Is this the future of America’s national forests, or will Congress wake up before it is too late?
Keeping the Vision in your future
by Mike Crouse, Publisher
Over a decade ago we were seeing various enterprises trying to profit from "political correctness" with motels leaving placards asking guests to "save the planet" by reusing towels, wash clothes, etc. Many of us are inclined to do this at home just because it makes sense, and of course it does save time, energy, water, and effort using the same towel a few times... it was not about "saving" anything, especially our planet that was doing just fine.
Now while you might find recycling motel towels politically correct and ecologically sound, the hotels gratitude has never (that we've witnessed) filtered back to saving we the consumers any money at all. Something seems to ring a bit hallow on sincerity... especially considering that over the past few decades of rate inflation, we've seen the inclusion of an "energy surcharge" in addition to the plea we save the planet by using the same towels during our stay (which, by the way, I do not).
The latest ding of supposedly green business measures visited my home with the note from our internet service provider (ISP) of a $2.00 "paper billing charge." When we start with a $20/month charge the previous month, add on a $2.00 increase in charges, then have the audacity to create the "paper billing charge," you're guaranteed to catch my attention. A call to the offending company we discovered they were looking to eliminate the postage, handling, and paper costs of mailing bills by billing through emails... smart enough... but galling to think that for the honor of giving them our money, I'd need to cough up an additional 10% charge over the previous months billings, to get it via regular mail. Mail does get one's attention more so than say an email, especially when you receive over 100 pieces of email each and every day.
Being a business person I can appreciate other businesses efforts at efficiency and frugality and in that spirit I offered to eliminate any need to bill me again: I'd simply go to their competition that treats mailing as a cost of that business.
Suddenly their "paper billing charge" was seen from my perspective and quickly was credited back... as it should have been. I assured the clerk were it to appear again, we'd save them all future problems by going elsewhere, and spare them all expenses (and income) from dealing with us again.
This months billing again included the infamous "paper billing charge..." that in turn prompted the first call... to their competition. Seems they 1) had a promotion that would provide a faster service for less money and 2) they had no "paper billing charge," thus the net effect $30/month less, saving $360/year not including the "paper billing charge" of $24/year. We changed service.
The next call was to the "green" outfit we'd done business with since their inception; where we promptly thanked them for saving us $360/year by bringing this to a head in spite of giving them the chance of removing their "green" billing charge. We then explained we'd been encouraged to change companies, saving them mailing costs and the inconvenience of our business. Gee, thanks.
The lesson here: when you leave business to accountants with few ties to the customer short of a profit and loss statement, the decision process has a tendency to leave people and customer's needs (and reactions) out of the equation. It's the difference between large corporate entities run by number crunchers versus companies whose leadership is based on knowledge of the overall business of products and the people behind those products from manufacturing to consumption. It's also the difference between stagnation and innovation, which seems to mark the current trend in declines of our own manufacturing base. While the immediate effect appears as increased profit, the long range resembles farming prior to crop rotation that reinvigorated the land for sustained growth.
Leadership needs to lead, not just bleed, the company, with a clear vision of the future rather than just maintaining the status quo.
The business of logging, from owning and managing timberlands, to harvest and milling (or processing) to consumers is based on sustainability... lose your supply of timber, and you are out of business. The men who started those industries were men of vision that encompassed the entire process. Pioneers, of course, but realizing the health of the business depended on the health of each segment of that business.
But time marches on, and with it many of the corporations have a leadership team with limited connections to their historic roots, and run by accountants whose interests align with the next quarter's profits (as they should), a significant part of which is controlling costs. Number crunchers have their place, without question. However leadership over time requires a vision, some imagination, and the courage to innovate and adjust to a changing world. We can certainly appreciate the importance of controlling costs but there is a point beyond which you jeopardize your own future.
The entire standing asset in the forests is but a potential asset until it is harvested, converted, and finds it way to market, where it becomes cash. No harvest, no cash.
Some of those corporations have come to the realization that a significant link in their business chain, the harvesting link (i.e. loggers) is losing both logging companies, work force, and with it a level of experience that will be very hard to replace. There are multiple reasons for this erosion, most significant of which is the ratio between risks and rewards... in other words the profit. The pay has not kept pace with the times, and when added to changing demographics and attitudes, has added to the loss of contractors and working loggers. When added to the image our younger generation has of logging being a "dying" industry, those who have the most to lose are the companies with all that standing timber... no harvest = no income.
Several avenues are available for relief from these circumstances. Supply and demand will eventually remedy the pay for logging, and the sooner the better. Certainly loving the forest and the outdoors is the basis for many being in this business, but the primary incentive was good pay and opportunity. Unquestionably this comes with hard work, long hours, and risk, but high pay was the primary driver that brought many of today's loggers into the business.
Perhaps the larger problem is perception of this business to future generations, which many regional and state industry associations have worked at changing. The most promising effort we've seen comes from the Pacific Logging Congress and Pacific Forest Foundation's "This is My Office" program, which aggressively promotes the many careers available in forestry, and a very well structured video available on DVD or online. It is a great recruitment tool, and should be hand delivered to ever employment bureau, and high school. Its in a format appealing to today's youth. It is a dynamic look at the many positive aspects of our industry as both living, healthy, dynamic and unique. It is a great way of bringing our industry to the forefront of the next generation with a positive message of working with nature, and providing products their generation needs for the future, and one they can play a significant part in.
The PLC's goal is putting this message out using connections through the schools, school counselors, state and private employment agencies, and of course on the internet. This is a dynamic approach aimed directly towards our future work force, many of whom have never considered a career in the forests. We believe it is the right message at the right time, and targeted towards the next generation in a medium they work with. Copies of the DVD are available through the Pacific Logging Congress (PLC) on their website at www.pacificforestfoundation.com.
Fortunately for the logging industry, the manufacturing base has been blessed with a long range vision for generations, no small challenge in what has typically been a cyclical business. Those manufacturers as a whole are fully committed to our industry, as their future is tied to ours. Consider just the quality of today's machinery, tighter tolerances, improved dependability, far easier to access for routine maintenance, and far better monitoring.
And beyond the design, sales and manufacturing, most if not all of the major manufacturers are similarly committed in terms of working with logging associations as a whole, and the American Loggers Council in particular in the molding of public policy.
These collaborations are a healthy recognition that we work together to build our own future, not only with financial relationships, but with political cooperation and collaboration as well. We encourage you both to thank and encourage your suppliers and manufacturers for these ongoing relationships and encourage more of the same in the future.