Working alongside husband Hayden, Sarah Wilson is helping to run their Logging Contracting business Mahuta Logging. While tackling the recent challenges of the log price downturn, Covid-19 lockdown, tighter finance parameters and the day to day ups and downs of doing business, plus juggling a young family and a farming job, Sarah is up for the challenge by taking a proactive approach to being involved.
The couple operate a swing yarder crew in the Ngatea / Hauraki area, and have worked to achieve Safetree Contractor Certification in the past year as part of their business plan.
“We started off with a small pole hauler, then switched to a swing yarder,” she says.
“It’s a much more reliable machine – we basically traded downtime for debt, and overall, it’s been a good decision.”
Sarah says it was always a dream of Hayden’s to run a forestry business.
“It’s been a dream of his to own his own machines, and he has a passion for the industry and wanted to be his own boss,” she says.
“An opportunity came along to start up, and Hayden was ready for that next step, so we took it and here we are almost two years later.”
Having a handle on the numbers is one of the key skills Sarah brings to the table.
“I used to work as a rural bank manager for ANZ, so I have a pretty good handle on the financial side of things,” she says.
“I have a budget out to July next year, which makes it easier for me to anticipate what’s coming and manage our finances.”
“If Hayden tells me about something that might happen, I’ll often take the worst-case scenario and add it to my budget. That way, we’re prepared for the worst financially and can get through it either way.”
She has a Bachelor of Applied Science from Massey University, and says having a background in finance probably helped the couple to start in the first place.
“I think that finance background was really helpful,” she says.
“When we looked into getting finance, it probably wasn’t the best-looking proposal, but our different backgrounds probably strengthened our not so strong financial position.”
It’s been a challenging environment to work in since launching in October 2018.
The log price downturn followed by the Covid-19 lockdown has been an unprecedented situation, which has made doing business extra challenging.
The couple is doing their best to make it work, and Sarah says as well as having a handle on the finances coupled with having good staff has made a difference.
“We’ve had the same team since last November, so we’ve been really lucky with staff and our focus has been to keep them going,” she says.
“Things have started to pick up a bit, and the work seems to be lining up, which is reassuring,” she says.
Sarah says working with their forest manager and advisors has been key to getting through.
“We’ve been having open discussions with our forest manager about what our combined needs are,” she says.
“Then we can kind of go from there to look at the alternatives – the most important thing to us has been keeping our staff and not having the ups and downs affect them.”
“We’ve had great support from our accountant and finance company too, it’s been incredible. We wouldn’t be in business if we hadn’t paired ourselves with those professionals.”
She says the couple’s current focus is looking into their environmental obligations and working with their advisors on how they can build that into their rates effectively.
As well as logging, Sarah works on her parent’s dairy farm while juggling their young family, with another baby on the way.
“One major difference between farming and forestry is that everyday matters in logging,” she laughs.
“There’s a bit more flexibility with farming but with logging, if you’re not working you really notice.”