They are said to be irrational fears. They are often misconstrued or misunderstood. I heard somebody actually define homophobia as the fear of owning a home. Close enough some might add, with enough evidence in play this week to dispute any notion that lumber super cycle delays stem from a lack of household formation rooted in fears of owning a home.

A report today at quotes’s chief economist Jonathan Smoke: “The story about millennials not forming households and getting into homebuying is more of a 2012 and early 2013 story. It’s outdated. Our view of 2015 is informed by strong trends and indicators of what’s happening today with millennials.” CNBC confirms millenials are indeed flying the coop. “If you see these numbers with what we saw in household formation at the end of the year, we’re starting to see millennials spread their wings and fly,” said Diane Swonk, Mesirow Financial’s chief economist. “We saw household formation at the end of 2014 surge 1.7 million units after being below 400,000 for much of the recovery. Household formation is key to getting more spending in the U.S. economy.” Meanwhile on this side of the border, The Globe and Mail reports only in Greece do households have more debt than in Canada.

Where’s the evidence of phobia or fear of debt in all this we might ask. I couldn’t actually find a “phobia name” for financial fears. Closest might be “peniaphobia”, which is the irrational fear of poverty. What’s irrational about that, some might question. I’ve heard it said that the fear of debt is called experience. Lumber traders have been known to find peniaphobia to be an effective motivating factor in marketing of lumber – even overcoming any indications of hylophobia, that irrational fear of wood…

household formations

New Trends

At the beginning of a new year, it’s fashionable to draw attention to or define new trends in business. From the standpoint of lumber trading these days, it may be that not all seem relevant to our own day-to-day trading.  However, of the Top 10 Business Trends for 2015 recently identified by Ian Altman at Forbes, three in particular seem pertinent:

  1. Role of Salespeople Will Evolve
    Altman says customers today value “subject matter experts”. Consultative skills lead to better alignment between buyers and sellers, and “put both parties on the same side of the table.”
  2. Divergent Customers – Price vs. Value
    We’re told price and value are two competing initiatives for 2015. According to Altman, anything that appears to be a commodity will be under increased pricing pressure. Differentiation is key. And the need to “figure out a way to deliver the commodity more efficiently than others in your market” might be considered most applicable to lumber distribution.
  3. Content Marketing Trends/Impact
    “Content Marketing” is a tired term. But I do like how the author spells it out: “You need to be comfortable giving away your best stuff”. He adds that top performers will integrate valuable information in virtually every sales interaction.


~Save the Date~

nawlaThe North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) Regional Meeting in Vancouver is set for Thursday, April 2nd at the Vancouver Club. The Organizing Committee promises a star-studded line-up of speakers – stay tuned for announcements. NAWLA Executive Director Marc Saracco will open the meeting in the Grand Ballroom at 3:30 pm. Cocktail Social to follow at 5:30 pm. Organizing Committee Member Tom Davis at Taiga confirms ample security will be in place this year. A limited number of pre-sale tickets is available exclusively on-line through NAWLA here.


I’ve heard it said by some that, by nature, lumber traders are a thankful lot. I agree. Even if it seems that on some days, normal everyday stresses might upstage our ‘thankful’ disposition. The attitude of gratitude is not always at the forefront of our lives.

Now comes word this U.S. Thanksgiving week that a dose of gratitude can actually boost our health. In fact the head of the division of biologic psychology at the Duke University Medical Center tells us here that, “If thankfulness were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.”

Dr. Glenn Steinberg, author of The Mental Rules for Golf, explores thankfulness in the business world. “Giving thanks can fill us up spiritually with good cheer.. but can it make us more successful?” he asks. The answer is yes, says Dr. Steinberg, who presents an experience with Gary Player as evidence here.

The recent opportunity to visit with customers in a number of states certainly provided me with an uplifting reminder there is much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving eh!

“Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.”
– Anonymous

“Forgiveness and celebration are at the heart of community. These are the two faces of love. Celebration is a communal experience of joy, a song of thanksgiving.”
– Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, “Community and Growth: Our Pilgrimage Together” (1979)

“Instead of starting your day with all your worries and checklists, begin your day thinking about three blessings in your life.”
– Dr. Glenn Steinberg

“Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.”
– Kevin James

On the Road Again

“Who’s gonna patronize a little bitty two by four kinda store anymore?”
– “Rock Island” lyrics from The Music Man

Willie Nelson’s On the Road Again is a reminder that in some industries – like the music industry – travel remains a big part of the job. As for wholesale lumber traders – not so much anymore. The evolution of communication tools has reshaped the marketing mix for lumber distributors. It has contributed to the shifting channels of distribution in play.

As a kid, I recall playing the role of Winthrop in a local production of The Music Man, in which professor Harold Hill made his personal sales pitch, travelling Iowa, with pronouncements of “You gotta know the territory!”. Today, annual conferences such as the NAWLA Traders Market in Chicago, the COFI Convention in Prince George/Kelowna, and the Global Buyers Mission in Whistler are experiencing a resurgence in attendance. Packed halls are where lumber buyers and sellers meet face-to-face. Even so, the personal customer visit offers uncommon opportunity. It’s why I’m looking forward to getting on the road again, to re-connect on the ground with Midwestern and Northeastern customers next week.

Retiring Friend

Through relationships built over time in the B.C. Wholesale Lumber Association as well as the North American Wholesale Lumber Association, I’ve come to recognize that competitors in our industry can develop valued friendships – even before retirement. When Tom Carlson, longtime respected industry associate and friend announced his retirement this year I was pleased that he accepted my invitation to submit a guest blogpost this week. Tom’s understanding of lumber types was shaped early on in the woods of Vancouver Island. A good guy retires from a successful career in lumber wholesale distribution when he leaves his present post as credit manager at Taiga in December. But before he goes, he tells us:

1950 – With a crash and a shudder as a youngster I was introduced to the forestry business as the spar tree fell onto the general store a few short steps from our shack at the Leechtown lumber mill. Sitting on my mother’s hip I surveyed the damage and dreamed of the chocolate bars inside. My father captured the moment in the rare photo of the day below. It was a life of rides on steam locomotives, fresh venison, coal oil lamps, and visits to the Chinese bunkhouse for lichee fruit amid the smell of opium smoke. It was a simple time on Vancouver Island.

