insurance client is to take the information that we receive from our tree care companies in the field, the photos and paperwork and some descriptions, and break down information about the work being estimated or the work that was performed and convert that into a format that are consistent with the insurance company guidelines, preparing the insurance-friendly submittal documents.

And so, in that process, we do review them and do a certain level of auditing of those details, just kind of making sure that the photos match the descriptions and that sort of thing. So, we do quite a bit of reviewing and we do a fair amount of discussion and interacting and asking questions if something doesn't make sense or if something is incomplete or whatever, but it's not really our role to approve it. Fundamentally, the approval comes - either comes from the homeowner, because at the end of the day it's their house, their tree, and it's their decision and their prerogative to hire anybody they want to. So, number one, it's their decision to hire - you know, to authorize the tree affiliate to do the work or not.

And then, ultimately, the payment is hopefully coming from the insurance companies, so it'll be up to them to approve coverage and approve payment for it. Although they - the insurance companies we work with tend to trust HMI's judgment and tend to rely on HMI's experience and knowledge about reviewing and assessing these projects, so they rarely push back much, if at all on the stuff that we submit to them. But at the end of the day, the true approval comes solely the discretion of the insurance company to approve payment or not.

So HMI doesn't really approve stuff, although HMI is an involved partner in that intermediary role.

[00:12:58] Monica: Okay. So the tree service is submitting all their paperwork or whatever's required to you or to the insurance company.

[00:13:08] Tom: It's submitted - the standard process, the general process is that it's submitted to us.

HMI has an area on our website where materials, notes and documents and photos can be uploaded to us, as well as a mobile app, which functions as an extension of our website where folks in the field, arborists at a job site on their smartphone or a tablet can take photos and take - record documents and upload them directly to us that way.

And then those are - we review them, you know, verify the information is reasonable and correct and makes sense, and then submit it to the insurance company through their online portals and systems that we have access to. So, obviously there can always be an exception to everything, but in most cases, that's the flow, that's the pattern.

And so, as you said, you know, paperwork, it does tend to be - it is obviously crucial to succeeding with insurance work, but it also can be a natural source of some frustration and consternation at times for tree folks and others in the industry.

And so, we at HMI, I think we certainly do everything we can to make that as smooth and seamless and easy and intuitive as we can, and to serve as sort of a buffer so that, hopefully, in most cases, the tree guys, the arborists and tree companies that we work with don't have to mess with that too much, don't have to me mess with a whole lot of, direct, direct interaction with the insurance companies.

[00:14:48] Monica: Okay. That would take a lot of stress off in many cases.

[00:14:54] Tom: That's the idea. There's certainly - I think that is one of the ways in which we deliver a great deal of value to our partners.

[00:15:03] Monica: Okay, and so then how long does it take to get paid? Does it - the payments go through you or do they go directly to the tree service or the homeowner? What happens with that?

[00:15:12] Tom: It can be either - it can be any of those three. All three of those scenarios do happen. Sometimes the insurance companies will send payment directly to the homeowners. Sometimes they will send it directly to our tree company. Most often they send it to us. And really, per our program agreements with our insurance company clients, they're really supposed to, in most cases, send payment to HMI.

So, kind of the standard default process is  -or, you know, once the work has been completed and all the paperwork and documentation has been processed and submitted correctly, then the insurance company folks review it. Assuming that everything was all right, they approve coverage and payment and issue payment to us. They send the money to HMI, and we deposit it and then relay it onto the insurance - I'm sorry, onto the tree companies.

[00:16:01] Monica: Okay, and how long does that process take? I'm going to guess there's variation there, but.

[00:16:06] Tom: Yeah, it does vary quite a bit.

Typical turnaround time, just broadly speaking, average is somewhere four, five, six weeks or so. There are a lot of scenarios where it can be faster than that. There are, unfortunately, scenarios where it can take longer than that, especially in the big CAT events, the hurricanes and stuff, sometimes there can be delays.

