Lindsay R. Mohlere
Chris Martin is a man on a mission. As the owner of Martin Timber Harvesting, he has taken the bull by the horns and set a standard of excellence all on his own.
Having grown up in a logging family, Chris began working in the woods fulltime before he was a sophomore in high school. In January 2017, when his dad decided to close up shop, Chris started his own business rather than buy out his family’s business.
“A lot of people ask me, why didn’t you just take over your family’s business? I just had my own ideas and wanted to do something different,” says Chris. “I didn’t want to do it like it was just handed to me. I’m a little old-school. I like to earn what I get. Maybe, I guess, I wanted to start from scratch to prove to myself that I could do it from scratch.”
Chris also indicated that without the help of his wife Lesley, he would not have made the move. “Lesley works very hard running our books and taking care of the company’s administration. Without her, I wouldn’t have jumped out on my own,” he said.
To start, Chris bought two pieces of equipment from his folks, and off he went. He ran both machines by himself, cutting first, then stacking the forwarder. After about four months, Chris went to work searching for an employee. Like all logging outfits, whether they’re big or, in Chris’s case, a one-man operation, finding the “right” help is a difficult task at best.
As a small company, doing the cut-to-length work is very labor and responsibility intensive. Finding the right employee to take on that challenge was one of the most important moves Chris had to make.
“It’s hard to find younger people that want to come work in our industry. There are people who want to do it, but to take the time and accept the fact that your pay is going to be a little bit lower while you’re learning and training, especially somebody that’s completely green, and stick with it. Because that to me, is how you test somebody. Do they really want to do it?”
Chris says, adding, “In our society, everyone wants to make $50 an hour. It just doesn’t work that way. You start at the bottom and work your way up.”
The Right Employee
He eventually found just what he needed in Daniel “Dano” Ward, despite the fact that Dano had no logging experience.
“Dano had never worked in the woods before,” says Chris. “He’d never run equipment, so I trained him from the start. He’s been with me over a year, and he’s doing fantastic.”
Currently, Chris, Lesley, and Dano work as a tight and efficient team, with Lesley keeping the books straight, Chris putting the wood down, and Dano running the forwarder and loading log trucks. Regarding hiring Dano, Chris says, “I wanted to find the right person. I would rather do it by myself and wait for the right guy. And I’m glad I did, because it worked out really well.”
When Chris started working in the woods, his family ran Timberjack and John Deere machines. In 2005, the family business purchased a Valmet harvester. Chris ran it for nearly nine years and then started to look into trading for a new machine. Whether it was karma, luck, or plain old coincidence, Chris met with Ponsse representatives at the logging show that year. “Believe it or not,” Chris says, “they had a machine there that wasn’t spoken for, and they let us demo it. We were sold from then on.”
Chris was impressed with the Ponsse representative’s knowledge of the machine, noting that they could answer questions only people who actually ran the machine could answer.
“Anybody can tell you specs on paper, but they knew a lot about what they sold. It’s what sold us,” says Chris. A few other things impressed Chris about Ponsse that made the sale easy. Like its performance, which Chris says was phenomenal.
Since then, Chris has stayed with Ponsse through his transition from his family’s logging business to his current owner/operator operation. Chris usually runs a 2017 Ponsse Scorpion, while Dano operates the 2017 Ponsse Buffalo. “I wasn’t going to change when I started my own thing. They’re a family-owned company, one of the few left in our industry. You buy into the family and that’s a huge deal for us.”
Keep It Clean
Daily maintenance is an important facet of Chris’ operation. Greasing every day, fueling the truck each night, and keeping the equipment clean are particular elements of his equipment philosophy.
“I’m particular. I think if you talk to anybody, everybody pretty much knows I’m very particular on our equipment. I like it to look nice and work every day,” says Chris.
Chris notes that keeping his iron running and looking good has been a point of pride with him. Along with keeping the cabs clean and windshields washed, they bring out a pressure washer to wash down the machines.
“It’s just what we do,” he says. “We spend a lot of time out here, way more time than we do at home. It’s just one of those things where some people think I’m crazy, but these machines don’t have to be beat up to be a tool and get the job done.”
This philosophy is also deeply rooted by the financial reality that well-maintained and clean equipment will fetch a better trade-in value than a busted-up hunk of iron.
“I know how much this stuff costs, and I want it to last a long time and get a good trade in for it, because we try to rotate them out fairly often, so that we’ve always got nice new stuff, and the only reason that works is because we take good care of it, and we get good trade-in for it,” he says.
The Prospect of the Future
Along with this mission to do it by himself, Chris is looking forward to boost production and efficiency. While he envisions that his company will not get much bigger than it is already, his desire to keep the operation small doesn’t mean he’s not going to expand his capabilities.
In October, Martin Timber Harvesting will take possession of the T-Winch 10.2 and will officially expand into tethered logging. He will be the first U.S. operator to receive the new, improved edition of the T-Winch.
Currently, the other logging outfits in the country that operate the T-Winch use the initial version T-Winch 10.1. Chris indicated the new model will be a little bit bigger and heavier and have more pulling power and a higher ground clearance.
He has based his decision on the need that future work will most likely require a tethering system for parts of some projects.
“They’re awesome,” he says. “They’re just so handy. It’s really going to open up what we can do.”
On the Cover
Photo taken by Andrea Watts of a Holbrook Inc. operation near Electron, Washington.
Finding Success in Challenging Times
In 2007, as the country entered the recession, Seth Campbell was fixing his eyes on a future for himself, his family and his crew.
From the Bottom Up
Chris Martin, owner of Martin Timber Harvesting, has taken the bull by the horns and set a standard of excellence.
It’s the Employees
For Holbrook Inc., success has come from the sum of its employees who have kept the company harvesting and moving logs for more than 30 years.
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