A lot of us started working in the forest industry before we finished high school. We worked in family run logging company repair shops during weekends or perhaps the summer or both. Spending hours’ steam cleaning equipment is just one of the special tasks in “putting in the dues”. Sometimes it was working out in the bush learning the finer points of running a power saw or how to install a culvert the right way but the number one skill was “staying out of the way of the equipment”. It seems silly to an outsider, but equipment does move a certain way and when you catch on you start to gain respect from the crew.
As you learn how to be an operator from watching and listening from well experienced operators you also learn what it means to be a professional operator. Making your moves count, taking it easy on your piece of equipment and still produce and finally, always providing good maintenance are the hallmarks of a professional. Watching a professional work is a thing of beauty.
We end up putting in many hours and sometimes we make some very expensive mistakes learning to be an operator, but we do learn eventually to be a good one and only a few achieve “great” status. If we eventually can become a supervisor and learn “people skills” it usually comes with some very frustrating and tense experiences. Now the career path can possibly turn into being a contractor if fortunate enough to find the capital and right opportunity.
The skill set you have learned over these years has not prepared you to becoming a businessman because that is what you are when the day comes where you now own a business. Learning all about logging and road building has been great and fun too, but who is going to teach you how to properly run a business? And how?
The measurement of time is all about looking for change and the logging industry is no different. In the past, just counting your loads and hoping your customer gave you a “good enough rate” so you could make some money is just not realistic today.
Equipment is expensive, even vehicles are worth more now than my first house. Potential financial and legal liabilities can drive a person to an early grave or jail. You must be able understand the business aspects of finance, payroll, tax, law, risk assessment, negotiation, human resources, and accounting to give yourself the best chance of being successful.
The education industry which includes colleges and universities are claiming a specialized MBA is needed to be relevant in today’s fast paced business world. Programs are now available to get your MBA in hockey so where can get a specialized logging MBA where contractors can earn enough credits through online learning to achieve a certificate, diploma, degree or even a MBA?
Contractors must understand that the lack of knowledge is their biggest threat. Using all the business management tools available is more important than choosing the right piece of equipment. Helping themselves has always been a part of the proud tradition in the logging industry and for this industry to survive and flourish we must embrace this new direction for the sake of everyone who relies on it.