I was introduced to Wilderness Environmental Services about a year ago at the Georgia VMA conference and joined the company later that spring. It’s been a great first year learning about vegetation management in conjunction with Clearion technology for data collection/tracking and work management.
When I first responded to an ad for a job that would allow me to work outdoors, I had no idea where that would take me.
Now, I am proud to be a highly trained, utility arborist with Wilderness Environmental Services (WES), the company I first joined in 2004. We are based in Sault Ste. Marie, but I’ve had many opportunities to travel and, most recently, was honored to be part of a team that helped communities in Florida recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma.
As the President of Wilderness Environmental, the top leaders of this vegetation management company and I had the pleasure of attending the Lewis annual leadership conference last week where we heard powerful messages on safety, leadership engagement and Brand Harmony.
As an employee for a successful vegetation management company, I feel proud, I feel privileged, and I feel luckier than most. I also feel safe, I feel safe because safety is not only the top priority at Wilderness Environmental Services, it the only way we operate. If we can’t find a safe way to do the work we simply won’t do it. Here at Wilderness there are no excuses to put a worker at risk.
As many of you have seen in the news, a team of utility arborists from Sault Ste Marie is in Florida to help with the power restoration efforts. Yes, that's us! And we're working alongside not only the utility linemen but also many fellow contractors including our Lewis Tree Company family members. It's been a wonderful and rewarding time to serve others even if it means working in hazardous conditions many hours a day (today: blistering heat) and being away from our families for days and/or weeks at a time. We're grateful for the opportunity.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the two-day Global Leadership Summit. One of the speakers was Laszlo Bock who served as Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations and authored the New York Times best-selling book, Work Rules!
We’ve just closed out the third quarter and have some amazing things to be proud of. We’ve seen our market share growing in key accounts because our customers understand that, with us, they get a partner they can count on. And we’ve grown while maintaining an industry-leading safety record which is critical in the world of vegetation management and control. For all of this, we should be proud. And we should celebrate that. But we all know that we are just starting on our journey. There’s an excellent quote from the legendary Paul William “Bear” Bryant, longtime head coach of the University of Alabama football team, that addresses this journey:
So often in the vegetation management business we talk about the numbers. We get daily, weekly and monthly reports that measure crew productivity, safety statistics and profitability. All of these are important. But sometimes it’s important to keep perspective. I am reminded of a quote from Warren Buffett. Shortly after his insurance company, General Re, had taken a severe hit because of the 9/11 attacks, Buffett introduced what he calls the Noah Rule.
At Wilderness Environmental Services in Canada, we’ve gone nine years without a single lost-time injury which is pretty impressive in general but particularly in the world of vegetation control. Not one. We don’t compare ourselves to industry norms and celebrate; instead, we hold ourselves to the highest possible standard and never waver.
I spent three hours in the car in North Carolina and Florida during a recent weekend and witnessed eight near misses on the road. The reality of driving today? It’s a safety risk. For anyone, individual or corporation, the level of risk equals the frequency of near misses multiplied by the severity of the potential outcomes.