March 11, 2015

Logger Darryl Booker embraces change to drive his forestry business

Since he was a child, Darryl Booker knew his future was in the woods. A third generation logger, the 30-year-old from Oxford, Mississippi, is using his father's passion and his own drive for success to push the business to new heights.

"When I was little, I spent all my time in the woods helping my father with his logging operation. Honestly, if this hadn't been my father's passion, I don't think it would be mine today," said Booker. Now in charge of the family business, Booker manages a crew and five pieces of John Deere machinery. He is also focused on growing his business and avoiding any roadblocks along the way.

Like many loggers, Booker faces an uphill battle in today's climate. "A lot of loggers have gotten out of the business because they were worn out," said Booker. "The challenges are there for a business owner. The industry is rapidly changing due to technology, and we are struggling to find qualified workers to run this high-tech equipment."

Booker hasn't let the challenges slow him down yet, but he admits that finding quality employees is an issue that every logger is facing, regardless of their location. "I just posted on Facebook that I am looking for good help to run equipment. I had a few guys write back, 'good luck.' This isn't just an issue down in Mississippi. Friends across the country are saying that it's tough find good help," said Booker.

Unfortunately for owners like Booker, many of the people looking for work in the industry are inexperienced. Booker notes that many loggers will avoid hiring new loggers because "they are worried about the unexpected costs." Because there is not a real recruitment practice in place, many of these new employees are hired after pulling up to the jobsite and asking if there are openings. This leads to many headaches and expensive repairs for employers, who are then less likely to hire someone without experience in the future.

Booker sees that there is a need for education in the industry. "I hear about logging courses at local universities, and it is a great idea to train these younger kids," said Booker. "It is vital for new workers to get as much experience as possible, but there is also an opportunity for loggers to work with these programs. By following a model like the trucking industry, where students are certified and then offered jobs with a company upon completion, the logging industry could solve its employee issue while erasing concerns of ruined equipment."

As a business owner, Booker is now figuring out how to handle the challenges of hiring more workers and managing a growing business. "As an owner, I have to be motivated and hands-on to learn all aspects of my business – from the bookkeeping to the running of equipment," said Booker. "As the industry continues to change, it's important to recognize that some days are good and some are bad, but as an owner you have to prevail and continue to embrace the changes."