The Forest Around Us



Bill Moore

A fable of the forest

number 4

....Now of course management under-stands labor’s point of view. And likewise, labor understands manage-ment’s point of view. And in an in-dustry as large and as complex as Canada’s forest industry it is very nec-essary for both parties to understand each other. And naturally the public (who are they?) understands each side. For if all these people didn’t under-stand each other there would be confu-sion – and we all know that confustion was a word invented by the good old P.R. man.
....This is a fable - so don’t worry about it.
....Farnsworth Botkins walked into the board meeting of the McLarge Forest Co. with a smile on his face. “Good morning F.B.,”—“Morning gentlemen — let’s get right to work,—Harry, give us that report on the merger with Knotty Lumber Co. and say, Harry, I liked that ad of theirs on Channel One last night.” “If it’s knotty it’s got to be good.” - great message - must be a fine outfit—hope we can take ‘em over.
....“Well, F.B., like you say, Knotty is a great outfit. And their profit picture gets better all the time. They’re on a 7R2 scale as of last earnings — with a potential 2B6 in the projections for the year. Smiley Smithson, who dreamed up the ad you saw told me on the 17th green yesterday that the merger looks A.O.K. and he expects the burned down mills to be rebuilt by Monday and the floods in their timber holdings should recede to rowboat level by summer. The strike they’ve got is illegal so it doesn’t count. The merger’s a cinch to be O.K.’d by their board tomorrow.”

....“Great, Harry, — now what about overseas sales, Witherspoon?”
....“Great F.B. Two by fours are hot in Moravia and the new polka dot tissue is a biggy in Amazonia. We have Happy Hertz and a team of P.R. boys down there and they’re really hyping up the old sales. That idea of getting Delight Dexter to autograph every roll was a winner and she’s with our boys signing like mad. She contracted malaria but our little star insisted on being packed into the jungle on a litter and she’s keeping the natives happy by signing their rolls with the help of the chief of the tribe. Great little worker that gal, F.B. Just an example of the wonderful people we’ve got in this outfit.”
....“Great, Witherspoon — with emp-loyees like Delight Dexter as an example we can’t go wrong — send her a bonus and some malaria pills. And the chief too — send him one of our Press Kits on our Arctic Operations. Gotta get the word out to the people.”
....“Which reminds me gentlemen — give me your reports on our new “People Info” project. We gotta let the people know about McLarge or they won’t understand us. Start with you Sweeny.”
....“Great, F.B. Like you say — we gotta let the people know what we’re doing. I sometimes think we’re badly misunderstood by the good old public (who are they?) — so we should show them the big picture that we’re really a good corporate bunch of fellows. I figure we should hit the kids — that way their parents will get the message and understand us. So I figure we have a contest for all two
year old kids to think up a slogan on our paper bags — like “It’s in the bag.” I’m sure the good old P.R. gang could run this one up the flag-pole and make it a big winner. How does that grab you, F.B.?”
....“Great, Sweeney — an’ like you say, we gotta be understood. What about you, Clive — any ideas?”
....“Great, Mr. Botkins — my slant is aimed at the sports minded public — We sponsor a World Tournament of Tiddly Winks and get Jack Dempsey to referee the event. We rent a big farm in Alberta for the event and have Tiddly Winks hats on everyone in Canada — with a million two by fours to the winner.”
....“Great Clive, by gosh you boys have sure been doing your homework. Well, I guess that’s about it for our People Info project, I’d like to thank you fellows for your devoted work for old McLarge Co. Now, what is it Phelps? Have you got something to say—come on old chap, out with it.”
....“Well, F.B., it’s about our profits-"
....“Profits!—what profits?—oh yes, our profits. Pretty good year last year—boys—pretty good—but then the labor boys are going to hit us for a health raise. O.K. Phelps, what is it?”
....“Well, Mr. Botkins, I just thought it might be a good idea if we told the public where all the profits go. Sort of itemize all the new machinery we have to buy and the upcoming cost of our new plants, and how much we have top pay our stockholders. My kids are always bug-ging me that this outfit makes too much money and they don’t understand about the profit and loss figures we publish at each quarter. I sort of agree with them
British Columbia Lumberman, August, 1974

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from the public’s point of view—they never see how we need profits to pour back into the company in order to keep the business healthy. And, another point I thought we might give some thought to, is to let the work force in our camps and mills have a say in how we run things—you know, like they’re doing in Germany and Scandinavia? They’ve found over there that by having equal participation on a committee of management and work force, the company gets along better with its employees and the public. They even have a director of the company appointed from the work force. In this way there is a feeling amongst the employees that they have a real interest in the company. Maybe it’s kind of a different way of doing things Mr. Botkins—but I think the public and our employees expect to know more about how big companies like McLarge work. It doesn’t seem good enough in this day of so much social change to just issue quarterly reports that only confuse people—and also to not let our own employees have some say in how the company is run.”
....“Just a minute Phelps—what do you mean in how the company is run? I’ll have it known that this company is run very well right now and we are very conscious of our employees — Explain yourself.”
....“Well Mr. Botkins, with no offence meant about McLarge or how it is run, this is a pretty big company—and as I have traveled around in it through the years I have noticed that we have many problems in our camps and mills that are due just to a lack of communication and understanding on the part of both sides—management and labor. Take our logging camps for instance—some of them are in remote areas and I sometimes think our managers don’t get enough help from the top people. We should be sure that living and working conditions in those camps are the best we can provide—and I think an equal mana-gement and labor force committee in those camps could better solve the problems themselves—in most cases — than a far-removed group such as ourselves. As it is now it’s not too bad if we have real top managers in all our camps—but sometimes we get fellows who may be good loggers but are not equally good managers of people. Also I have found that real good managers could welcome such a committee to assist them by bringing problems of the camp to their notice and recommending ways to make things better. It’s sort of like a safety committee, but with a far wider scope to take in all aspects of the operation—work conditions, housing conditions, recreation, schooling, costs
of living through group buying, safety, and all sorts of inter-related problems.
....“I sort of put the program on this level—we need a better relationship with our employees before we can expect a better relationship and under-standing from the public. And I don’t believe all the old programs of Tiddly Wink contests and prizes and slogans and quarterly financial announcements are good enough to get us by in this very “aware age.”
....The board room was silent—you could have heard a toothpick drop. All faces turned to Farnsworth Botkins. The chairman grunted again, he looked at the faces of his trusted group and turned to Phelps.
....“Phelps—damn it—you’re right. I see your point and it makes common sense. You’ve hit it right on the head with what you say. By gosh we’ll adopt this program of yours and be the

first to really show our own people — and the public — that McLarge recognizes this new “aware age” as you call it. Now let’s get to it—cancel that Tiddly Wink idea—cancel that kiddy contest. And Harry, tell that Knotty Lumber Co. to forget the merger, who needs their burned down mills or flooded timber lands—that was to be a tax write off anyway. Now, gentlemen, let’s do the following...“
....Of course this is just a fable—and everyone knows that fables don’t come true—they’re only wild dreams of story tellers—
....But wouldn’t it be interesting to try just for once?—but as I say—it’s just a fable!

Keep out of the bight

British Columbia Lumberman, August, 1974