But it’s certainly something we’re very sensitive to, that clearly doing this work is great and it's satisfying work. It's exciting work. It is both doing a good deed and there can be a significant adrenaline rush to doing this sort of work. But, obviously, it doesn't count for much if you don't get paid for it, you can't get paid for it reliably and dependably, know that you're going to get paid for it, know how and when you're going to get paid for it.

So, in managing this program and in managing this process, it's vital to us, and something that we work on constantly is trying to figure out how to ensure that happens as quickly and smoothly and reliably as we can. And, importantly, HMI doesn't get paid for any of these tree removal projects, we literally do not get paid a penny, do not get paid a dime until the tree company gets paid.

So, we obviously have a strong incentive to ensure that payment goes as well and as quickly and as smoothly as we can. And we have in-house collection specialists. We can't directly collect, we can't perform actual collections activity on behalf of our tree company partners, but we can offer some guidance and some general assistance and advice. And we certainly do everything we can to aid them in getting paid because it's important both directly and indirectly to us, of course.

[00:17:54] Monica: Okay, so you get paid when they get paid. Very blunt question. How much - is it a percentage? How does that work?

[00:18:03] Tom: Yeah. The standard arrangement is that we take a percentage. We collect a percentage of the work sold, and that's the model, yes.

[00:18:14] Monica: Is there a standard amount or is that proprietary information?

[00:18:20] Tom: Yeah. I'm not sure I’m supposed to say.

[00:18:26] Monica: I'm not going to ask you to say anything you're not supposed to say.

[00:18:28] Tom: Yeah, I don't know. I'm not sure I’m supposed to say.

[00:18:31] Monica: So one of the questions several of our clients have asked me when I told them I was going to be talking with you was, what makes it worthwhile for them financially, then?

I mean, there's obviously the - you kind of grease the wheels, make things work a little more smoothly. But if they're paying you a percentage, why is that better for them than, in a storm event especially, that their phone's ringing off the hook anyway?

[00:18:57] Tom: No doubt. Well, I think that, first of all, I would say that for a tree company in that position, if you are fully satisfied or even 85, 90% satisfied with your current response to storm work, then you're probably fine. Whether or not you need HMI is up to is up to each individual decisionmaker.

But if you've already got enough leads, enough high quality leads, enough high quality referrals in those kinds of storms, then that's great. But if you’re in a situation where, for one reason or another, more high-quality, vetted referrals are of value to you, then HMI can be a source.

[00:19:57] Monica: Okay. So if you've just bought a crane or a Tree-Mek or something, then the storm comes through, it might be worthwhile to have more leads being fed to you. You’ve got to pay that off, so.

[00:20:11] Tom: Yeah. I mean, for all sorts of reasons, sure. And, you know, in HMI's model, we work with a quite a range of tree companies. We work with over a hundred. We passed a hundred members of our network in late 2022. We’re up to 110ish, something like that. Currently, those range from very large companies, a couple of the big name companies, the national brands in the tree care industry, down to some fairly small companies, some relatively mom and pop size companies in various places.

And I think that our model can work really well for both and does work. It has proven to be successful for both. And so, I think that at least for companies who like doing storm work, and I recognize from, you know, operating in the industry and talking to a lot of folks across the industry, there are some people, there are some very good tree companies out there who, quite frankly, don't really like doing storm work that much.

As you say, inevitably, if you're a tree company and you're findable on Google, when a storm goes through, your phone will be ringing and your inbox will be blowing up regardless. And if you're somebody who's sort of lukewarm on that or doesn't necessarily get excited about that, then, yeah, HMI may not necessarily be the right fit for you.

But if you're somebody who likes doing storm work and have a growth mindset when it comes to doing storm work, then I think HMI can be a part of helping to grow that base of leads.

[00:21:44] Monica: So what do you look for in a company? I'm assuming there's an application process. What are the criteria that you use to decide whether somebody's a good fit for your network?

