NANAIMO – Only five years since its beginning, Vancouver Island Tree Service Ltd. (VI Tree) has expanded to serve clients all over Western Canada.

Founded by veteran arborists Martin Evans and Troy Soderstrom, the growing company offers various services including tree pruning/trimming, preventative maintenance, tree analysis, emergency tree services, drought services, ornamental pruning, storm tree damage, tree planting, insect management, fertilization & soil management, and more.

The founders each bring over 20 years of industry experience to the table.

Soderstrom has been working in the Island’s forestry industry for 25 years, and is an ITA, ISA, and TCIA Arborist, certified in Risk Assessment. Before starting VI Tree Service, Soderstrom spent eight years in forestry and 16 years in arboriculture.

Evans has been in the profession for the last 22 years, acquiring a diploma in woodland and estate management from the Warwickshire College of Agriculture in 1993. Evans has been a climber since 1996, and is a certified faller, certified utility arborist, Industry Training Council Climbing Assessor, Royal Forestry Society certified arborist, and ISA certified arborist. He has been an industry specialist for the ITA, helping implement red seal trades in Arboriculture, and competed in BC and Pacific Northwest ISA tree climbing competitions. Before coming to Canada, Evans ran his own company in the UK for 10 years.

Evans and Soderstrom met while working for another tree service company.

“After some discussions, we realized that we didn’t quite like the way things were being run, and thought that we could find a better way of running a company,” says Evans.

“We wanted to look after employees in a better way and offer better customer service. Our goal was to put more emphasis on the individuals, offering better training, pay, and working conditions. Our goal is to treat the employees as the asset; not the equipment.”

Initially, the company started with Evans and Soderstrom as the sole employees, working with a bucket truck and chipper.

“In the beginning, we were working during the day and doing sales and office work in Martin’s house during the evenings,” says Soderstrom. “We did our billing over the phone, and our wives helped us out as we were getting started.”

Over the last five years, the company has grown to include four full-time office staff and over 60 employees in the field.

“When we started, we focussed on Nanaimo and the surrounding area,” says Soderstrom. “Since then, we’ve expanded to serve the whole Island, then Alberta, then up to the Yukon, over to the Northwest Territories, and now into Manitoba.”

In the near future, the company aims to expand its services into Saskatchewan.

According to Evans, the company’s growth has resulted from a combination of direct sales inquiries and word of mouth references.

“One of our biggest customers initiated the conversation with us, and we’ve been building a strong reputation for the company by doing good jobs for our clients,” he says. “We’ll still flip stones and call potential clients, telling them who we are and that we want to work. We’ve been able to back it up with good references from our current customers.”

The core philosophy at VI Tree Service is that employees are the biggest asset.

“If an arborist company hires anybody off the street, there’s a high likelihood that they will do a bad job,” says Evans. “We aim to be more particular about who we hire and how we treat them, so our employees tend to do a better job at the end of the day.”

“We do a lot of training with our staff,” says Soderstrom. “We put them through arborist training on an annual basis. Our new recruits go through the Utility Arborist apprenticeship, and go to school for an eight week program for their first year and a two week program for their second year.”

Evans estimates that VI Tree Service has put nearly 35 employees through the program since its beginning.

“An improperly trained arborist will tend to improperly groom trees,” says Evans. “For example, if an untrained person comes to a worksite and is told that a tree needs a halfway cut, they would likely cut the tree in half.

“A trained professional can give much more insight on what you can get done without harming the tree or causing more damage than necessary.”

VI Tree Service is COR certified with the BC Forest Safety Council, meaning that they are audited each year to ensure that they meet or exceed industry safety standards. This is a key way in which the company puts its employees first.

The company is licensed, insured, and certified by the International Society of Arboriculture, BC Forest Safety Council, is a SAFE Certified BASE company, and a member and accredited utility contractor of Tree Care Industry Association and the Better Business Bureau.

Their Certified Utility Arborists (CUAs) are contracted by BC Hydro and qualified to work close to energized power lines. They provide line clearance for both private customers and major utility companies throughout Western Canada, routinely pruning trees that might grow into power lines. Their specialized training allows them to maintain the health of the tree while ensuring the security of the power line.

Reflecting on their fifth anniversary, Evans and Soderstrom thank all their staff for working with them, making them the company they are. They also thank their customers and suppliers for investing in them and allowing them to grow and flourish in Western Canada.