Photos Andy Calvert
“I win a lot of jobs by simply showing up.” Sounds basic enough, doesn’t it? But that’s how Trent Wade, owner of Tony’s Landscape & Tree Service, says he stays competitive in his crowded field of work. He shows up. When his cell phone rings, he answers it. If he receives a voicemail, he returns it. When he agrees to meet a customer, he does so.
That seems like it should be standard practice for any business, but Wade says that, sadly, it is often not the case. He says it is amazing how many times a customer will invite several companies to come and make a bid on a job, but Wade is the only one who ever arrives on site.
He gets the job by default. Or, if someone else does meet the customer, they come late or are not available to give a bid for days. “The best first impression,” Wade says, “is to be first.”
This same business philosophy and work ethic have kept Tony’s Landscape & Tree Service going since 1982, when it was founded by Tony Womack, the grandfather of Trent Wade’s wife. After many years at the helm, Womack is now retired and serves in an advisory role in the company while spending much of his time playing golf and enjoying his life.
Wade, who learned the business from Womack, assumed responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the company in 2018. In these times of economic uncertainty in America, it is worth noting how long this family business has weathered financial storms and stayed afloat. With only about fifty percent of businesses surviving five years or more,
Womack and Wade have proven themselves to be the exception rather than the rule. They must be doing something right, with their enterprise closing in on four decades in business.
For Wade, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a shot in the arm (in more ways than one). In a time when many companies have suffered from setbacks, widespread downsizing, layoffs or outright shuttering of their operations, Tony’s Landscape & Tree Service has not only survived, but has thrived.
2020 proved their best financial year yet. Business is up, sometimes requiring seven-day workweeks. The same circumstances that were a death knell to many companies have been a boon for this one. Wade credits the upturn to the fact that so many people were trapped at home during the shutdown.
Many people had to work from home for the first time, and it gave them the novel opportunity to slowdown, look around them, and think about what they saw. Wade says, “I guess people were bored at home and wanted a change.” As a result, Wade’s services are sometimes booked five or six weeks out.
Wade’s company provides a wide variety of services, including tree removal, stump grinding, land clearing, grading, landscape design, and yard maintenance. They also install irrigation systems, lay sod, haul dirt and gravel, do Bobcat work, and build retaining walls.
Around Rome and the surrounding communities, their bucket trucks are a common sight, with their long, white arms lifting chainsaw-wielding workers high into the tree canopies. Geographically speaking, they serve customers within the northwest Georgia region. They offer free job quotes, are fully bonded, and strive to maintain open lines of communication with customers throughout the duration of any project.
The company’s time and resources are divided roughly equally between landscaping and tree service, with the allocation of work shifting according to the seasons of the year. There is more landscaping and lawn maintenance in the warmer months and more tree work in the winter.
The biggest ongoing challenge to the business, according to Wade, is the weather. This spring, for instance, has been an exceptionally wet one in the tri-state area. Many yards were flooded and remained under water for days. When the rain starts, the outdoor work stops.
Long stretches of rainy days are always a challenge in this line of work, but that is when Wade and his employees service their equipment, change the oil in the trucks, and catch up on various back-burner projects. But inclement weather rarely stops Wade from going out and bidding on jobs.
Despite the recent deluge of rainfall, business is good, and life is busy for Wade, who is married and has an eleven-year-old son. And life will get even busier this coming fall when the family welcomes a newborn son, arriving in October. Time will tell whether this preteen and his little brother will someday follow in their father’s footsteps and work in the family business, but if they do so, they will have a strong family tradition of determination and hard work to guide them.
When asked about what causes a customer to choose between his company and one of his competitors, Wade says it comes down to cost and reliability. As important as the former is, he stresses that the latter is even more vital. “Really,” he says after a moment’s thought, “reliability is key.” He points out how essential dependability is in this business.
A promise kept is a customer kept, and a promise broken is a customer lost. Also, this type of work is done in close proximity to people’s homes; this is private property, personal spaces, so trustworthiness cannot be overemphasized. When that kind of reliability is honored and maintained, it is good for everyone involved.
A happy customer is always a great marketer for any business. For instance, at the time of this interview, Wade was working on the property of a customer from whom he received three referrals. That confirms a job well done. Wade says, “Word of mouth is always the best advertisement.”
Upholding the customer’s trust is paramount to building an honest, well-respected business, Wade believes. He says, “Just do what you said you were going to do.” That’s clear enough. According to Wade, that is how you stand out and make the cut: show up and keep your promises.
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