EMPLOYEE STORIES – TOM ECKERT
Seven years with Active Tree Services has opened up a wealth of opportunity for South Australian State Operations Manager Tom Eckert. And his rise through the company ranks far exceeded the career he envisaged when he entered the tree industry only 11 years ago.
It was a chance opportunity that saw Tom defer his Social Science course in South Australia to work alongside his brother in a tree lopping business in the Northern Territory. He started out part-time, progressed to full-time and soon made the move to Active when they picked up the Darwin contract.
Fast forward seven years and Tom has enjoyed stints as an EWP operator, scoper, leading hand, supervisor and operations manager before taking on the challenging role as State Operations manager only 18 months ago.
Responsible for 150 to 180 people, a typical day involves co-ordination, planning and managing safety. It’s divided between the office and the field; scheduling work, meeting deadlines and communicating with supervisors and crews.
“My main role is organising, planning, allocating resources and watching over operations.”
And it all happens within a tight schedule of ensuring critical tree maintenance and clearing is completed by key dates. Each year Active’s South Australian work involves meeting set fire clearing deadlines for powerline infrastructure, while also handling roadside tree maintenance, and emergency work.
Operating to a strict timetable, it can include 250 to 350 jobs a day with work allocated and scheduled 35 to 60 days in advance so it can be scoped, cut, cleared and audited. Tom notes that requires him to be “super organised”, while the tight timetable has to factor in weather and selecting suitable work for suitable conditions.
“The work itself has challenges with the weather,” Tom explains. “With wet weather, productivity dips…you’ve got to have work suitable for conditions, meaning in winter months like June/July, the majority of the works will be roadside.”
The ever-unpredictable weather also sees Tom as a point of contact for emergency work, with crews on call for storm damage or downed trees.
This forward planning combined with swift response and flexibility are just some of the elements Tom loves about the role, along with working with his crews and being part of a team.
“Day-to-day it’s a highlight being out with the guys and seeing the state.” Meanwhile reaching major milestones like the annual fire compliance is also rewarding.
Tom notes this is enabled by his proactive team and a great workplace culture.
“I’ve learnt to be flexible, to have a good plan, and to listen to the different viewpoints that enable us to have a better business,” Tom explains.
“Active gives you the freedom to make your own decisions, and there’s a lot of opportunity.”
As for the future, well Tom envisages his will be with Active.
“I absolutely want to keep working here and just see wherever it takes me.”