The Celebration Continues: A Chat with Tony Tresselt

Jessica Cofer Blog

Continuing the celebration of Ed and Marcy Carpenter’s five years of NATS ownership, we thought it would be insightful to check in with NATS team members who have been with the organization since their beginning. Here, we check in with Tony Tresselt, NATS Director of Instructor & Curriculum Development and Lead Instructor.

How did you become involved with NATS and when?
I’d known Scott Prophett for quite awhile. I first met Scott in 1998 when he was working with ArborMaster; I started volunteering at ITCC (International Tree Climbing Championship) and I got to know him when we were at ITCC in Hawaii in 2007.

When Scott first started NATS, it was essentially a product demonstration company through Vermeer dealers. Scott did a demonstration about an hour from my house (in Pennsylvania) and I asked why he came all the way up from Georgia. He said that was a good question, and we should talk.

Scott and Dwayne Neustaeter (Arboriculture Canada Training & Education) were expanding Train the Trainer in late-February, early-March 2008. He invited me to come to the training outside of Sarasota, Florida, and literally he said it would put my training career on a rocket sled. I thought, “OK, I’m in.” That’s how I was invited to the first one and that was my official introduction to NATS.

Can you speak on the early days with Ed and Marcy?
When Ed and Marcy purchased the company, it was pretty much the same for the first year. Kind of like, the system’s not broken, let’s not fix it. And then slowly they started to put people in places and establish company-wide systems. It did become more systematic and slowly started to grow to what it is now. With the systems, you needed people to handle them or develop them. I started to step up into a bit more of a leadership role, working specifically with instructors who came in.

Can you share your opinions of the past five years and the growth that has occurred? How has NATS changed as an organization?
The efficiencies that that type of systematization brought, especially when you look at the amount of growth that’s gone on…NATS became a lot more diversified. It wasn’t just trainers like myself with a lot of technical experience going out and working private trainings – that was still happening – but the site safety stuff came in. It got to be a lot bigger, and we get to have a bigger impact on people that would probably never attend one of our trainings because they weren’t working for a company that would send them. The other aspects that have gone into it, with the leadership team and broadening our reach have all been good. We went from six instructors to 45 in what seems like overnight.

I’m a second-generation arborist. In my father’s day, you basically got a job, started dragging brush, then you learned to climb and ran a crew. After that, you went into sales, maybe? I think one of the things the model NATS is developing, gives people room to grow professionally. That’s what NATS did for me, it allowed that to happen.

What do you see as the future of NATS? How will online courses play a part?
Overall, it’s really become apparent through this situation that we’re all working in, is NATS’ ability to bring people together and make a lot of connections in the arboriculture world, and outside the arboriculture world, too. The whole world’s talking about PPE and risk management, and that’s been our lives for the last, well, it’s been my professional career, and we have things to offer there. For me, COVID is just one more hazard I have to think about on the job site, in addition to traffic control or chainsaw protective pants.

When it comes to the online courses, we had always meant to do it. I was initially hesitant because one of the things that really sets NATS’ courses apart is our instructors and the ability to get to know somebody that’s technically skilled, educated, articulate, and just a nice person. Our instructors fit that, and I was wondering how that might come across on an online platform. There’s obviously a lot of what we do that you can’t do online, and it’s been interesting to see what we’ve been able to do.

I’ve been pleased. I think that a lot of the personalities of our instructors do come across in online training. There are a lot of people who can take our courses and experience our courses that never would have because either we weren’t in their area, or they weren’t going to buy a plane ticket and fly across the country for a two-day training. It makes a lot of what we have to offer more accessible. My hope is the corollary to that is they’ll take a couple of online courses and realize they need to take an in-person course.

As a training company, online courses work really well because we can develop trainings and get them out there. As an employer, it works really well because your people can get access without having to travel; they can get high-quality training while staying at home or while staying local. Making courses available online makes them more approachable to some people.

What is it about NATS you enjoy the most and are most excited about?
Mostly, I just like helping people on and off the team to the best of what meager abilities I have.

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