Guest Blog by Jim Tyrer, President, Trans-Pacific Trading (TRAPA)
As the comedian Steven Wright once said: Change is inevitable except from a vending machine. I believe that TRAPA’s success over the years has come through the understanding that change is an inevitability for a company to not only grow and thrive but to simply survive.
TRAPA is a collection of many programs, including custom cut, outside mill sales, inside mill sales, and Canadian log trading. Go back ten years and we find more than 95% of our current business did not exist! Building programs and expanding the scope of the overall business is literally “two steps forward, one step back.” Programs only have a certain lifespan. Even programs that look like they will last the test of time will eventually move on. Market conditions (on both sides of the trades), exchange rates, competition (direct/local, global, alternative products), labor disruptions, mill shutdowns, and takeovers are only but a few of the factors that can affect programs. If we’re not constantly searching for new supply, new partnerships, new markets, new traders, and new opportunities with current customers and supply bases, our business would inevitably shrink and eventually die.
There are a number of things on the horizon that could affect our business going forward. The deadline to renew the decade old Softwood Lumber Agreement between Canada and the U.S. has come and gone but there is still hope for a resolution in the coming months. Once the new agreement is finalized, the forest industry in BC and the Pacific Northwest will no doubt shift dramatically once again. Change in order to adapt and ultimately prosper will be key to moving through the undoubtedly turbulent time ahead.
Change must also come in the form of working on our internal processes. Hampton’s continuous improvement (“Lean”) effort has proven to be a valuable tool for looking at all areas of our company and finding new and innovative ways to squeeze out waste and streamline the way we conduct business. As our programs change and grow, as technology changes, as we add more people to our teams, our old systems become outdated, unproductive, and in many cases redundant. Being able to pull in the stakeholders in all of our business units (in our case traders, sales support, third party service providers, human resources, and accounting), getting them to be part of the continuous improvement process, and committing to change is incredibly powerful. With leaders clearly defining the goals and stakeholders having an equal voice in collective problem solving, we can keep the momentum, move initiatives forward, and ensure everyone stays aligned and understands key objectives.
We must embrace change but we don’t just make change for change’s sake; we are strategic and systematic about what we change, when we change, and what outcomes we envision through this process – growth and survival through continuous improvement.
Hampton exports a wide variety of wood products through our subsidiary, Trans-Pacific Trading Ltd. (TRAPA), headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia. TRAPA sells wood products to more than 20 countries, including Japan, Korea, and China.