Building a second career to follow a very successful first career
is a challenge. When those two careers are as different as, say,
being an accountant and operating a lumber company, well,
that’s downright daunting. But that’s just the professional transition that Bob Moses has pulled off, while overcoming an additional catastrophe along the way.
Moses worked for three decades as a certified public accountant, including 27 years operating his own firm, Robert E. Moses
Certified Public Accountants in Lebanon, New Hampshire. But
in his mid-50s, he was ready for a change. In February 2013, he
sold his accounting firm to Nathan Wechsler & Company of
Concord, which retained Moses’ Lebanon office as well as the
Coincidentally, around that same time, Moses’ client of 25
years, Doug Britton, was transitioning into retirement and
looking to sell his business, Britton Lumber in Fairlee, Vermont.
More than just Britton’s accountant, Moses had become good
friends not only with the lumber company owner, but also a
large number of the Britton work force. They shared many of
the same interests, especially a love of the Red Sox and other
New England teams. Instead of dreading visits from the accountant, Doug Britton and his staff looked forward to visits from
The feeling was clearly mutual. Moses “took a risk” and called
Britton to see if he would be interested in selling Britton Lumber
Company to his family. Moses had always been interested in
managing a larger business, especially one that manufactured a
product. Britton Lumber seemed like a nice fit as the company
not only manufactured eastern white pine boards, it also distributed the manufactured lumber and a whole array of building
materials throughout northern New England, Massachusetts,
and upstate New York.
On January 1, 2014, the sale was completed and Moses took
ownership of Britton Lumber Company. “I was lucky that the
timing worked out. I didn’t want to retire, I just wanted to be
involved with a different business,” said Moses. As Moses stayed
on through 2013 to help Nathan Wechsler, Doug Britton stayed
on through 2014 to advise and assist Moses. “Doug Britton was
very generous with his time and commitment to me and has
been critical to the ongoing success of Britton Lumber. I had
much to learn about the operations of the company and Doug
was there to help and guide me all along the way in the first year
of my ownership,” said Moses.
While there was a steep learning curve to get up to speed
in the lumber business, things were about to become even
more challenging. Fifteen months into Moses’ ownership of the
company, Britton Lumber lost its sawmill to a multi-alarm fire.
The fire and the aftermath are what Moses calls “the biggest
challenge of my lifetime.”
By Alice H. Allen
At Work Overcoming a Fire With Bob Moses
Directly after the fire, Britton Lumber was forced to lay off 12
employees, but the experience had a direct and dramatic effect
on all of the company’s 60 employees at the time, according to
Moses. “It was a very stressful time for the company,” he says.
And for him personally. “I learned more about the intricacies of
insurance then I ever imagined possible during the year follow-
ing the fire,” said Moses, “and I did wonder, especially as time
wore on, whether we could ever close the circle with the insur-
ance company and continue to operate a sawmill.”
Fortunately, in the competitive but tightly knit forest prod-
ucts industry, there were those who stepped forward to offer a
helping hand. Moses says he is indebted to Cersosimo Lumber
for providing kiln-dried lumber from its Hartland, Vermont,
facility. A team of Britton Lumber employees traveled to
Hartland each day to sort and grade lumber as it came out of
the Cersosimo kilns and Britton’s trucks arrived virtually every
day to transport the lumber back to Fairlee. This allowed Britton
to keep its planermill fully operational. While it was no longer
able to do its own sawing, Britton Lumber hardly skipped a beat
in terms of production.
Given the time that would be required and the complexities
of rebuilding the sawmill on the same flood-zone site near the
Connecticut River, Moses began to look for other options. He
was soon approached about acquiring H.G. Wood Industries,
which operated a sawmill, planer mill, and kilns on roughly 38
acres in Bath, New Hampshire.
“We did work with architects and mill designers to see about
rebuilding, but at the end of the day purchasing H.G. Wood was
the better opportunity with a lower risk,” Moses concluded.
“Rather than enduring a two-year-plus construction project, we
could be back manufacturing within 16 months post-fire with a
combined work force from both locations.”
Britton Lumber purchases most of its logs – about $3 mil-
lion worth annually – from the Connecticut River Valley region
that encompasses parts of New Hampshire and Vermont. It’s the
From left: Bob Moses, owner of Britton Lumber. The newly expanded planer mill
building at the company’s Bath, New Hampshire, location. White pine.