From softwood to hardwood, from lumber panels to steel, AIFP provides comprehensive product solutions for our partners’ diverse needs. With the largest trading floor in North America, we divide our company into specialty departments. This level of specialization gives traders the advantage of being experts in the products they trade.
In this edition of the AIFP blog, we’ll take a closer look at one of these specialized departments. To kick us off, let’s meet the cedar traders. What does an average day look like to them, and what are the unique joys and challenges of their jobs?
Our cedar traders are experts in the business. Combined, we have over 70 years of experience in cedar trading. With our team’s deep understanding of the ins-and-outs of cedar trading, we instinctively understand how to provide product solutions that best fit the needs of our partners and customers.
Joan Musch joined AIFP as a trader in 1984. She’s been a major asset to our team, and we’re honored to have her as Department Head.
Throughout the day, Joan contacts mills to find products the customers need. When asked about the unique joys and challenges of cedar trading, Joan says:
· Challenges: Finding the correct grade and look for the customer.
· Joys: The joy is in the challenge! Solving the puzzle and finding that correct product and grade for the customer’s needs is hugely rewarding.
Brian Kirwan is a 25-year industry veteran, and is in his 7th year at AIFP. When asked what a typical day as a cedar trader looks like, Brian reports that there are no two days alike; according to him, there’s never a dull moment!
On the joys and challenges of cedar trading, Brian says:
· Challenges: Keeping the proprietary grades straight and matching them with what the customers like.
· Joys: Seeing a customer’s finished product. Cedar is not framing lumber hidden behind the sheetrock of a house; it’s used for its beauty and appearance, so it’s rewarding to see how the project turned out!
Nick Klohs has been trading since 2001. On a typical day trading cedar, Nick helps customers plan ahead to manage their inventory needs. He also provides customers with information about larger market trends.
When asked about the unique joys and challenges of cedar trading, Nick says:
· Challenges: Unlike most other species, the cedar trader must have a deep understanding of the grades and know how the same grade varies from mill to mill. This knowledge comes with years of trading, which is why it’s great AIFP has a cedar team.
· Joys: Sourcing hard-to-find items for customers to build and supplying the materials for beautiful cedar projects is rewarding.
David Kerlin joined AIFP last summer. David is multilingual, and actually lived abroad in China for two years. On a typical day on the job, David pours himself a large cup of coffee and makes calls to customers, either following up on inquiries or reaching out to new prospects.
When asked about the unique challenges and joys of cedar trading, David says:
· Challenges: Cedar traders must understand that different mills grade cedar in different ways than they would commodity lumber, such as Doug fir or spruce. Additionally, there are many proprietary grades that go outside the normal grading spectrum.
· Joys: Learning about my customer’s business. Currently, all of my customers are involved in manufacturing, and I enjoy learning about how they make their products as well as hearing about what their customers look for. This allows me to find the product that matches exactly what my customers need.
Orson May, Trader
Orson May has been trading fencing since childhood and has been sitting in the same chair at AIFP for 30 years. He’s known for his industry expertise, morality, truthfulness, and honesty.
Orson starts his day bright and early, since his main customer base is 1-2 hours ahead. He checks shipments first thing in the morning. At the end of each day, he makes a list of offerings and contacts customers with the items they have used in the past, seeing if they want to put them on their buy list. When asked about the joys and challenges of his job, he says:
· Challenges: Knowing the grades and gaining the confidence that you know each mill and the quality of cedar that they produce. Unlike other more commonly traded species, it takes about 3 years to thoroughly learn the cedar trading market.
· Joys: The greatest joy is turning prospects into loyal customers that become partners and friends for years.
Our traders come from a wide variety of different backgrounds. Some traders come to us with extensive experience. Others come to us with no industry experience, and we train them from the ground up through our Trader Development Program. If you are interested in joining this team of ambitious, go-getting entrepreneurs, we want to hear from you; reach out to us.
Up for the challenge? We'll give you the tools to excel. AIFP is continually growing. We recruit new traders year-round.
There is no substitute for hard work. If you really want to make and run a business here, you have all the tools available to you here.Billy Culver Trader, European Products Department Head
I really enjoy the freedom to create your own customer base and build a business trading the products you want to trade. While being the hardest thing I have ever done, being a trader has also been the most rewarding!Alex Schilling Trader