Leaning Birch Trees (Issue 967)

In which we are reminded (before we pitch our solutions) to understand our clients’ goals, competing priorities, and concerns.

There’s a gray, wood, six-foot high fence eight feet behind our house. On the other side of the fence, rooted in our rear neighbor’s yard, are four mature, beautiful white birch trees the tallest of which is a little over four stories high. Because they were planted, originally, in the company of more mature trees, the birches learn toward the light, growing at a gentle angle toward our house. Several of their branches rub against our house in a light wind and, in the fall, their leaves land in our gutters.

We’re concerned about that. By rights, we can prune any portions of trees that grow into our air space. However, if we did that, we’d severely reduce the value and beauty of these birch trees, if not kill them. So we reached out to our rear-side neighbors for discussion. Turns out, they are true “city folk” who don’t know much about trees or aborists. So, they asked us for a recommendation.

Because we lived for many years on a partially forested lot, we (let’s be clear – my wife) knows a lot about trees and aborists. “We” have been through the selection process multiple times.

Basically, there are two groups of arborists. When you tell them, “We want those trees trimmed…”

Members of the first group look at the trees, say, “Yeah, no problem we can take down those limbs” and focus most of their site time and conversation on the challenges of getting their equipment in, where they’ll put the chipper, how they’ll protect the lawn or the shrubbery against falling branches or the weight of their trucks or a crane if one is needed, and like that. In other words, they focus on solving technical problems.

Members of the second group look at the trees and say, “Those are beautiful trees,” and they’ll comment on how the trees have developed, how they relate to nearby trees, their approach to trimming the trees to preserve or enhance their beauty, and what, if any, injections or other protective measures should be taken to ensure the trees continue to be healthy.

So, in our neighborhood space is tight and the trees are beautiful. We need both skills. Which style of arborist do we recommend? Technicians or beauticians?

I wish we knew one who asked, “What’s most important to you about this?”

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He trains banks and bankers to sell to small businesses. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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