[00:21:58] Tom: Yeah, there certainly is. There's an application process, and credentialing is an important part of HMI's model. I mean, looking at it the other way, as far as the value that we provide to our insurance company clients and to their policy holders, the homeowners, a key part of that is credentialing.

So, credentialing is essential to what HMI does, the fact that we are quite selective about who we work with as far as tree care companies. We choose to work with only companies that we deem and judge to be high-quality, serious companies. And so, that is an important part of what we do.

And so, we have - yes, we have an application process. I believe the application materials are available on our website, and so anybody who'd like to can go and check it out. But, essentially, we have some minimum thresholds for insurance that the tree companies have to be carrying. They have to have been in business for at least five years, I believe, to have an established presence in their local market.

There are some approximate revenue thresholds, depending on the market size and the local conditions. And then we do require that each company we work with has to have at least one ISA Certified Arborist on staff or equivalent in places like Connecticut or Massachusetts, where there's a state equivalent to that.

And so, that right there, you know, I think that alone tends to kind of weed out a lot of the less serious companies out there. And then we have, you know, background check requirements as well. So, I mean, we're quite choosy. And, again, we've turned away lots of tree companies. And so, yeah, that's an important part of what we do as well.

[00:23:54] Monica: I guess that helps the insurance companies as well as the homeowners feel more comfortable or confident that they are going to get a good job done by the companies that are in your network.

[00:24:07] Tom: Yeah, and that's right, and that's a big part of what makes this program work is the trust that the insurance companies have in us and that they then instill in their policyholders viewing us as a preferred vendor.

You know, per our program agreements, we get to be labeled as a preferred vendor, which is an important responsibility. It's something that we take very seriously is to maintain those standards and to be trustworthy. So, it's important to us that both in terms of our own conduct and the folks we work with, our partners, that we meet that standard, that we are somebody that both sides, both the insurance folks and the homeowners, can trust.

You know, at minimum, are serious, high-quality, professional companies who know what they're doing and are going to take responsibility if anything does go wrong and aren't going to rip them off and aren't going to do anything too crazy or too stupid.

[00:25:16] Monica: Yeah, and they're probably going to follow best practices with certified arborists on staff and all of that, so.

[00:25:21] Tom: Of course.

[00:25:22] Monica: Yeah. Okay. So, now, what kind of work - storm work can mean a lot of things, from tarping a house to just taking photos, you know, either with a drone or a crane or a bucket, you know, down into the house to see what's happened, to actually doing the work.

So, what are you expecting these companies to do?

[00:25:45] Tom: Well, all we fundamentally expect them to do is to offer the homeowner the best service they reasonably can under the circumstances. I mean, fundamentally, that's what we're asked to do is to view that homeowner, view that policyholder as their principal customer and offer them service, offer them help with the need and that they're looking for.

Our services, the services that we offer are exclusively tree services. In these scenarios, we are offering exclusively tree services. We're not offering to take, you know, drone photos of roof damage or things like that, or deal with any kind of structural work. In these scenarios, we are tasked specifically with offering tree services, and so that essentially means removing trees from manmade structures. That's the primary goal of insurance when it comes to these sorts of tree damage claim scenarios is to remove broken or fallen trees or parts of trees from manmade structures on the homeowner's property, their house especially, and other buildings: fences, swimming pools, other things like that.

So, those are our sole goals. Many of the companies we work with do offer roof tarping too. You know, if they're there anyway taking a tree off of a house or some other building that has roof damage, and it's - obviously, it can be a nice service, it can be a nice add-on service both for the homeowner and for the insurance company to go ahead and do tarping as well.

We don't - in most cases, we don't promise that because, again, all the tree companies we work with, they run the gamut. Some of them like doing tarping and do a great job with roof tarping. Others refuse to do roof tarping, and others somewhere in between. So, in most cases, we don't promise it or don't guarantee that roof tarping will be done, but some of our partners do that.

