Ten Questions for Tom Davis

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Tom Davis – June ’12

The countdown is on for the 33rd Annual BCWLA Lumberman of the Year Roast at the Terminal City Club in Vancouver. The recipient of the 2013 B.C. Wholesale Lumberman of the Year Award is Tom Davis, lumber buyer extraordinaire at Taiga Building Products Ltd. Having had the good fortune of working with Tom from 1992 to 2010, Harderblog recently had a chance to sit down with Thursday’s guest of honour:

1) How did you get into the business, Tom?
In the summer of 1969, I was working as a car hop at the White Spot here in Vancouver at Burrard and Robson, and had applied at BCIT. The day my letter of acceptance arrived from BCIT, my mother phoned me at the White Spot with the news. That lunch hour, I served a group of people from Balfour Guthrie which included Vice President Peter Hall. When he was conducting interviews at BCIT two years later, he remembered me. I was not hired for the position because I had no experience (they hired Bill Braaten instead), but he liked my enthusiasm; if I was willing to go to Prince George and work in their mill they would hire me as a trainee. I worked in the planer, under the sawmill on cleanup, ran lines in the bush, burned slash, did local sales, and any other jobs when they needed someone. I had a brief opportunity to work with Reno Gobbi, a well-known lumber salesman. When Morey Mackay went to Widman Industries, I was brought back to Vancouver. Forty-two years later…

2) Any mentors?
Doug Butterworth – Taiga
George Cruikshank – Pacific Overland Timber
John Whitmer – Netherlands Overseas Mills.

3) Others who had a positive influence on your career?
Pete Alexander, Dalton Lewis, Ron Fourchuk, Steve Granger, Cavin Bachert, Jim Honeysett, Bob Leffler, Marcel Picard, Alex Robertson, Jim Simmons, Steve Parkinson, Charlie Loo.

4) Which mills have you been talking to the longest? Favorite mill salespeople?
Mills: Dunkley, Carrier, Vanderwell, Buchanan, Sinclar
People: Dave Dunkley, John Thorlakson, Judi Barnes, Reg Foot, Ron Gettling, Blain Hicks, to name a few..

5) Does one particular lumber purchase stand out over the years?
Last year we had 40 truckloads 2×4-8’ Sinclar Premium Studs on order when I learned of the tragedy at Lakeland Mills on my drive to work. We cancelled the order.

6) What is your fondest memory at Taiga?
The period from 1987 to 2000.. when the company was in wholesale and distribution. We had a lot of fun everyday, even when the market stunk.

7) What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry?
From telex to email and smartphone.

8) Biggest challenges?
One Spotted Owl, countervailing duties, the subprime mortgage crisis, surviving six market recessions, cheap salesmen.

9) Your most oft-used expressions on the trading floor?
–          “Turn out the lights, the party’s over”
–          “It’s only money and it’s not mine”
–          “Drink Drano”
–          “Shoot the puck centre ice coureur de bois”
–          “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”
–          “That dog don’t hunt”
–          “Go fish”
–          “Rig for dive”
–          “He doesn’t know whether to take a sh-t or wind his watch”
–          “Time wounds all heals” (Granger)
–          “Time to fish or cut bait”

10) Lumberman of the Year is quite the honour, congratulations. Any plans to retire?
No – rewire.

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