As a specialist in utility arboriculture, bts Group is a leading provider of arboriculture and vegetation-management services.
Hal established Broadleaf Tree Specialists in 1987, which became bts Group in 1993. Since its inception, the business has grown from a team of two to having a 600-strong workforce.
Hal recalled that early work following the great storm of 1987 enabled him to see the opportunities available in the utilities sector and the scope these offered the business to grow. Working on the clear-up after the severe weather, Hal said, “was a chance to show we could work to get things back up, not just power lines, but trains as well”.
This recognition of the wider role of arboricultural services in managing infrastructure was an opportunity. It enabled bts to approach a broader client base and to strengthen its core offering by establishing specialist services. A strong, specialist skills-base expanded growth capacity, clearing the way for bts to take on higher-risk work covering a wider slice of the utilities sector. No longer bound to a small service offering, the company invested in a niche set of skills to best support its clients.
bts Group is now principal contractor for four of the seven UK utility companies, with teams in Scotland, the West Midlands and East Anglia. The company also maintains a commercial and domestic arboricultural team that works across the country.
Hal told ProArb that utility arboriculture goes beyond the typical abilities of the mainstream sector. Utility tree surgeons are required to have additional competencies on top of the National Proficiency Test Council certification of arborists, he explained. This high-regulation environment can be “off-putting to some firms,” but it is bts’s speciality.
Hal stressed that compliance “is absolutely core to what we do” and is a driving force in the business and among employees. Training starts “on the ground”, and staff progress through “a clear development pathway”.
Investment in comprehensive training and a focus on communication have fostered a strong work ethos at the business, creating an environment where “we share common goals”, Hal said. “Everyone … does their best to ensure this is a safe, secure and successful place to work.”
Hal plans to expand the business further and noted that being part of the RSK group has “provided us more opportunity to grow”.
Hal’s interview with ProArb magazine can be read in full in the spring 2021 issue.