[00:27:43] Monica: Okay. Now, do they just work in their own local area or do you have companies that will travel to, say, hurricane or tornado zones?

[00:27:52] Tom: Yeah, we do some of both. Most of the time, through most of the year, most of our work is day-to-day work, the sorts of, you know, just on an average day when a thunderstorm pops up in some given area and trees start falling in that area, then we get our local companies who are based in that area to respond to those claims close to home.

But, in the case of the bigger storm events like hurricanes and even some other large storms - there was a series of derecho storms in the Midwest, in Iowa and Illinois back in August of 2020 which generated a level of claim value and tree damage that was almost to the extent of a hurricane, and we had folks traveling there for that too. Then, in those cases, yes, we do have opportunities for tree companies that we work with, if they choose to, to hit the road and to pack up their stuff and pack up their crews and - voluntarily, of course.

We don't ever, you know, instruct somebody or compel somebody or require anybody to do it. But, if they choose to do it, then they can have those opportunities to go to a severely impacted location, such as a hurricane zone, and offer tree removal services there too.

And so, those can be - everything that's true of the day-to-day storm work is magnified and multiplied in those big storm events, including both the challenges and the stresses, as well as the opportunities and the adrenaline rushes. So, we do a lot of both, and our program and our model has plenty of room for both.

[00:29:46] Monica: Okay. As a homeowner, I would think that - certainly, if our home had been impacted by a hurricane or a tornado - not that we have those in Tucson - but if we did.

[00:29:59] Tom: You’ve got the monsoon storms in August sometimes blowing in from the Gulf of California, right?

[00:30:04] Monica: Yeah. Flash flooding, trees down, electricity goes out every week.

[00:30:10] Tom: But, relatively safe from big storm damage, as opposed to lots of other parts of the country, which are absolutely much less.

[00:30:18] Monica: Absolutely, yeah. But I would think as a homeowner - well, I know personally as a homeowner, I would really appreciate in those situations having somebody like HMI - knowing that there's a company coming to give me an estimate who's backed by HMI, recommended by the insurance companies, because those events bring out everybody who owns a chain saw and suddenly they're a tree expert, and we certainly don't want them doing that kind of work.

[00:30:42] Tom: Yeah, we certainly wouldn't recommend it. And so, no question, that is a large part of our value proposition is that in those scenarios, you're right, obviously, it's a traumatic and highly stressful position that somebody's in when they've had a tree fall on their house.

You know, it's something that we think about a lot and talk about a lot and always try to remain empathetic to is that, you know, while we deal with this stuff literally every day, for almost all homeowners who have this happen, it's the first time they've ever dealt with it. In many cases, that may be the first homeowner's insurance claim they've ever filed, let alone the first time they've ever had a tree fall on their house.

And so, that is a frightening and vulnerable position they're in. And, yeah, all the more reason to do everything we can to provide them both high-quality service and confidence that, you know, even if things aren't perfect, we and our partners will do everything we can to get them taken care of.

[00:31:49] Monica: And they won't be taken advantage of when they're in a vulnerable position, which is hard. We had a tree, our neighbors’ tree fell on our house, 4th of July last year in a monsoon. I stood there watching it as it came down on top of us. And my husband and I, we, we look at our chain saws and we look at the tree and we're like, no.

[00:32:10] Tom: Oh, is that right? Yeah, I was going to say, I thought you of all people would be unusually well equipped to deal with - you'd, you'd spring into action.

[00:32:19] Monica: Yeah. An Argentine mesquite that was about, I don't know, 50 feet tall, spikes this long. We're like, “We're not going near it.”

[00:32:30] Tom: Fair enough. So, what did you do? What was your approach in that scenario?

[00:32:33] Monica: Well, we're arborists. We're in Tucson. We know a lot of the local arborists. We called around.

[00:32:39] Tom: Yeah. Work the network. That makes sense.

