Dan Zach fought forest fires as a smoke jumper for eight years, but he did not get his fill of trees. After he gave up firefighting to spend less time away from his family, Zach figured he would put his chain saw skills back to work. In June 2014, he opened North End Tree Service.
Zach says his company is profitable, and he projects $30,000 a year in revenue.
Working from his North End home, Zach, 44, and one part-time employee offer tree and stump removal, tree pruning and thinning, deadwood and shrub removal, and consulting for $80 to $100 an hour, depending on the job.
Q: What’s your background?
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A: I love working outdoors. And being a smoke jumper, I have a background in forestry. I was a stay-at-home dad for two years before I worked for an arborist for a while. He was willing to teach me stuff, and I thought, “I can do what this guy’s doing.”
Q: To what extent does your firefighting experience play into what you do now?
A: Operating saws, climbing trees, that’s what I brought from being a smoke jumper. I picked up the arborculture through talking to arborist friends in town. If I’m stumped with something, I have resources at my disposal to answer arborculture questions.
Q: How far do you travel for jobs?
A: If I go to Meridian or Nampa, it’s on a referral. I pretty much stay in the North End, not because I’m not willing to travel, but because that’s where I do all my advertising and have a client base.
Q: Does the work fluctuate seasonally?
A: Yes, but I want people to understand it doesn’t need to. I’ll work in any weather. People don’t go outside as much in the winter, so they don’t pay as much attention to the trees.
I’ve worked in 12 inches of snow.
Owner Dan Zach
Q: How many jobs do you take in a week during peak season?
A: It seems pretty consistent starting in springtime, when people start getting outside. I’m still busy now, getting anywhere from three to four calls a week. Typically I only do jobs two to three days a week. A full removal will take a day. For every job, I go out and do a free estimate beforehand.
Q: What’s been your greatest lesson as you’ve learned how to manage a business?
A: I now do everything electronically. I email estimates before I leave job sites. I use apps on my iPad and iPhone for my banking, for estimates and invoices, for payroll. I even use an app for identifying trees that are unusual around here.
(Smoke jumping) is the best job I’ve ever had, that I probably ever will have.
Owner Dan Zach
Q: It’s pretty clear you enjoyed fighting wildfires. Do you miss it?
A: This is an opportunity to be home and not have to be on the road. I’m still physically able to do the jumping job. If it came down to it, I could go back.
North End Tree Service
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Phone: (208) 860-2984