21 July 2024, 10:28
By Victoria Noakes May 05, 2016

Michael Nash, The Foam Company

Michael Nash is the MD of The Foam Company. Founded in 1986, The Foam Company is a manufacturer of predominantly foam, memory foam and latex beds and mattresses, but also supplies converted foam and polyester fibre to other vertical markets.

How did you enter the trade?
After leaving university, I wanted to prove myself outside of the family business, so worked away for the best part of 10 years in sales and sales management roles. I joined in December 2007 when there was an opportunity to add some value and help drive us forwards.

Who is your inspiration?
A little predictable perhaps, but clearly mum and dad are major influences. They kept the business going through extremely difficult times, and had the foresight to produce a mattress all those years ago. Importantly, they have always looked after others before themselves, keeping money in the business rather than taking it out.  But perhaps most notably, they have worked together for nearly 30 years, and are still happily married!

Outside of the family, it has to be Steve Jobs – his unwavering vision of what the market would eventually want – despite early scepticism – was nothing short of astounding.

What has been your career high point so far?
The call that I made to John Tuton of Mammoth in June 2011 was significant. I had seen the Mammoth product in various sports magazines, and had a gut feeling that a partnership between his and our business could be very successful within the bed retail sector. I think a few people laughed at us when we launched, predicting a disaster, so I am proud that I had faith in my judgment, and of the success we have had.

... and the low point?
The start of the recession was tough, but for different reasons than you may expect. We were actually growing extremely quickly, but cash was difficult to come by. At the same time, some of our suppliers were American owned and took a different attitude to credit than they had previously – much stricter. A real low point was driving into work wondering whether key raw materials would be delivered or not.

...and the turning point?
We had a choice – to walk away from credit issues and start again. This would have been the easy option which many take – close one business, and start another the next day.

We are a family business however, and proud of our name and we felt we could not do this to our suppliers, staff, agents etc.

So we plunged our hard earned personal savings into the business – I remember the conversation with Mum and Dad, and my then wife vividly! This gave us cash, cleared some of our debt and gave us a solid trading platform. It was one of the best decisions we have made, as we were then able to carry on our profitable growth – plus we can sleep at night as we didn’t let anybody down. Now I hope we are classified as excellent customers by our suppliers!

Describe a typical working day
One of the things I love about my role is that every day is different. I try to spend one or two days a week in the office catching up with the team, and then the rest of the week either working from my home office or out visiting suppliers and customers.

If you had to start over, you’d probably pursue which career?
Not sure I would change to be honest!

What date on the business calendar do you most look forward to?
23rd December – it signals the start of the only shutdown period we have these days, and is the only time I can really “down tools” and relax. It means Ruth, Jack and Harry get “nice dad” rather than “preoccupied Dad”!

What is the most important issue affecting your business right now?
There is always something lurking round the corner that will bite you – that is why I am never complacent. The key challenge at the moment is making ourselves market leaders in every respect – not just product and innovation, but service. We hope to have some interesting news soon which should help us along the way.

What company do you most look up to?
I admire anybody who takes personal risks to achieve commercial success. I respect Mammoth hugely for that reason. John Tuton brought a unique message to the sports and healthcare market, and took huge personal risks along the way. Outside our industry, I think companies like ao.com are excellent – they get everything right – product, price and service – something that is quite rare these days, but something we aspire to.

What would you most like to change about yourself?
Clearly better looks and slightly thinner would be a bonus! I am also poor at detail – I have good ideas, but get frustrated at sitting down and writing plans – I need support from others in this area, but fortunately we have those people in our business.

What do you enjoy most about working in the trade?
I love the realism of it – I have worked in some fairly stuffy corporate environments with lots of acronyms and long words. I relish the fact that people in our industry generally work with honesty and openness.

Leave us with an industry anecdote please!
I remember Geoff Gale, owner of Newbridge St Bedding Centres who sadly passed away last year, taking myself and one of our agents out for dinner to a superb Chinese restaurant. He not only paid the bill but ordered me a case of the wine we were drinking. I did my best to stop him and pay myself as he was our customer, and not the other way round.

He refused to back down and said: “You manufacture good products at good prices and my business makes profit from those and gets very few problems… I will buy you dinner.” It was an attitude to business from one of the most honest and respected men I have met, and one which I try to follow.

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