[00:32:40] Monica: We got somebody that same day, which I don't think we would've otherwise.

[00:32:45] Tom: Yeah, that's right.

[00:32:46] Monica: But it is frightening seeing that thing come down on top of - literally on top of you, so.

[00:32:51] Tom: Well, no question. Although, I mean - something that I try to remind myself of and remain cognizant of is that while, again, through doing this at HMI for several years, I've dealt with, you know, thousands of these scenarios and talked to literally thousands of homeowners who have been in that position.

But I myself, I'm fortunate. I've never had that happen. I've never had a tree fall on my house. I've never had tree damage anywhere that I've lived that was significant enough to rise to the level of an insurance claim. So, it's something that I cannot relate to directly. But I always try to bear in mind and try to be a good listener, if nothing else, for those folks who have had that happen, it's a totally hectic thing.

[00:33:34] Monica: So, okay. Now, one of the things you mentioned is you can't force people to take a job. So, is it up to the tree service to decide whether they want to do an estimate on a particular job? And what happens if they say no? Is there a limit to how many times they can say no before you're like, “You know what, this isn't going to work”?

[00:33:53] Tom: Yeah. Certainly, they certainly can say no. I mean, all of this work is done on - strictly on an at-will basis. And so, any of these leads or referrals that we're handling and that we send out to a local affiliate, a local partner of ours are, you know, purely at their own discretion, of their own volition.

And so, there's no formal way in which anybody would be penalized for declining jobs. Virtually everybody - probably everybody we've worked with has had to decline a lead for one reason or another due to circumstances or manpower issues. Certainly, over the last few years during the pandemic era there have been times where, you know, an entire office was decimated by a COVID outbreak or something like that, or all sorts of things come up.

So, for one reason or another, and, you know, everybody has to decline a lead from time to time. Clearly HMI's program, in order to work, you know, does rely on having folks be responsive for the most part. So, naturally, we like it and we do everything we can to encourage the folks we work with to be as responsive as they can, within reason.

Which doesn't necessarily mean dropping everything they're doing to rush out to every property, but, you know, at least being generally responsive and communicative. Communicative with us and to the homeowners, and trying to prioritize and triage as best they can. Those are, you know, definitely what we try to encourage in our folks. So, there's not a penalty, per se. It's not like the -

[00:35:29] Monica: Three strikes you're out or anything.

[00:35:30] Tom: Yeah. Or, like, I've known people who drive for Lyft and Uber, and I think those algorithms really do penalize you if you decline a certain number of rides. So, it's not like that. But, at the same time, we - obviously, you know, again, we certainly want our folks to be responsive. We want to create incentives for them to want to be responsive to the leads we send them, so we certainly hope that they will, for the most part. But, at the same time, certainly they're -

[00:35:55] Monica: Yeah. I suppose it makes sense. I mean, you are delivering leads to them. Everybody I know, every company I talk with, “We need more leads!” So, yeah. It would seem like they would want to be responsive.

[00:36:07] Tom: Yeah. Well, right, yeah. And, again, the companies we work with are great, and they are generally extremely responsive to virtually everything we throw at them, even in wild storm events and even on weekends and holidays. And, yeah, we’ve done a great job at developing our network. We've got some great folks that we work with.

[00:36:30] Monica: So is this program - do you have companies in every state? If somebody was in a state, does it matter which state they're in? Can they apply?

[00:36:40] Tom: Yeah. I think anywhere in the 50 United States, I believe we would certainly be interested in talking to them.

We've got folks in most of the states. I know we don't have anybody currently in Hawaii, and I think a couple of the mountain west states we don't have, and maybe one or two others, but certainly 40-something of the states we've got companies in. And, so, yeah, virtually anywhere in the United States we'd be interested in talking with folks about.

