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March 2004

Guest Column

Loggers and sawmillers need to work “on” their business rather than “in” their business.

By Debbie Woodward

One way to run a business, and a typical way with logging operations, is to focus on short-term business realities—immediate realities like cash flow needs, sudden opportunities and crises. Many a successful business is built this way. But it’s not always the best way to maximize owner profit and satisfaction, especially over the long term. An inadequate business strategy could spell disaster for many business owners. Loggers and sawmillers must be pro-active in preparing for long-term obstacles and potential disasters such as the countervail imposed on Canadian softwood lumber and other events in the US, and other lumber markets that will undoubtedly have a domino effect on our economy and ultimately on each and every one of us.

It is necessary to begin treating the operation like the business it is. Business owners the world over, whether it be accountants such as myself or logging company owners or sawmill operators, manufacturers or equipment suppliers, are all in search of techniques to take our businesses to the next level without having to work harder. We are looking for ways to work less to enjoy life, without compromising the success and future growth of our business. The strategies that follow pertain to all business types no matter how big or small, and when followed will see you enjoying a more profitable operation with more personal time. Determine the priorities in your life You have to get clear on the “why” in your life. Sure we all need to make an income to support our families.

But to take your business to the next level, you need to ask why this is important—why is it driving you? Ask yourself, do you need to get that last load off a particular landing, or would you rather be at your daughter’s soccer game? Should you get the repairs done, or would you rather go golfing one afternoon? Do you bid on another timber sale, or plan that cruise in the Caribbean? The last load on the landing might not get delivered, but in the end, will it really matter? That’s not to say that these business issues we deal with every day are not important, but they possibly may not be your “main” priority.

erhaps the priority is your children, or quality time with your wife, or time for travel, becoming a better leader, or maybe the priority is having more time for yourself to pursue personal interests. Maybe all of the above are a priority. The question remains, how can you get your business to run fluidly, effectively and successfully in the long run and still have time to pursue the things that bring you pleasure outside of the business?

This is the challenge. But until you are clear on your priorities, until you have a big enough why, you may not be stimulated enough to want to make a change. I challenge you to determine five main priorities in your life. Why are they a priority and will your life be better by making them a priority? Getting clear on these priorities will serve as a foundation for future growth and will give you focus to achieve satisfaction in all areas of your business and personal life. Work “on” your business, rather than “in” your business Now that you are clear on the “why,” you can get down to the business. We spend so much time and are so wrapped up working “in” the business that we forget to take the time to work “on” the business. Many of you as owner operators feel you have no choice; you can’t afford to hire another person.

As a long-term strategy, however, you need to work toward this optimum. You need to take the long-term view toward building a business that can run efficiently and can generate revenue and a profit without your day-to-day presence. I can already hear you saying that the business does not run smoothly or efficiently unless you’re there. I know that may be the case now, but it is possible to take it to the next level. Consider this motto as something to strive for: “My business can run without me, but it needs me to grow.” Working on the business rather than in it will rejuvenate you, give you a purpose and a challenge to strive to take the business to a new level. Do you want a business where you don’t have to be present 24/7?

Do you want to be able to take time for other pleasures in your life? This is possible if you plan toward that end. It also makes the business more saleable to a third party. You may plan to pass the business on to the next generation, but I know from experience in working with other logging operations, that some family members just aren’t interested in taking it over. If this is the case, then you are much more apt to sell an operation that’s efficient than one that’s so dependent on you. Next month we’ll take a look at several more strategies for working “on” rather than “in” your business.

Debbie Woodward is an accountant and principal of her own firm, Woodward Financial Group. She provides business, financial and investment advisory services primarily to businesses involved in the logging industry. She can be reached at debbie@woodwardfinancial.net.


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