This week we are learning a little more about Josh Korte, owner of Korte Tree Care. Find out how he got started and why loves having a locally owned business here in Jefferson City.
Q. What is your product or service?
A. Tree care: tree pruning, removal, stump grinding, land clearing, plant health care and fertilizing, brush mowing and removal.
Q. How many employees do you have? How many locations?
A. We have 13 employees and two locations in Jefferson City and Columbia.
Q. What is the name of your business and why?
A. The name is Korte Tree Care because it is a family trade and we offer plant health care along with the usual tree pruning and removal.
Q. When and how did your business get started?
A. Farming and business seemed to work well for both sides of my family. Grandpa Korte told us that we should work for ourselves. My uncle Walter Korte hired me every summer starting in 1993 to work at his tree service. In 1997 my parents loaned me $700 to help buy a truck, saw, and climbing gear. I would also borrow their trailer and mower. My dad would find people who needed help and they would hire me. I moved the business to Central Missouri in 1999.
Q. What’s been your biggest failure/struggle - how did you overcome it?
I failed to fully value human labor and innovation above capital and equipment in the beginning. Catholic Social Teaching taught me to pay a just wage and our mentor Larry Bedford confirmed by explaining the benefit of profit sharing.
Q. How do you define success & how do you celebrate a win?
A. When all of us make a fair wage while the customer gets a good value. When we accomplish a technically challenging job we have a meal together.
Q. What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
The virtue of order.
Diligence in keeping your word and being on time.
Enough daringness to take calculated risks when opportunities present themselves.
Most failures are the price you pay to learn.
Q. What’s your favorite part of your business?
A. I like logistics, but my best days are either meeting customers or working with my employees.
Q. What kind of culture exists in your organization and how did you establish it?
A. I try to give everyone leeway to make independent decisions. I had to let go of being everywhere and making every decision.
Q. What are your future goals? 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?
A. In 1-5 years there are efficiencies we can realize from some mechanization and more delegation of work. In 5-10 years we would like to be diversified into a non seasonal industry.
Q. What’s quote or motto do you live by?
A. The Golden Rule
Q. What are the advantages of being a business owner in Jefferson City?
A. It's large enough to have enough skilled labor and excellent industrial vendors like Capital Machine while small enough to have low traffic and allow us to get to know customers and vendors better than in a large city.
Q. How does your business benefit from operating in Jefferson City?
A. We get a good customer base, low cost of living and operating, affordable industrial land, and good service from our vendors.
Q. How is community involvement important to your business?
A. We have a trade that is essential in some situations with hazard trees. We try on the one hand to never overcharge, but also for those who cannot afford it, we try help them out. There are many people who never get a fair bid because no one will take a chance on them. People almost always surprise me in a positive way.
Q. Who is (are) your mentor(s) & how did you meet?
A. My wife Lindsay was the person who helped me push ahead when things were difficult. My Uncle Fr. William Korte and aforementioned relatives. I had several professors at MU, like the late Dr. West and also Dr. James Wall. David Backer of Wise Brothers Equipment, whom I met at church. Brian Stumpe and several of the people he introduced at Central Bank including Josh Hargrove and Ken Adamson have been great. Also, Scott Duncan at Central Electric Coop, and many customers. I found out you can learn something from everyone, you gain perspective.
Q. Who are your biggest supporters?
A. My biggest supporters are my family, including a lot of my cousins. Also, my many loyal customers and the employees who do the work that makes Korte Tree Care a business.
Q. Do you have any advice for those just getting started?
A. It takes 70+ hour work weeks in the beginning, but long term, you have to delegate work or it will take over and negate the benefits of working for yourself. Take Sunday off so that you can think and innovate.
Q. What’s your go-to business or industry specific book you recommend?
A. The book of Proverbs because I get the impression that the same wisdom applies to all industries. Trade magazines are also very helpful.
Q. Do you use any entrepreneurial tricks to keep you motivated and productive in your day to day business schedule?
I have 9 kids who keep me motivated to try harder. I write a daily to do list and develop habits and routines that eliminate a lot of repetitive decision making.
Q. How do you prioritize self care?
I take one day of rest a week, turn off the phone, attend daily Mass. What people call prayer or meditation helps me get past myself and then things occur to me.
Q. What are you most thankful for in your business?
Loyal customers and employees.
Q. Where’s your favorite place for a lunch meeting?
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