Clearly, the bigger and more densely populated regions just tend to generate more volume just because there are more policyholders, more houses for trees to fall on. There's obviously large parts of this country, they've got a lot of trees but not a lot of houses for - so if the metaphorical tree falls in the metaphorical forest, it doesn't tend to generate an insurance claim.

But, in places with a lot of trees and a lot of houses, we tend to get a lot of work. But there are opportunities. We've got folks in every major city in the continental 48 United States and lots of smaller cities and some semi-rural areas. And so, I think there are opportunities. There's some kinds of opportunities out there because, you know, literally everywhere there are trees, there are storms.

[00:37:56] Monica: Okay. So, if somebody was interested, they should go to the HMI website, which is

[00:38:05] Tom: Exactly right. We overhauled our website last summer and it's looking good. We've got a lot of good information, hopefully it’s pretty easily navigable for anybody who's interested in getting more information about any of the stuff we've talked about or any of the things we do.

So, by all means. And you can also feel free to reach out to me directly. I'm on LinkedIn. I'm fairly active on LinkedIn. Feel free to connect with me there or by email. You can email me at and I'll be happy to speak with you about whatever you've got going on.

[00:38:48] Monica: I'm sure some of our listeners will take you up on that because it sounds like a really interesting program that could be really helpful in growing a business.

[00:38:56] Tom: It can be really helpful. I think it has been. Again, I think we've been doing this steadily for 15 years or so and it's been great. We're continuing to develop and growing it. We're having a record-setting start to 2023 so far. And, you know, as we know our about our pearl planet, the climate doesn't seem to be getting any less weird anytime soon. So, there certainly will continue to be lots of tree-related stuff going on for the foreseeable future, and I think HMI can be a part of it.

I think we've shown that we can help to grow business for all sorts of folks, big and small, and also, you know, it's fun, too. This is a great industry and this is - you know, this work does have a lot of stresses and it has its share of challenges, but it's really rewarding and satisfying.

And I think, again, this kind of thing, doing these kinds of storm damage tree removals, you know, by definition you're out there doing good deeds, you're helping people out, and hopefully making some good money and getting to deal with good people.

You know, HMI, we're a small, but tight-knit community and we're nice folks, and we really do view these relationships as partnerships. We view our - the folks we work with as at least professional friends, and in some cases personal friends, and do everything we can to support them just like they support us and our mutual clients.

[00:40:52] Monica: Oh, I knows several of our clients work with HMI and have only had good things to say.

[00:40:54] Tom: Yeah, I know at least some of your clients do. In fact, I was just dealing with one of them earlier today or earlier this afternoon. We had kind of an interesting scenario with one of your clients, indeed.

[00:40:55] Monica: Really? Okay, I'll have to ask them about that.

[00:40:56] Tom: Yeah, you do.

[00:40:57] Monica: Right. Okay, well, I think that certainly covers a lot. I certainly learned a lot. I always knew HMI and that you were essentially like a middle man between insurance and tree companies, but the full breadth of the program and what it involves, that was really good to learn. So I think our audience is going to get a lot out of this.

[00:41:18] Tom: Of course. Yeah, and again, having said this, we do some other things too. But, yeah, this category, this service line that we've been talking about is certainly a big part of what we do. And, and as you can tell, I'm excited about it.

You can tell I'm enthusiastic and passionate about it, and it's pretty cool stuff. So, yeah, I'm happy to talk further with you or any of your listeners, your viewers, or anybody. Look us up. We attend lots of shows. You and I, of course, met at the TCI EXPO, and we'll be back at the EXPO again coming up this fall in St. Louis, and go to lots of other shows.

[00:45:34] Monica: Okay. Well, thank you so much, Tom. This has been educational. This has been fun talking with you.

[00:45:38] Tom: Thank you, Monica. It's so cool. Oh, I read your book.

[00:45:43] Monica: Oh, you did? Oh, awesome.

