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Editorial: The core of any business is the folk who run it


October 28, 2019
By Maria Church
Maria Church
From left, Gilbert Smith Forest Products' maintenance co-ordinator Kate Schilling, maintenance superintendent Darryl Gramiak, plant manager Kathy Cooper, and lead hand Mike Kennedy.

I read something on a social media page the other day that made me laugh. It went something like: Your salary is your computer’s yearly subscription to you.

It’s a funny thought, particularly for someone like me whose entire job is tied to a computer or phone. Who’s really calling the shots? Well, me, of course, but computers and the Internet have certainly changed the media game. Ask any 50+ reporter about the “good ol’ days” and they’ll regal you with tales of filing stories word-for-word to their editors over the phone and literally “spiking” written articles that didn’t make it to print. (That last reference might go back further than 50 years.)

Yes, technology has changed my profession, but at its core it’s still a business of people. The slogan of CFI’s parent company and my employer, Annex Business Media, is “Great content. Better people.” Without those people, there is no business.

The same can be said for nearly all industries. By all accounts, we’re a long way off from artificial intelligence actually exhibiting “intelligence” that would rival a creative mind. Instead, our jobs are changing, more often requiring problem solving and leadership skills rather than physical strength. But, as always, talented, hardworking people are the core of any successful company. And any boss worth his or her salt knows that treating your people right pays for itself.

The forestry companies featured in our September/October issue are prime examples of the benefits of treating your people right.

I got a first hand look at one when I spent the day with Barriere, B.C., cedar mill Gilbert Smith Forest Products. After the usual interview and mill tour, I took part in a retirement party that gave me a snapshot of what employees mean to the company. There was a lunch, cake, and lots of remember-whens among co-workers of all seniorities.

Third-generation mill president Greg Smith says mill employees are like family. Not surprisingly, he asked that the focus of the article be on the Gilbert Smith team. It was a natural decision given how many employee-centred measures have been put in place over the last few years, including new administrative upgrades, maintenance and safety procedures. Read about those upgrades as part of the mill’s profile here.

CFI’s newest contributor, Adam Kveton, got to know another company that clearly understands the value of its employees – likely because all three of its owners were former operators.

“We pride ourselves on introducing the young generation to the industry and making them proud to be west coast loggers,” Wahkash Contracting co-owner Dorian Uzzell told Adam. The Vancouver Island logging company goes out of its way to encourage young operators to rise through the ranks and take on leadership roles – just like its owners did. It’s a solid strategy for an industry that’s borderline desperate for young blood. Read about the company here.

Top 10 Under 40

At the risk of sounding like a broken record year after year, I’ll say again that our annual Top 10 Under 40 contest in this issue is a wonderful way for companies to express value in their people – particularly when these young leaders are on track to contribute long-term to our industry.

Our 10 winners this year are an inspirational bunch, from SFI’s Zachary Wagman, who spent the summer riding a wooden bike across Canada to encourage youth to consider a career in the forest industry, to Kalesnikoff Lumber Company CFO Krystle Seed, who led the charge to secure financing for the company’s $35-million cross-laminated mass timber plant.

Read all their profiles here, and join us in celebrating their successes on social media: @CFImag on Twitter, @CFImag on Instagram, and Canadian Forest Industries on Facebook. Cheers!