Keep On Logging!
27th June 2016 Paul Andrews
The Brand Logging forestry was founded 31 years ago by Tony and Kerin Brand in the Canterbury area of New Zealand’s South Island. Simon Brand is the eldest son and his brother and sister also work in the business.
The Family Tree: Growing a logging business in New Zealand
Simon always wanted to work in the family business: “I never really thought of doing anything else. Even as a kid, I used to help out in the school holidays. And this is the sort of business where it’s actually better to start early, rather than doing something different first. You need the respect of the guys on the team, and you won’t get that unless you’ve got the same experience they have. Starting so young means I probably had to grow up quicker than other people, but that’s a very small negative to set against many, many positives. And the longer I work with Dad, the more I learn, both about the logging and the financial side of things.”
As this suggests, Simon’s father still takes a very active role in the business, but the two of them have developed a good working relationship. “At the end of the day he has the final say, but most of the time we try and work things out between us. For example, if we were looking at buying a new machine or pricing the next contract we would always go through that together. I think that’s one of the advantages of being in a family business – you tend to have a similar way of thinking about most things.”
What about his brother and sister – do they see things the same way too, especially when it comes to who’s going to take over when their father retires? Simon admits that there were times when the three of them had to work together to identify where each of them fit within the business, “but I like to think I’ve worked hard to get where I am now. They know I’m going to run it one day, but the idea is that we’ll all get the shares. The challenge there is establishing how much the business is worth, so everyone gets a fair deal, including our parents – with a private business, valuations can be tricky to pin down. The most important thing is to avoid having money issues rip the family apart, but I don’t think it would ever come to that.”
As for wider business trends, you probably wouldn’t think forestry was much affected by digital technology – it’s more about logging than logging on! But think again: as Simon says, “one of our current machines can now be operated remotely, and there’s potential for growth in this field for us. We also have cutting tools that use digital technology to divide logs into the exact size required. That’s made us more productive, but it brings new challenges too. It changes the Health and Safety issues we have to manage, for example. It’s not just about digital though – we spend a lot of time monitoring trends in our sector, and what other companies are doing. You can’t afford to be left behind. But that’s one of the things I enjoy about what I do. The more I learn about this business, the more I like it.”
About the Authors - This insight was part of the PwC global report, The Next Generation of Family Business Leaders which was published in 2016 and has been reproduced with their permission. You can read more of the report here