One thing for certain, trees are definitely Dave Potter’s Totem.

Potter and his Totem Tree Services were named Business of the Year at the recent NEDC awards banquet, and the judges got it right.
Married and a father of two teens, Potter, 40, is a member of the Tzeachten First Nation.
“It was a huge honour,” he said of the award, which came with a snazzy glass trophy and a night ’s stay at the Tigh-Na-Mara resort, adding, “this year has been a bit overwhelming what with the growth we’ve had… I just felt honoured that they’d give me that.
“We discovered a new system of customer appreciation,” he said when asked about the spike in business, then explained how a simple marketing tool flipped the switch.
“It’s an App on the phone… we can send a physical greeting card with a photo of our clients and send it right to their house. We can send a card from up in the trees,” he marvelled, adding they’ve taken to including a package of brownies or maybe some sea-salt caramels with the card, all done through the App.
“We started doing that just over a year ago and our business has almost tripled… it’s shocking.

And of course with growth comes the need for more staff.  He’s gone from a one man show up to five at times.

“We’ve had our ups and down with that,” he said, adding “with our growth has come challenges that have taught me a lot about what I want (for the company), and its taught me a lot about myself too.”
Having grown up in Port Alberni and resident of the Comox Valley since he was 18, he’s been around trees all his life, and has a connection with them.

Potter, who is also an avid rock climber, has been in the tree business since 2001 and became a certified tree faller in 2006.

He used to run Alberni Valley Tree Services but was sidelined from 2007-2009 with a back injury and other life stuff, then regrouped and formed Totem in 2012.

“If it wasn’t for NEDC… they vouched for me… I worked out a plan with them and they helped me get going with my equipment. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be where I’m at.”

“My wife Jennie has been huge help throughout all this as well. The paper work, the business plan …same thing — if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be where I’m at.”
Before he started back up with Totem, Potter went falling in the bush for a while. He would work his 20 day stretch while Jennie was back home booking appointments, and the two would tend to their clients on his days off.
Fast forward to today and Totem Tree Services has thousands of customers and are on pace to add another 3-500 new clients this year.