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Rochester Top 100: Henrietta firm eyes more growth geographically

Rochester Business Journal
February 7, 2014

Lewis Tree Service has been on the Rochester Top 100 list for 18 years.(Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)

For the last 75 years, the more Lewis Tree Service Inc. has trimmed, the more it has grown.

The Henrietta company is one of the nation’s largest providing vegetation management, working with utilities and municipalities to trim trees and brush and to provide emergency response services. The company has grown its network of customers along the East Coast, southwest to central Texas and west to Indiana.

Much of the company’s growth occurred after 2000, when Lewis Tree Service became an employee-owned company. Today roughly two-thirds of the company’s 3,700 employees participate in an employee stock ownership plan. The company has 85 employees in Rochester.

“I think the growth of the company during that period can be attributed to a couple of things,” said Thomas Rogers, president and CEO. “One, being employee-owned, the employees had an understanding that we have some skin in the game and the company’s growth will bring some great benefits for them in the long run.

“The growth was also a lot of timing in the market. There were some opportunities to grow quickly, some events that we were able to capitalize on, based on our solid reputation of being honest and respectful and hardworking and always doing what we say we will do.”

Honesty and integrity are crucial to Lewis Tree Service, which notes in its vision statement that it will “consistently adhere to our values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcome.” The company also strives to create an open and safe environment in which employees are encouraged to share ideas and think creatively.

This open atmosphere, one in which employees are empowered and have a stake in the company’s success, has made growth natural, said James Stenger, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Lewis Tree Service.

“Our growth has come because our employees are the owners,” Stenger said. “Everyone works for the good of the company, and it’s not a matter of them saying, ‘This is my job’ or ‘This is your job,’ but an idea that we all can do these things together to make the company successful. Everyone is on the same page.”

Lewis Tree Service, founded in 1938 as Monroe Tree Surgeons, a residential tree and landscaping care company, ranked No. 90 on the Rochester Top 100 list of fastest-growing private companies, down from No. 74 in 2012.

The company has been on the Rochester Top 100 for 18 years, including 15 years in a row.

After years of rapid growth, Lewis Tree Service is looking at a changing landscape with plans to expand geographically.

“In the last three years the market has changed considerably,” Rogers said. “We’re now trying to grow our business outside our current footprint. We’ve been a predominantly East Coast company but are aggressively pursuing the Midwest and Midsouth.

“That’s where we believe the majority of growth will come in the next five to six years. The years of 10 to 12 percent growth have leveled off, but we still see growth in the 5 to 7 percent range.”

That growth will come from a mix of organic expansion and acquisitions, Stenger said.

While the company seeks to extend its range, it will have to make sure that acquisitions and expansions fit with the mission and come at the right pace, Stenger added.

“A lot depends on the size of our acquisitions,” he said. “The companies that are out there vary in size and revenue, and we have to make sure any ones we acquire are the right fit. They can be ones with small revenues or large, but they have to be right with what we do.”

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. This year’s Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 5. For more information, go to rochesterbusinessalliance.com.

Lewis Tree Service Inc.
Vegetation management services company
Founded: 1938
Top executive: Thomas Rogers,
   president and CEO
2013 ranking: 90
Employees: 3,700 (85 in Rochester)
Location: Henrietta
Website: www.lewistree.com

2/7/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.



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