[00:45:45] Tom: Yeah. And look, it even got a little damage from getting carried around in my bag back and forth while I was perusing it over the last couple weeks. I got my post-it notes in there for things I want to revisit. So, I would definitely recommend that for anybody who hasn't yet checked it out. It's a serious deep dive into - this is not just kind of high- level, you know, “content marketing is good,” that kind of thing.

This is serious nuts and bolts kind of stuff. And so, I loved it. However, I think even before this I've been known to get a little annoying to HMI's marketing department by wanting to kind of inject myself into stuff, and of course, this has only about tripled that now after reading this.

[00:42:50] Monica: Uh-oh. Created a monster.

[00:42:52] Tom: I know. Like I had done Google Ads a little bit here and there, but something I’d never done, I wasn’t even aware existed was the Google Ads keyword planner functionality, and so I wasted/invested a whole Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago messing around with keyword planner going, “This is pretty good stuff,” figuring out how to -

[00:47:06] Monica: The deeper you dig, the more there is - you go down the rabbit hole.

[00:47:09] Tom: I have no doubt. Like I said, one of these days when these tables are turned and I'm interviewing you, then we're going to get into all that. Yes, indeed.

[00:47:17] Monica: Oh boy. Well, I mean, I'm glad I can say at least one person read my book, so thank you for that.

[00:47:24] Tom: No. I think it was the best-selling new release on Amazon in search categories and parameters for online marketing or something like that, right?

[00:47:34] Monica: Yeah. Online advertising and search engine optimization.

[00:47:40] Tom: There you go. Who was number two? Who did you beat out? Who was nipping at your heels?

[00:47:44] Monica: I don’t know. But at least I can honestly claim to be best-selling.

[00:47:51] Tom: It wasn’t, like, Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis or something like that? That would be pretty good if you could say that, that you vanquished -

[00:48:00] Monica: In my dreams.

[00:48:01] Tom: Yeah, probably. Well, anyway, keep plugging away.

[00:48:08] Monica: I will. And if anybody’s interested, I do monthly webinars as well, so there’s lots of resources out there on marketing, so. All right. With that, we're going to wrap up for the day. Thank you again. I look forward to seeing you again soon and chatting some more.

[00:48:24] Tom: You too.

[00:48:26] Monica: And that wraps up this episode of the Tree Care Business Show. Thank you so much for joining me. I hope to see you on a future episode.

You can find details about this show on the Tree Care Marketing Solutions website at There are also a lot of other episodes there, and you'll also find webinars and a lot of helpful information about marketing and business for the tree care industry.

If you're watching this on YouTube and you enjoyed it, I hope you will give me a thumbs up. Like this video. You can also click down below to subscribe and be notified when the next episode comes out, or you can sign up on our website as well. If you have any questions, leave your comments down below, and I will answer each and every one of them.

Thanks again for joining me, and I hope to see you again on the next episode.

Thanks everyone for joining us on this episode of the Tree Care Business Show, where we looked at how biochar. You can watch more episodes at, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to watch more content created just for tree care business owners. Thanks again for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you again next time.

In This Episode

Here's what you'll find in this episode:

00:00 Introduction

00:51 What is HMI?

04:35 HMI’s Role in Storm Damage Mitigation

07:16 What Does the HMI Process Look Like?

10:43 HMI as an Intermediary Between Homeowners and Tree Companies

13:08 How HMI Helps Homeowners

15:03 How is Payment Handled through HMI?

17:54 How Does HMI Get Paid?

18:31 The Advantage of Working with HMI for Tree Care Companies

21:44 What Tree Care Companies are Right for HMI?

25:00 What is the HMI Definition of “Storm Work?”

33:34 Accepting Storm Work Jobs through HMI

37:56 Getting in Touch with HMI

45:24 Outro


Horticultural Asset Management, Inc. (HMI)

Tom Pope
Phone: 877-406-3232
Mobile: 919-538-2556

Don't Miss Another Episode!

Get an email with each new episode - video, text, and audio so you can listen on the go.