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all areas of their lives.) The questions were all-encompassing, touching on every aspect of a logging business, from preventative maintenance to how employee issues are handled, the accompanying stress level, and relationships with others within the supply chain. Interview periods lasted up to three hours and were conducted in a conversational manner, allowing for a relaxed style for gathering data.

Appreciation For Ins, Outs Hours upon hours of recorded interviews were gathered and transcribed. Steve Bick of had the arduous task of all data to paper. He spent approximately 50 hours listening to recorded interviews. As hard as this job was, it gave him new appreciation for the ins and outs of what logging contractors deal with on a daily basis. It also revealed how the smallest fluctuation in an industry variable can impact the profit of a logging business, leading Bick to observe: “What really struck me when I started to look at the financial performance of loggers is what a fine line it is between making a profit, just getting by, or actually losing money. Small changes in product prices or production rates can have a big impact. I wish foresters and landowners understood this when they ask loggers for all those little extras.”

Improvement, Success Loggers love the woods, the equipment and the excitement of moving their product to market. Unfortunately, the love of a business does not guarantee success, but continuous focus on certain aspects of a business increases its chances of success. This research uncovered the common characteristics that successful loggers share. The one commonality between all successful loggers is their unwavering commitment to continuous improvement. “It’s one thing to say you are going to improve, it is another to continuously focus on it,” Benjamin emphasizes. All contractors in the study constantly challenge the process—the harvest system, trucking, accounting, and employee engagement. They are always looking for ways to do things better, faster and with fewer resources. They are constantly analyzing ways to increase margins and improve working conditions. Foremost Authority For Professional Loggers 

The SWAT program helps participants identify areas for improvement/innovation and create an implementation plan.

This thread of continuous improvement ran through the following four common themes that arose after interview data were analyzed. Forest Operations Management— This is what matters to most top performers, regardless of the harvest system. Diligent maintenance of equipment shrinks downtime, keeping productivity high. This degree of success adds to the pride felt in a job well done. This sense of pride feeds the confidence of the crew and support staff, creating a never ending cycle of continuous improvement. One contractor said, “At night when you are driving out you can look and say, we did something today, a nice job and I’m proud of that.” General Business Practices—A main ingredient for success in this area is a sharp awareness of key financial indicators. This knowledge feeds that success. Maintaining a healthy business means adhering to strict money management practices. Another contractor noted: “The day I have to take a line of credit to buy firewood or put money back in my machine, I’m not managing my business correctly. What am I doing wrong in those 10 months that I can’t survive for two months?” This line of thinking, along with the appreciation that capital and good

credit will help fuel investment in innovation, helps keep overachieving contractors on track. This allows for diversification to exist from a point of strength. Diversification allows for lower operating costs by spreading out the fixed costs of doing business. Working With People—Low turnover undergirds business stability and adds dollars to the bottom line. Awareness that people are the core of their business success is crucial. One contractor put it this way when talking about valuable input from his operators: “It makes them feel a part of the team. If you are not part of the team, then how can you be a team player?” These contractors work to create a sense of trust were ideas can be shared without judgement, and thus stoke the fire of innovation. These business owners constantly work to strengthen their external relationships as well, notably with foresters, landowners, and other industry stakeholders. Stress and logging go hand in hand, and having an outlet to deal with that stress was noted by some of the contractors. Relief comes through hunting, fishing, and traveling, and hiring good people. Outreach, Service—Loggers tend to be givers. Even though they all typiSEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2015 25

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