As stated in this old African proverb, “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.”
Last month marked the fifth anniversary of Ed and Marcy Carpenter’s ownership of NATS. We chatted with them about the organization’s growth over the past five years, and take a look at what’s to come.
The story begins back in 2006-07 when Ed began working with NATS. Scott Prophett started NATS as part of his tree business North American Tree in 2005. “What first grew us as a company was a partnership agreement between Sherrill Tree and Vermeer, where Vermeer dealers from across the country would hire NATS to provide state-of-the-art safety education at their dealerships on arborist products sold and supplied by Sherrill Tree,” Ed recalls. These dealer seminars, or “Open Houses” as many of the dealers would call them, drew people in by the 100’s and allowed the NATS brand to be in front of 1000’s of people each year. As a result, NATS was instantly launched into an industry leading role with our ability to Serve, Share and Support.
Due to the low cost training and the “edutainment” that NATS would provide, we regularly would see people attend these seminars who were not members of ISA or TCIA, and did’t even know that arboriculture was a career- they simply viewed it as a means to an end. The beautiful part would be the transformation the audience would undergo together where the profession of arboriculture was discussed as a “skilled trade” and where the audience would empower each other to “hold their heads up high” and “be proud to be an arborist!” NATS encouraged individuals to carry out the trade “safely” and “professionally” and we really started to make a big impact in the industry.
In 2014, the company would undergo a similar transformation, just like the the attendees who NATS inspired at our seminars; we needed to transform to continue to operate safely and sustainably. As old trees in the forest often produce the seedlings of the future, Scott needed a change and approached Ed and Marcy about buying the business.
“It took us about a month to decide, ‘Well, is this something that we want to do?,” recalls Ed. “We made that decision fairly quickly, and then we spent the next several months figuring out how in the heck are we going to do this? It’s not like we had a lot of extra money…”
“And we had another business,” Marcy chimes in about their company, Arbor One.
“Financially we didn’t know how we were going to do it, but we had hope and faith and everything sort of worked out,” Ed continues. “Basically with the sweat equity we had put into Arbor One, that gave us the finances to buy NATS.”
When Ed and Marcy acquired NATS in 2015, there were 15 trainers. “We were all contractors at the time,” Ed says. “Looking back, we were all super passionate about helping the industry however, we needed some real ‘structure’ as the organic way we had grown was not going to carry us sustainably into the future.”
Shortly after the company changed hands, we hired our first employee Betsy Long, who has grown with the company since our transition and is now our CFO. “We were all Trainers who just wanted to be on the road empowering and inspiring audiences, and what we were really lacking was the corporate structure we so desperately needed to ensuring the business was sustainable. Betsy very quickly became the NATS momma who looked after our team to ensure we could do what we became so good at, inspiring arborists to work safely,” shares Ed.
“She made sure the bills were paid on time, certificates were mailed out, and the face-to-face experience with NATS trainers matched the follow-up experience provided by the NATS office.”
From the beginning, the ethos Ed and Marcy instilled into the company are openness and transparency. “We needed to be 100 percent transparent with everybody including our contractors. That can be uncomfortable for people at first, but what is was solidified us as a team,” Ed recalls.
“We knew we could not do this alone and we were going to need a lot of help!” It would take the strength and capabilities of a team to make it happen. A result of the transparency and openness came a key strength in our sustainability, the concept “no one person is more important than the interests of what’s best for the whole team. This team-centric focus is really what set us up for the growth we have experienced since 2015.”
NATS’ growth over the past five years has been exponential, growing from 15 team members and 250 training days in 2015 to 65 team members and 1,555 training days in 2019!
“NATS has been a whole other adventure for us,” says Marcy. “Having the opportunity to work with amazingly talented and passionate people, the whole entire team – I never would have had this opportunity and be exposed to their expertise without our decision to embark on this journey 5 years ago.”
“It was scary at first, as it was a huge commitment to all the trainers who had been right there with us since the beginning but is has also been extremely rewarding, educational, and fun,” she adds. “It’s been a humbling experience to lead alongside so many other talented individuals and I look forward to the future.”
Speaking of looking forward to the future, to fully live out NATS’s motto of “How we do Anything is How We do Everything,” our focuses for 2020 is for the organization to transition to become a Certified B Corporation. What does that mean? Certified B Corps “are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.” To date, 3,285 companies in 150 industries and 71 countries are Certified B Corps , and we can’t wait to join the ranks of sustainability.
With this as our focus, we will measure our strategic impact in four key areas: people, profit, planet, and trust.
People: We will increase our team of passionate trainers and safety professionals, with a focus on growing our bilingual team members, and increase our trainings by at least 15 percent over last year. Additionally, one of our priorities is to instill a culture where people feel connected to each other and feel more at home in a tree, the forest, or surrounded by nature than in an office setting.
Profit: “No margin, no mission,” declares John Hendrickson, NATS Board Member. Without revenue, we are unable to be good stewards of our team, the industries we serve, nor the environment. We will work to leverage our expertise to create diverse revenue streams that do not require us sending additional team members out on the road unnecessarily.
Planet: We will reduce our carbon footprint by limiting air travel, regionalizing our training programs to utilize local trainers within driving distance to clients, and continue transitioning to reducing paper by implementing digital course paperwork and assessments to limit waste.
Trust: In order to fully carry out our mission we need to continue to grow our team. In order to grow our team, we need to have trust. Trust is the foundation on which all relationships are built. Every human-to-human interaction either builds or erodes trust. “We are so honored and grateful for the trust our team has given to us, and for the trust they have in turn, extended to our clients, our partners, and all those we serve,” shares Ed. Purposefully focusing on measuring and growing trust has been game changer in how we do business!
How will we make all of this happen? “For nearly four decades I have been following my heart,” says Ed. In the fall of 2019, he and his sister Dr. Amanda Carpenter, now NATS’s Vice President and Director of Health and Wellness, were introduced to HeartMath. “By implementing the tools, technology, and science of HeartMath to our team, and our business, we have revolutionized how we now operate. HeartMath has allowed us to unlock the greatest human potential in everyone we interact with, by sharing with them how to tap into the power of their own heart!.”
By using HeartMath, we will achieve our goals by creating and sustaining strong personal connections; standing up for and sharing our root values; and striving to continuously learn from each situation, person, and moment. “The same way electricity has changed the outer world, unlocking the power of the heart is going to change the inner world,” shares Ed recalling his HeartMath training.
“The power of human hearts working in unity to make a difference is what makes this world a better place, and NATS is proud to do our part for humanity.”
Thank you to all who have been a part of this incredible journey!! It is because of you and the power of your heart that the last five years have been so successful. We are excited to see what the next five years will bring with our hearts working together to live out our WHY.
Ed and Marcy Carpenter