Mike Nicholson is co-founder and Managing Director of Gripsure. He answers some questions about his career to date and life outside the world of non-slip decking.
Can you briefly tell us how you started Gripsure?
Like so many of the best ideas, Gripsure sprang out of a conversation on an ordinary rainy day. Back in 2004, I used to run a contracting firm for resin surfacing, along with Gripsure co-founder Ross. We’d just finished a job for Cornwall Council, which involved coating timber planks in a non-slip material to be used on the South West coast path.
One day, when it was too rainy for us to be working on the roads, we got chatting about how else we could use our non-slip expertise. That’s when we came up with the idea of using the same process on garden decking. From a local farmer’s cowshed, where we originally based the business, we started experimenting with non-slip coatings on timber planks. Within a few years, the non-slip decking was selling better than our resin surfacing so we decided to give it our full focus and introduced the Gripsure brand.
Is it possible to describe a typical day as Managing Director of Gripsure?
Not really! A typical week is easier, as I try to have a good structure to the week and ensure I catch up with all elements of the business within that time frame. I also ensure I build in time for focussing on international development, which is my specific area.
In addition to a wholly owned French company, Gripsure SAS, Gripsure has a manufacturing partner in Japan and we have plans to establish the brand in 12 more territories. Despite our global outlook, Gripsure has stayed true to its roots. All of our non-slip decking boards are handcrafted by our own hardworking team here in Cornwall. And while we’ve got ambitions to extend our reach worldwide, we know there is still potential to grow here in the UK.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
As we’ve grown, it’s been incredibly rewarding to see the team develop. Being be able to help individual members of our team grow in confidence and develop themselves is very satisfying. I also love it when a plan comes together!
Timber decking remains incredibly popular. What do you think is the secret to its appeal?
Timber is a timeless material. It’s beautiful when done properly and it’s also very sustainable. Timber decking is quick to install, good value when compared to patios and other groundworks, and long lasting.
Gripsure is increasingly focused on environmental sustainability. Why is this so important to you and the company?
Well, if we don’t do something to stop climate change, there will be no environment for future generations. I believe all companies have a moral duty to do the best they can when it comes to sustainability. This is important – doing what you can - because every company or individual is in a different place along their own journey.
At Gripsure, we’re sponsoring tree planting projects both in the UK and abroad, introducing a whole host of more sustainable products and, of course, all our timber is certified under the industry flagship standards of FSC and PEFC. This is just the beginning and we will be doing more, as and when we can.
What skills and character traits do you think are most important for you in your role?
An ability to lead, be decisive and have a clear strategy are all essential. Character-wise, I think resilience and a ‘can-do’ attitude are right up there. In the past I’ve been told I’m fair and a good boss. I also know I can be impatient and very demanding, at least that’s what my wife told me to say!
What challenges have you had to overcome to get to where you are today and what inspires you?
I suppose the lessons learnt in running my own business are very different to those in my previous corporate roles. Adapting to those challenges along the way has been fun! If I could go back in time and speak to my younger self, I would say: “Get into a business or trade you’re passionate about, learn everything you can as quickly as you can and then set off on your own.”
In my personal life I am inspired by my five kids and their attitude to life. In work I have many inspirations, but currently enjoying reading books by James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, and Stephen Covey, who is best known for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
What is your favourite Gripsure decking board and why?
I have a phrase that I use a lot when talking to our production team: “every board matters.” So, no favourites, but every board we make matters to me and to the end customer.
What are your biggest achievements in your career and personal life?
Career wise, it’s got to be getting Gripsure to where we are now. We’ve come such a long way as we’ve grown from a small local contractor to a global brand. And we’ve stayed true to our roots of being a friendly family business with an uncompromising commitment to quality.
In my personal life my greatest achievement is seeing the kids grow up and making their own way in life.
How has the pandemic impacted the business?
After a worrying six weeks in March and April 2020, our products have been in demand ever since. We have not experienced a drop in orders from commercial customers and, at the same time, demand from homeowners for garden decking has exploded.
On a personal note, I’m now a big fan of video calling. It is so much more productive and better for the environment. It’s enabling us to easily communicate with our customers across the world.
What do you enjoy when you’re not working? Do you have any particular hobbies or interests outside work?
I try and keep fit, so regular exercise is important. We have two young dogs, so that gets me out on the coast path at the weekends. I also love various sports and wine tasting. Combining all these would make for my ideal weekend!