Meet two brilliant young tree surgeons, James and Lloyd

Martin port

By Martin Port

16 July 2021

What were you doing when you were 18 or 19 years of age? Chances are, you were going to parties, spending time with friends, maybe studying or taking a junior role in the workplace. When James and Lloyd Barnes were that age, they were working seven days a week, growing their new business Venerable Tree Care. 

I met the brothers recently when they were working on some trees over the road from my house. We had some trees that needed cutting back, so I asked them to quote, and they came and did the work. Now, as you will all know, I love talking to people so I started asking them about their business, and their ambitions for the future. 

They impressed me so much with their drive, work ethic, and the quality of the service they provided (if anyone reading is looking for someone to help manage trees on their property, don’t hesitate to give them a call!). They took just three days holiday last year, working in all weathers. And, at 22 (James) and 21 (Lloyd) years old, they are so inspiring in their love for the environment and their commitment to help preserve ancient and beautiful trees. 

Here’s what happened when I sat down with James to ask him a few questions about their journey so far. 

Me: How did you get into tree surgery?

James: Both our parents are tree surgeons so we’ve been doing this from the time we could walk. It’s in our blood. We set up our company three years ago and it’s been pretty full-on since then. 

What kind of work do you like to do?

We chose the name Venerable because it means old and wise, and that’s how we see trees. We specialise in things like root improvement and tree science, and we love working on big, old trees. There are lots of generalist tree surgeons out there, but we do less of the felling and more of the preservation. 

What challenges do you face in business?

We have really struggled to find software that helps us to quote and send invoices effectively. The systems we have in place are really time-consuming – time we are not being paid for. We have been looking for one professional platform that takes care of it all, syncs with our calendar, and helps us look really professional to our clients. I’m hoping that BigChange can help us with that! 

Where do you get your drive?

Our parents were also self-employed from their twenties, so I think their drive has always pushed us forward, especially my mum, who is the most driven woman I’ve ever met. While all out friends were going off to uni, I was working down in London for minimum wage just to get experience doing this job before setting up the company. Lloyd and I just really love what we do. What’s better than being outside and climbing trees all day? 

What are some of your proudest achievements?

We did a job for Whixley Church a while back where they couldn’t get any machinery – cherry pickers etc – near a really old chestnut that needed work, so we had to do it all using a rope and harness. We have also worked for the National Trust, removing dead trees that threatened to fall on the greenhouse at Nunnington Hall. We’re really proud that we’re attracting these kinds of clients when the business is so young. 

What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

Definitely to buy machinery brand new. When we started out, to save money we spent our life savings buying everything second-hand. But the vans and equipment kept breaking down and there were no warranties, so it cost us a lot of money. We’ve learned to buy everything new on finance with warranties in place. That’s been our biggest lesson. That, and getting a good bookkeeper so you’re not trying to do everything yourself.  

It is so important to support the younger generation of entrepreneurs – especially go-getters like James and Lloyd. I am planning a shop floor day with the pair over the next couple of weeks to find out how I can help them to grow and succeed. If they’ll have me, I’d like to mentor them and pass on any advice or experience that can be of use. And yes, we are getting them started with the BigChange software this week. I know that our technology can help them grow sustainably, and cost-effectively, and I’m so excited for the bright future ahead of them.

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