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Linda Grodner Operates Sawmill Exchange Honoring Values Held by Her Late Husband
Sawmill Exchange: Helping people find just the right equipment deal. Linda Grodner continues the legacy of equipment brokerage website and service
By Lisa Monroe
Date Posted: 8/1/2017
When Brian Grodner died from cancer almost four years ago, his wife Linda decided to take over Sawmill Exchange, the business he had founded in 1996. Brian Grodner was passionate about his company and left very big shoes to fill. But she felt continuing the business was the best way to continue Brian’s legacy and serve his valued customers.
Sawmill Exchange is a brokerage firm for sawmill, woodworking, forestry, and logging equipment throughout the United States and Canada. Today, Linda operates the business out of Houston, Texas, running it a little differently than similar firms because of some core beliefs that Brian held.
For one thing, said Linda, “We do encourage the buyers and the sellers to communicate with each other directly. I tell people that I’m like a matchmaker.” She helps buyers by answering their questions and narrowing down their choices, then when she’s found the right seller for them, she lets them work together to finalize the deal to make sure it’s a good fit for both parties. Most brokerage firms want all the communication to go through them and don’t want the seller and buyer to communicate directly.
The Sawmill Exchange service is free to buyers and the seller pays only a commission fee when the sale is finalized so it’s risk-free advertising for equipment, Linda said.
“We don’t do contracts which may be another thing that makes us different,” she said. “We use the honor system. My husband used to call it a hand shake over the phone. He used to say 95% of the people are good and 5% are not good and it’s not right to punish the good for what the minority do.” Like her husband, she said she also believes that the majority of people are honest and do the right thing.
An occupational therapist for a hand surgeon prior to her husband’s death, Linda said she used to help him with the business, but only in a limited capacity. She helped with the company website, correspondence, bookkeeping and other administrative duties, but had a great deal to learn after he passed away and she decided to leave her career behind to take over his business.
“I had to learn about the equipment because I didn’t have the background of understanding how basic machines work,” she said, explaining that the way she first started to learn was to identify a manufacturer by the color of a machine. “I didn’t know the brands or the difference between the different types of machines, but then I started to learn a little bit by color…Bakers are blue, Wood-Mizer is orange, John Deere is green, Caterpillars are yellow…so I’ve come a long way.”
“Now I can somewhat talk intelligently about the sawmill equipment,” she said, but she still has a lot to learn, especially when it comes to types of equipment that she doesn’t see as often like loaders and planers. “But I found the majority of the people in the industry have been very helpful. They’re good about answering questions, and there are some companies out there that have been terrific with helping me with the transition.”
Even though it’s been almost four years, Linda said she still gets calls from people asking for Brian, who don’t realize that he passed away. To his credit most just ask for him by first name and only leave a first name when they leave a message because they know he’d know them. “He made everyone feel like they were very important. He definitely had a big impact. It was his personality,” Linda said. “People feel so comfortable with Sawmill Exchange that they feel like it’s a friend, and I try to maintain that relationship with people.”
Even though Linda describes her business as a “one man”…now a “one woman” show, their two daughters, now 15 and 13, also try to help out with the business in any way they can. They do small jobs like stuffing envelopes and putting on postage. Linda hopes that someday they’ll learn enough about sawmill equipment to be able to help take calls.
For more information, visit www.sawmillexchange.com.