At 58-years-old, Frank Green of Caledonian Plywood might admit that he’s not as fast on his feet as he used to be. But many in the trade will still vouch that he’s a strong adversary, or fantastic trader, depending on which side they’re on.

For people in the earlier stages of their career, much of Frank’s trading style may also seem unusual. This is because it was honed when the Iron Curtain still existed, trading with North America was an enormous part of the business, the Far East was an emerging market, Brazil had yet to really happen and Chinese plywood did not exist.

Going back to the beginning, Frank had no plans to go into timber. In fact, he originally thought he was "born to be a policeman".

"I was having a break before my final exams for the police force and got a summer job with London Plywood & Timber," said Frank. This was 1962 and he was 16. "Mr Jaeger, the owner, listened in to phone calls and he heard me chatting up one of the secretaries. Strangely enough I got transferred to the yard and, while I hated some of it, it gave me a fantastic grounding for working with plywood. I really got into it and took evening classes, including my IWSccertificate."

By 1968, that easy style and strong urge to win had got Frank into sales and his first company car – a green Ford Cortina. "I covered east and north London, Essex and Beds. I learned very quickly and was streetwise, building the business up until the company hit financial problems due to a voluntary liquidation."

Frank was soon in another job, with Hunter Plywood, based in the City of London, and funded by David Thompson, one of the joint founders of Hillsdown Holdings.

"We grew that business rapidly, from around £1m in 1971 to £6m in 1975. By our 20th anniversary in 1985 we were trading in excess of £25m and profitably too – the TTJ top 50 business survey showed we were fourth in terms of profit per employee."

This was perfect for Frank, who enjoys the cut and thrust of buying and selling. "I was very aggressive, a real go-getter and I travelled all over the world." The business took him to the Far East, and South America. He was 23, married with two young children and admits it was a frantic lifestyle. "I was hardly at home sometimes," he said.

Hunter Plywood traded in all sheet materials, but was outside the ‘big six’ companies that had control over the marketing and sales of many large mills in Canada, Finland and Russia. "We gradually broke our way in, especially in Canada, buying through certain contacts, using non-association mills. It was an exciting time and the volumes were huge. Our secret was that we would commit volume, never buying currency until the vessel arrived."

Frank knew his products extremely well and understood how their domestic markets worked. "I broke the rules and could see the right times to move in and buy – or not."

By the mid-1980s Hillsdown Holdings was growing by acquisition and its plywood business, Hunter, took over many well known names, including May & Hassall and Mallinson-Denny. This brought about consolidation and Frank became closely involved in buying for the whole group. In 1989 Wickes purchased the business.

The next 10 years saw massive changes in the industry for a variety of reasons, including recession. Frank’s enthusiasm didn’t wane, but the style of trading changed. He left Wickes to join Meyer where he ran the buying department for six years.

In 1999, Frank was approached by Caledonian Plywood, which was trading very successfully in Scotland and northern England, to open a southern base along with Sam Ballard. Sam describes his colleague as "the best trader I know". "While he’s not the manufacturer’s or agent’s friend because he does buy well, there’s a tremendous respect for what he does. It gives him a great buzz to do a good deal."

Frank is also known for using a range of his own reassembled clichés and the one that perhaps best sums him up is that he’s a man who loves "ploughing his own canoe". He is still very switched on to the market, its products and his customers, trading each working day in the way he knows best – "buy right, sell right".