Bringing business nous to arboriculture, with Henri Ghijben of HRG Tree Surgeons

Henri Ghijben of HRG Tree surgeons has been mentoring other tree surgeon businesses through the Tree Surgeon's mastermind since the start of 2022.

Keynote speaker for the Arb Show of 2023 he tells the Horticulture Week Podcast about how tree surgeons and arb contractors can benefit from sharpening their business skills.

Drawing on his own experiences, he offers his "blueprint to my tree surgery business" based on 'Five Pillars of a successful arb business':

  • Mindset
  • Sales and marketing
  • Numbers
  • Systemisation
  • Culture

After working for other companies but not enjoying it, he set up own business, but after 4 years of rapid growth the company went under. The realisation that there was very little advice to help the unique challenges faced by arboriculture businesses inspired him to pass on his learning to others in the profession.

Henri believes a lot of arborists "get stuck" doing all aspects of running the business but need to learn to "build a team" around them where people work to their strengths.

Arborists have to contend with the requirement for extensive training, versus the "low bar to entry into the industry - anybody can buy a van a chipper and a saw from B&Q" and competition with other trades such as construction or even working in McDonalds.

He discusses the issue of poor pay in the sector and how "there needs to be more education" of the public of the skills and need for qualified arborists to do the work.

But he says: "Knowing your numbers, so knowing what it costs to run your business, knowing what profit to make on top if it, knowing your quote conversion rate...once you have all this data it gives you the confidence to be able to go, 'ok I can put my prices up now'"

Henri speaks about the ways he tries to attract and retain staff by making his company "a good place to work with various financial and other benefits such as mental health packages, something that he values especially having suffered his own fair share of professional hardship.

He highlights pest and disease pressures, particularly ash dieback and oak processionary moth which is making its way down south east, through London to Southampton where Henri is based. He also discusses the online problems of climate change and extreme heat and storms.

Presenter: HortWeek editor Rachael Forsyth
Producer: HortWeek digital content manager Christina Taylor

Make sure you never miss a Horticulture Week podcast! Subscribe to or Follow Horticulture Week podcasts via Apple PodcastsSpotify or Google Podcasts or your preferred podcast platform. 

If you are interested in producing a podcast with HortWeek, contact

Read These Next

Hydrangea stylosa: fimbriate ray flowers

Highlights from Maurice Foster’s peerless plant collection

Elegantissima boasts green pinnate foliage

Skinny trees for tight spaces

Fagus sylvatica woodland

Native trees and shrubs – part one

In the first part of a special round-up, Sally Drury details native trees and shrubs that can attract grants and potential income.