1966 – University of Victoria and smoke of a different kind.

1975 – Ralph S. Plant Ltd. and Widman Industries had joined forces with a new credit manager for Jack Hetherington, Paul Plant, and Charlie Widman.

1986 – Taiga Forest Products Ltd. was spreading its wings and needed a new credit manager for Pat Hamill and Doug Butterworth.

2014 – After 28 years with Taiga (and it may be true I was unable to find any other employment) it is now time for retirement and to let the younger and less experienced have some fun. When I began in business we used carbon paper and dreamed of the promised paperless office; now we have computers and can make bigger and faster mistakes. We sold full carloads of lumber and never dreamed of dealing in truckloads; those cars averaged far less than $8,000 – some as little as $3500 – with the prepaid freight being more than the lumber.

As I enter the next phase of my life I embrace two facts of life:
1. It’s not about what you do, it’s about your right to do it
2. If it’s not fun, go do something else.


New Tools

Social media is a reality forming part of the ‘new rules’ in marketing everything these days – including lumber. But it wasn’t ’til this week that we resorted to Craigslist to move off an early Hallowe’en treat in the Northeast in the form of a lift of 2×12 #3 that had arrived in error among a shipment of #2&Btr. It does however fit into the mode of thinking these days that calls for taking advantage of all the marketing tools available to develop marketing connections. Blogging is merely one, which over the past almost four years has opened new doors to expanded relationships, directly and indirectly associated with lumber.

New Rules

Comedian Bill Maher has a weekly show on HBO in which he features his “New Rules”. For the serious business of new rules of work, bestselling author Robin Sharma outlines 50 here at The Art Of. Following are at least nine chosen from the list that could be considered very applicable to lumber marketing these days:

  1. Every moment in front of a customer is a moment of truth.
  2. The antidote to deep change is daily learning.
  3. Remember that a critic is a dreamer gone scared.
  4. If you’re not failing regularly, you’re definitely not making much progress.
  5. The bigger the dream, the more important the team.
  6. Keep promises and be impeccable with your word. People buy more than just your products and services. They invest in your credibility.
  7. The purpose of work is to help people. The other rewards are inevitable by-products of this singular focus.
  8. The client is always watching.
  9. Be a Master of Your Craft. And practice + practice + practice.

“New Rule: You don’t have to put the cap back on the bottled water after every sip. It’s water, not a genie.”
– Bill Maher

Visit to UBC

The Industry Insights panel sessions are described at UBC’s Sauder School of Business website as “a chance to provide students with insight into the variety of roles, opportunities, and areas for growth within your sector.”

Forest products marketing, sales and distribution was the focus of Friday’s session. I joined presenters Marc Saracco, Executive Director of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA), Ian McLean, Marketing Coordinator at Spruceland Millworks, Gerry Pankratz, President of Olympic Industries, Chris Gatson, Senior Scientist at FP Innovations, and Tracey Arnish, Senior VP of People and Culture at Canfor. BCom students with wide-ranging career aspirations ranging from organizational behavior and human resources to accounting and finance attended.

It’s evident that a sensitivity to resource sustainability – stewardship of the forest – factor heavily into general interests and potential forest industry careers. I especially enjoyed a brief time of networking with students after the presentations. Many had insightful questions about a career in lumber trading. I was able to share a little bit about my own experience with trading floor pressures, while being reminded that university classrooms still hold plenty of pressures of their own.

~2014 NAWLA Traders Market~

As the Organizing Committee Chair for next year’s NAWLA Regional Meeting in Vancouver April 2nd, I had the pleasure of meeting Executive Director of NAWLA Marc Saracco for dinner Thursday evening. Ian McLean, Organizing Committee Chair of the NAWLA Leadership Summit, also attended. Marc confirmed the show floor for the upcoming NAWLA Traders Market November 12-14 in Chicago is sold out – 235 exhibitors are registered. A Traders Market attendee list is available here.

Panelists 10-10-14

Chris Gatson, Ian McLean, Paul Harder, Marc Saracco, Tracey Arnish, Gerry Pankratz

Industry Insights

Sales Types

Just when you thought all lumber traders were alike, a study involving 800 sales professionals has revealed there are eight different types. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) confirms the “best” three types of salespeople are Experts, Closers, and Consultants. The “rest” are Aggressors, Focusers, Narrators, Socializers, and Storytellers. A description for each type is available here.

HBR reports only the Experts, Closers, and Consultants – accounting for a mere 37% of salespeople – were found to be “consistently effective”. Moreover, the behaviours of the remaining 63% actually “drove down performance”. The good news? “The eight types represent behavioural tendencies; not set-in-stone personalities,” according to HBR. “Managers can effect changes in their current salespeople and recruit better salespeople in the future if they understand the eight types.”


Winter’s Coming?

While Calgary reports 15 cms of early snow, a lingering summer in these parts offers ideal conditions for Friday afternoon BBQ preparations here at Dakeryn. The original oil painting below depicting olden days of hand bombing dimension into rail box cars always serves as reminder and counter balance to conversations that decry today’s lumber marketing challenges. Oldtimers are quick to point out that “you have no idea of the hard work involved back then when…. “

Speaking of alumni, happy to learn that recent retiree Ray Pauwels is recuperating at home after four months in hospital.