Adhem Theriault knew from an early age that he wanted to start a business—or maybe several. “I love making things efficient. I love having a vision and the journey of continually improving it,” said the entrepreneur and licensed arborist. Eco Tree Company is Adhem’s fourth venture. Another tree care company preceded it, and he’s still involved in companies he started in commercial and residential property management and wholesale supply for arborists.
Eco Tree and Lawn Care offers its services in the Dane County area, where Adhem works with environmentally progressive customers. “There are tree cutters and there are arborists,” he explains. “Every company prunes trees and cuts trees down. Very few focus on disease diagnosis and treatment with an environmentally friendly focus.” Adhem describes his niche as “rehabilitating ailing trees and making sure that trees in good health stay that way.”
Adhem started Eco Tree Company in early 2017 and a year later, hired a second licensed arborist. His wife manages the company’s books and offers continual support.
Pre-launch, seeking a business coach
When Adhem set out to launch his company, he wanted to learn from his previous successes and mistakes. He reached out to the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center and was referred to the Southwest Wisconsin center, where Brock Waterman began consulting with him. Adhem said, “First, Brock helped me get a handle on my financials—my expenses, how to allocate resources, and putting that in a format that made sense.” Brock observed, “Adhem knew the language of business, but he needed help with business planning. We talked about every part of the business model, from customer acquisition to financial projections.”
Their next step was writing a business plan. This helped prepare Adhem to talk to lenders about financing a portion of his startup costs. Farmer’s Savings Bank in Dodgeville was one lender he approached. “Once they saw how well thought out my plan was, and my background, they were comfortable offering me more than I asked for—a loan and revolving line of credit for my cash flow. That’s unusual for a startup,” Adhem said. He finds working with Brock “phenomenal—I rely on him to keep me focused. A business lives and dies by the numbers. He helps me prioritize which of my ideas to pursue first.”
Brock finds that Adhem is “open about where he’s strong and where he can improve. He’s off the charts at creating demand which is crucial for a new business. My role is to help bring focus to other important parts of his business like cashflow, processes, and financials.
Accomplishments with Southwest Wisconsin SBDC:
- Financial projections
- Business planning
- Consulting on priorities
Ambitious growth goals
Adhem has ambitious plans for Eco Tree Company. “Many people start a business to make a job for themselves, whereas I want to expand and design the business,” Adhem explained. He is eyeing other locations in south-central Wisconsin with sufficient population and a lack of quality tree care services, for future expansion.
As ECO Tree’s first full year comes to a close, marketing is rising in priority. In the beginning, Adhem promoted the business primarily via existing relationships (formed through his previous businesses) that refer clients with ailing trees to him. Referrals kept him very busy during his first year. But now, “we’re going to be pushing hard with advertising—Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads,” Adhem said, “because we have a plan to sustainably expand. It’s time to build our own clientele.”
In addition to marketing, Adhem is working on systems to support the employees he’ll add and for “customer happiness,” as he put it—“I want to make sure we are clear with our clients from Day 1 to Day 100.”