UAA Profile: John Hurst

September 1, 2013

John Hurst

Eastern Regional Manager, Wright Tree Service


I attended Grandview College in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1966 and studied pre-veterinary medicine. In 1980 I studied finance at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Job History

In 1973 I joined Wright Tree Service as an equipment operator. In this position I mainly worked with a hydro ax machine in Oklahoma, just outside of Tulsa. For a brief time I left to do technical work, and I returned to the company in 2000. At this time, I was the project manager for Indiana. A few years later, a new division was created, and I was promoted to division manager of this area. In 2012, the company decided to create positions for regional managers, and I was promoted to the eastern regional manager.

I have gained a wide variety of skills in the field of arboriculture from my many years of experience, from labor intensive work such as chipping brush, to running mechanical equipment, to managing crews and contracts.

Current responsibilities

As a regional manager, I am responsible for overseeing field operations in my area. In addition, I work to expand our work with existing and future customers, from Ohio east to the Atlantic Ocean and south to the Gulf of Mexico. The ISA and UAA regional meetings I have attended have helped me realize the opportunity Wright Tree Service had and has to expand our operations. If our operations expand to a level that requires an additional division, I will have surpassed my goal.

Instead of slowing down, it is important to me to continue to do what I enjoy the most. I love to teach new employees not only how to do tree work, but also how to manage the day-to-day fundamentals of working with people. About 90 percent of what we do is work with others, and it is important to confidently sell yourself, before the business. These days, utility vegetation management is less about basic operations and more about interactions with customers. If that is successful, the business part will fall into place.

Greatest Challenge

As much as I focus on our goals, there are always challenges that come up along the way. Obviously, many things have changed since I joined Wright Tree Service in 1973, and the challenges are very different. Trees are trees, but there are many aspects that constantly change about them, and about other parts of how we do work in this industry. Competition is growing, profit margins are shrinking, and companies are merging and looking for new types of work and more efficient procedures. We communicate online more and in a certain way in person, and cultures are becoming more diverse. Because of the communication and culture changes, we have to learn how to deal with homeowners and others differently. I learn more about technology as it advances, but computers today definitely aren’t what they were when I first started working! I believe that when people don’t know a lot about something, they fear it. I have learned to not be ignorant of new advancements and instead enjoy the advantages they give our industry.

Mentors or Leaders

John L. Wright, who founded Wright Tree Service in 1933, and his son John R. Wright, who took it over in 1982, were both big factors in my success. They took a personal interest in my future. John L. was a very wise man with practical experience. If you were ever around him, you could just shut up and listen, and learn a lot. He taught me more than anyone else, through hands-on experience, how to deal with people and do business. Both of the Wrights cared about their employees and their families. This is one reason why Wright Tree Service is where it is today. The company is still so family-oriented. They regard people as more than just a means to get the job done. They make sure they do well in other areas besides business.

As far as leaders in the industry right now, it is hard to pinpoint one or two people. So many people are engaged in the utility arborist field worldwide that we can and should learn from.

Special Interests

Some of my hobbies include woodworking, metalworking, gardening, and keeping up with the stock market. I like to keep busy discovering new activities and experiencing new challenges. When I had trouble finding someone to do my own finances, I went back to school to learn about finances and decided to get a stockbrokers license. Some friends and I still enjoy keeping up with the stock market and dabble in it from time to time. Few people know I am also a licensed real estate agent in Indiana. When I wanted to buy a property and couldn’t find the right agent, I decided to go back to school to become a licensed real estate agent and take care of the job myself.

How can you get involved in UAA?

I have been involved in UAA for about 10 years. I believe that by taking advantage of both the networking aspect of UAA (chapter and regional meetings) and the educational opportunities afforded by UAA (webinars, magazine, etc.), anybody can be up-to-date with changes taking place in our industry. The availability of all of the information and people willing to discuss the industry allows an individual to reach whatever level they want in this ever changing industry. The list of opportunities to grow goes on and on.