A timber merchant talks about his love for all things wood

Francois didn’t intend on getting into the timber business – it just sort of happened. But 10 years of self-employment has proven the choice was right. Of course, there have been struggles. There always are. But in the end, the self-employed lifestyle supports him well.

Francois has been running his own business for 10 years now. But originally the banker stumbled onto this path by chance.

“I wanted to be employed,” Francois laughs. He was in a stable job and building his own home when he run into a serious problem finding quality hardwood. In a country blessed with hectors of natural forests this is hard for him to understand. He made do with inferior and expensive wood that he managed to source, and after completing the build he realized that her may be staring at an opportunity. And so, Francois's journey into self-employment began.

For a long time, Francois didn’t identify himself as a sole trader. He kept his full-time job at the bank until the strain of handling two roles at once became too much. Between full-time employment and trading, his own well-being began to suffer. It was time to make a choice.

He took the plunge and the rest is history.

Francois depends on Lori1 both at harvest and delivery of cured product

As fate would have it he found one of his previous customers was looking to sell a going concern in the exact industry Francois was interested in - complete with 5 years left on the property lease. The previous owner already had partnership with Lori1 which Francois was happy to continue with.

‘I was more interested in selling to a more discerning customer who would be interested in a cured and processed product meeting a unique customer specification rather then just selling green timber out the door as fast as it came in.’

He invested in a industrial kiln and begun looking around for high end construction projects, first locally then on the continent. No one seemed that interested or very few people or could justify the additional expense of the product.

Was he wrong about the existence of such a market?

‘It’s hard to describe the impending sense of doom that took over until a chance encounter with a South African ship builder who just happened to be in the country looking for teak wood for his creations. And just like that I found this elusive customer I had been sourcing for.’

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‘Even in labours of love, you can still get worn out.’

Francois is loving being in the timber business and says that its a dream profession. But he knows that working on her own has its downsides.

‘Even in labours of love, you can still get worn out – especially when working for yourself. The challenge is that no one limits or schedules the work. It can really get out of hand.’

Francois has learned from practice just how and when to say no. He avoided this at the start, too excited by the chance to get some work in. But over time Francois came to appreciate the value in scheduling a manageable workload.

‘I’ve had quite a few challenges in self-employment, and finding a balance was one of them. I took some time off and it really helped. I got distance and rest, and time to think about what comes next.’

So what do you do with your down time?

'I've discovered that I really enjoy working with my hands so I have gotten into carpentry. I now build my own furniture and fittings around the house'. He converted a garage into his dream shed where he works on his pieces.

‘It given me an appreciation of wood and just how wood is such an integral part of humanity and modern living.’

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