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by C. Troy Ross, EVP of Operations, ACRT Services
I started with ACRT on April 6, 1999. Working here has been the ride of my life. One thing always rings true when it comes to ACRT Services, I love this place. I love all of the companies, the culture, and the coworkers that I call family and friends. One thing that I have seen play out in my career is what I call the ACRT Services equation. It is a simple concept, but I have seen it ring true time and time again: Growth + Change = Opportunity. I am going to use the rest of this article to tell part of my story as an illustration of the equation in action.
I started with ACRT in 1999. I moved from Ohio to Tennessee for an entry-level utility vegetation management job making $9 an hour. I was a recent graduate of Hocking College, and I was working in Marysville, Ohio, as a temp. The funny thing was I left a job making $11 per hour to move eight hours away for less money. I wish I could say it was the allure of ACRT that made this decision for me. That was not the case. I needed experience in a green industry job to help complement my degree. I planned on working for ACRT for one year and then moving on to greener pastures. ACRT was a much different organization back then. It was smaller in size. It was also starting a transition. The employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) was born at this same time, and ACRT was transitioning from a family-owned company to an employee-owned company. ACRT had less emphasis on safety and employee engagement. ACRT was trying to grow in a new utility marketplace. ACRT was a fairly young company at this point, so systems and processes were not in place or not very automated. For example, we had to pay for all gas and vehicle maintenance out of pocket and then submit expense reports. I did this while making $9 per hour. ACRT did not have much management, either. In 1999, two managers covered the entire eastern United States.
My operations manager, Mark Falcon, covered everything south of the Mason–Dixon line, east to the Atlantic, and west to the Rockies. Mark had been with ACRT for 10 years when I started, so he had seen ACRT grow from its infancy. When I was offered the job, Mark offered me a room to rent in his house in Tennessee. This was the best decision I ever made for a couple of reasons. The first and most important reason was that Mark’s neighbor was Tabitha Crain. She did not know it then, but she would become my wife, Tabitha Ross, two years later. The second reason was I got to live with a person that already had a vast amount of industry knowledge and a love for ACRT. It was infectious. I watched Mark give the company everything he had. He worked long hours, he bent over backward for customers and employees and he made ACRT his passion. Being new I wondered why? It was not the pay. Mark could have gone to work for a number of utilities that paid more. It wasn’t the work. It is not an easy or glamorous job. We were having conflicts with customers, tree crews, and homeowners daily. Try hiring new employees making $9 an hour and paying all business expenses out of pocket. What I slowly came to realize was it is the people that Mark worked with. The coworkers are what made ACRT great. Mark’s passion burned so brightly because he believed in our founders and their vision. He believed in the corporate staff and other managers. Most of all he believed in his field employees. He believed in me, a 23-year-old fresh-faced kid working his first career job out of college. The day I understood Mark’s motivations was the day that my life changed. It was the day that ACRT changed for me from a one-year experience job to my life’s work.
The passion that Mark helped unleash in me has been a driving force my entire career. But passion, loyalty, and hard work will only take a person part of the way. To get to the next step, you need to prepare yourself and be ready to seize the opportunity when it presents itself. Some people call opportunity “luck.” My dad always said luck is when skill and preparation combine and realize opportunity. This means we all create our own luck. Can we create opportunity? In some cases, we can. It goes back to the equation. Can we create growth and change? Hell yes, we can. We create strategic plans tied directly to these items. All innovation, process improvement, research, and development that we do can lead to growth and change. Take my career as a further example. My first leadership job was as a lead forester. The contract I was on decided to double the size of the workforce. This growth led to a supervisor opportunity. I had a spotless work record. I was the leader in productivity and removals. I took care of my side of things so when the opportunity presented itself, I was ready. The following is a table of my career promotion and the growth or change that created the opportunity.
|The previous operations manager left the company
|Sr. Operations Manager
|Created separate sales and operations system to facilitate organizational growth
|Director of Operations
|We grew immensely
|Vice President of Operations
|ACRT acquired Bermex, a utility metering services company
|President of ACRT
|We reorganized into ACRT Services and our family of companies: Bermex, ACRT, and ACRT Pacific
|Executive Vice President of ACRT Services
|Due to continued growth, dedicated leadership for operations and sales was established
I listed this out not to be vain, but to illustrate to every meter reader, meter tech, consulting utility forester, senior consulting utility forester, manager, and so on that there is a path for your career. You can follow a similar path as I did and one many others have walked. The ACRT Services equation guarantees that growth and change will equal opportunity. That is going to happen. We are planning, incentivizing, and driving growth and change. Chief Executive Officer Mike Weidner is a visionary, and growth and change are at the top of his list of goals.
What are you doing to prepare yourself to create your own “luck?” Remember that skill and preparation part I talked about earlier. The part I left out of the list of promotions I received above was the work, preparation, and passion that I put forth to realize the opportunities. Over the last 22 years, I have moved three times for the organization, I went back to school twice (B.S. in Organizational Leadership and an M.B.A.), worked countless hours, traveled on business to 46 different states, strived for perfection, and volunteered for the toughest tasks.
I will leave you with this. I believe in Mike Weidner and his vision of ACRT Services and our family of companies, I believe in the executive team, and I believe in the corporate staff and management team. Most importantly, I believe in our field employees. They are the ACRT Services family. All of our growth and success can be attributed to you and those that came before you. It has been an amazing ride, and I have been blessed to have a seat while also working with some of the best people I have ever known.
I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 20 years. I look forward to making new memories and new friends along the way. The ACRT Services family of companies is looking forward to the next batch of arborists, foresters, meter readers, and more to take a seat in the best office on earth, the great outdoors.
C. Troy Ross is the executive vice president of operations at ACRT Services, where he oversees our subsidiaries and maintains a great working culture for customers and employees. Prior to his role at ACRT Services, Troy served as president of ACRT — our vegetation management subsidiary. He is a past director of the UAA. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership from Union University and an MBA from Ashland University.
ACRT Services offers expert independent consulting solutions to utilities and associated organizations throughout the United States, including vegetation management consulting, ecological consulting, arborist training, customized safety courses, technology solutions, utility metering services, and more to empower the best people in the industry.