“Important to understand the culture and people”

Daniel Färdeman is an export salesperson at Norra Timber and sells sawn timber into markets such as the USA, Europe and Asia. 

“There’s always a lot going on”, he says and laughs. 

Published 2 April 2024

Daniel is a qualified forester with a focus on forest industry economics. After graduation he started working in the logistics sector, but soon felt he would rather be closer to the end consumer. He then got a job at Norra Timber as a salesman operating in several markets, working alongside an experienced colleague for six months to learn the ropes. 

“I like the buzz of doing business. It's exciting for someone with an entrepreneurial drive to see the journey from a log in the forest through the processing stages and finally into a finished product. It’s also fun to explore ways of optimizing the entire chain”, he says. 
Daniel travels anywhere between 40 to 60 days a year, mainly to Europe, but also to Asia and the USA. He believes the most important thing in his job is to be able to build long-term relationships and networks and to understand what provides added value for his customers. 

Kundbesök Japan Norra Timber
Daniel Färdeman together with Japanese customer Hiroki Hayashi from Sumitomo Forest, who was visiting north Sweden to inspect Norra Timber's products.

“Whether the customer is sitting in England, in a furniture factory in China or it concerns an exclusive detail for a car manufacturer in Germany, it is important to discover what the customer wants and appreciates. We work with wood, which is a living material and never looks the same twice, which means we have to be good at customizing products for our customers”, he says. 

Daniel believes the trend is heading towards increasingly customized products, as well as having a setup that reduces waste for both the supplier and the customer. 

“Timber today is more expensive and we have more competition for our forests, so we have to put as high a value on each log as possible and cannot afford any waste. Reduced spillage is an important factor in being sustainable in the long run”. 

Norra Timber's investments in new technology, and perhaps especially in its 3D X-ray machines that scan each log and use AI to determine what the log is most optimized for, create high value for the customer, says Daniel. 

“We know that it will become more expensive to transport products in the long term, which means prices will be higher for the customer. But if the customer receives a product where there has been very little waste they are still satisfied. Our technological investments will be critical in the future”. 

When it comes to product development, Daniel believes it is important to find the segments that Norra Timber’s raw materials are most suitable for. Often the biggest challenge is a lack of knowledge on the part of some ​customers​. 

“Industrial companies often have a good idea of the raw materials they want and why. But wholesalers and importers are not so certain, and they also often want a Ferrari but have the budget for a Fiat. They don't understand why our slow-grown trees from northern Sweden are more expensive than timber from, for example, southern Sweden or Germany. Being able to choose who we work with and which customers we believe in in the long term is an important strategic puzzle we’re constantly putting together”, says Daniel. 

 ​He has endless anecdotes from his many business trips – including sweating in 43-degree heat in India, traveling to obscure locations, eating extremely spicy food and suffering from a bout of food poisoning. 

“When you sit in a traditional tea ceremony in China and eat sandworms, you may not feel at your most glamorous. But at the same time it is a very familiar ritual in China. You are often invited into their home and get to meet the respective client, which means it becomes a deeper relationship that doesn't exist elsewhere in the industry. One of the most important parts of my role is to be able to understand people and their cultures. How do they see the world and how do they do business? There can be radical differences between our approaches, so you really have to understand the market”, says Daniel. 

He continues: 

“In Europe and the USA I usually sit and negotiate with white middle-aged men. But in China it is often well-educated, sharp young women who occupy the senior posts - which is very refreshing to experience”. 

Daniel Färdeman on a visit to the large furniture industry Feishang in China

 Daniel is enjoying his role at Norra Timber, which he describes as a flat organization with short decision-making paths, and also a company that dares to look forward and wants to be part of climate transition. 

“I have been on many exciting trips with my work and it is the contrasts that attract me. One day I can be sitting with a family running a small timber yard in a town in Germany, and the next day negotiating gigantic volumes with a facility in Asia. That's awesome! But the most important thing to remember is that business is always about people”.