October 17, 2016
It's Who You Know. Networking is Crucial to Successful Logging.
A few years ago, an old acquaintance of Eddie Moore's, who happened to be a Maryland state senator, was negotiating with a sawmill for a tract of timber he was selling. He wanted assurances that Moore would be the logger to harvest the tract. When the mill couldn't make any guarantees, he pulled the contract off the table.
Networking is an important part of any business. Some would argue maintaining a strong professional network is one of the most important things you can do in your career. For Moore, it was what allowed his business to survive some daunting challenges.
Over the course of your working life, you will meet many people. Whether you work with them directly, indirectly, or even if they are casual or social acquaintances, every person you meet is a potential contact that could impact your business.
Logging may seem like a solitary profession, not subject to the hustle of other pursuits. Indeed, one of the benefits of working in the timber business is being outside, in the woods, far from the rat race. But networking is just as important in logging as it is in any business — perhaps even more so.
Moore works on the eastern shore of Maryland, an area isolated by Chesapeake Bay and dotted with state forests and parks. For almost 35 years, Moore worked the forests on private lands, clear cutting and selling his timber to local mills.
About ten years ago, the mills started closing, one by one. At first, Moore thought that spelled the end for his business as well. "I was left standing out on the street," recalled Moore. "I thought we were done."
The only work that was left was thinning operations, mostly on public land, and there was intense competition to get that work. "There was a glut in the market of loggers who wanted to get into thinning," Moore said.
To keep his business alive, Moore relied on the network of contacts he had built over the years. He made a few phone calls to friends and business acquaintances he knew. "I've come in contact with a lot of people," he said, adding that maintaining those relationships was what allowed him to stay in business. "Within a day or two my phone was ringing and I had six months worth of work."
Moore's commitment to networking provided a distinct advantage in obtaining contracts over other loggers. His approach to networking holds some important lessons for all loggers.
Everyone is a Potential Contact
Everyone you meet in business and even social situations could be a contact that will help you later on, so it's important to treat every interaction accordingly. Early in his career, Moore developed relationships with foresters and farmers in his area, and over time that led to job opportunities.
Today, Moore works primarily on state land, and therefore comes into contact with a lot of different people, from Forest Stewardship Council inspectors, to college students, to people hiking through the forest. While it can disrupt his production, he makes sure to maintain his professionalism and thoroughly explain his work to people.
It Works Both Ways
One of the most important things to realize in networking is the best way to help yourself is to help others. This is an approach Moore takes, particularly with foresters. "Foresters are not logging oriented," he said. "We've worked with new foresters to educate them on good harvesting procedures, and what can and can't be done."
By taking the time to share his knowledge, Moore has been able to build relationships that not only lead to more work, but also raise his profile in the industry. He's been asked to serve on the Maryland Forest Association's Master Logger steering committee, helping to provide educational seminars for loggers. That opportunity has given him even more access to foresters, landowners and other individuals to add to his network.
You can meet all the people you want, but if you leave a bad impression you might have been better off not making the contact. That's why doing good work is important to Moore. "Quality of work is mandatory," he said. "When you can do good work and show that you're a true professional, people remember that."
Moore has always strived to do things right and do things well, and that has bolstered his reputation in the area. When people hire him, they know things will get done right.
Working in the woods has some definite perks. Not only does it provide a great opportunity to earn a living, but it also doesn't have the drawbacks of office politics, stressful commutes, and monotonous tasks. But that doesn't mean you're exempt from networking. The more you can build your contacts, and maintain them over time, the more likely you will get opportunities you never knew possible.