The cordless home and garden products company, Gtech has seen turnover double in two years thanks to its innovative range and entrepreneurial leader – who is now getting on his eBike!
Watch any satellite TV channel and when the ad breaks come along chances are you will see a normal-looking guy using a cordless vacuum cleaner, hedge trimmer, lawn mower or riding on an electric bike. Nick Grey is the man upfront as well as behind the huge growing success story that is the Midlands business Gtech. The company Nick launched in 2001 from his garage at home with just £18,000 had turned over £66million by 2015 – and has now doubled that figure to £120million.
Gtech’s products all have some common denominators – they are all the brainchild of Nick, who is inventor as well as business leader; they all have top technology at their core to carry out simple jobs better, more efficiently, more cleanly and easily; and they all boast the charcoal grey and lime green finish which Gtech has made its own.
“Having products that work brilliantly, are brilliantly designed and really look the part are all key factors in the success of Gtech,” said Nick. And consumers agree with him, witnessed by the fact that more than 22 million products have been sold in 19 countries. Based at Shire Business Park in Worcester, Gtech has getting on for 100 staff working at HQ as well as many more in America and China.
TECHNOLOGY & TRUST
The current product range includes cordless upright AirRam and cordless handheld Multi vacuums, three power sweepers, cordless mower, hedgetrimmers and strimmer and the latest and most exciting of the lot – three versions of Gtech’s eBike, cycles with electric pedal assist. “I’m thrilled what we have all achieved with the business,” said Nick. “We’ve established Gtech as a brand you can really rely on and which combines superb performance with great technology and design.”
It’s the sense of the consumer identifying with the brand and what it stands for that sees Nick present his products in TV advertising. It’s an unusual step because most businessmen are far happier leaving that job to specialist hired help. “For the first 10 years of the company I wouldn’t do it, I said I was the inventor not the presenter. But then the new person in charge of branding came in and told he to ‘get out there’ to give added authenticity to the product. I went away and did some media training and it seems to have worked.” Gtech started out as a 100 per cent retail brand but then added direct to customer business. “Moving forward, I’d like to see a hybrid of both,” said Nick. “Direct business keeps you close to your customers which is very important, but I appreciate that you have to have a presence in the big retailers too.”
Nick says he always knew growing up that he’d want to run his own company one day, he just didn’t know what that would be. After 18 months fitting double glazing on cold and draughty building sites, he saw an advert for a job at local vacuum cleaner company Vax where he stayed for 12 years, working his way up in design engineering to head of product development. He left aged still only 32 on a mission to develop his own ideas for a cordless lightweight vacuum cleaner. He saved up £18,000 – which sounds barely a believable amount to set up any business, even 16 years ago – and worked on designs with whatever materials he could lay his hands on in his garage. “My first cleaner was made using a broom handle and bits and pieces from all sorts of donor products.”
His big break came thanks to some contacts in the business in America who encouraged Nick to takes his ideas and products to the Chicago House Show. “The product flew in the States and convinced the people who had helped me get to the show to pay for the tooling needed to make the product in the numbers needed,” said Nick. “It became clear we needed much more capacity to keep up with the huge demand.” Gtech also ‘flew’ in the German and Australian markets before a making a big impact here in the UK. “Then someone said why don’t you make products for outdoors too? At that time all electric trimmers and strimmers had to have long power cables draped everywhere. They were hard to use and not very safe.” Like all of its products, Gtech started out ensuring the battery technology was as good as it could be, and then created its range of outdoor tools, including a cordless mower.
BIKE TO BASICS
The same philosophy was applied to the eBike. “I had tried an electric bike and it was an appalling thing,” said Nick. “It was complicated beyond belief with so many settings and 27 gears to select from, which is ridiculous. What I wanted was a simple bike, with just two gears and electric assist when you need it to get up hills or just coast along. We realised that the cycling enthusiasts wanted a bit more and we made our sport model and now have just launched our mountain bike too. It means everyone can go get up the Malvern Hills if they want and enjoy it without all the usual agony!”
If a designer and engineer who’s also an innovator, entrepreneur and all-round front man sounds like someone else more famous we all know, Nick’s not worried. “Far from it,” he said. “Competing in the same market with James Dyson is tough but rewarding. As a market leader Dyson is great because of the interest he has created in the sector. I suppose you would have to call him a hero…”