Meet the MD - Nick Oettinger, The Furniture Recycling Group

Meet the MD - Nick Oettinger, The Furniture Recycling Group

When Nick Oettinger couldn’t persuade the firm he was working for to develop his mattress recycling idea, he took it on himself and set up the Furniture Recycling Group. He tells BQ why he doesn’t like ‘yes men’.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

My role initially, was to strip mattresses as to begin with there was only me with my father helping out. Six years later, my role now is to lead the direction of the company as it grows and leads the way in a new industry. Most of my time is spent looking after our customers and developing the company to ensure we keep improving our efficiencies and processes which allow us to grow sustainably. I do still strip the odd mattress, much to the amusement of the staff!

What is it the company does?

The company recycles mattresses and soft furnishings, which must be diverted from our ever-decreasing stock of landfill options and are a difficult waste steam to manage. From the recycled products we practice the circular economy by creating new beds using re-processed components, which serve the social and low-income markets.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I started out in business cleaning swimming pools. I moved up within the company to finally lead a management buyout of the UK's largest swimming pool construction company. This was very much down to my managing director at the time who encouraged, trained and most importantly trusted me to grow within the company.

Following the sale of my shareholding in that company, I worked as a consultant, which eventually landed me in the waste industry. During three years as a turnaround and profit improvement consultant, I had the idea of recycling mattresses, which I took to the company I was engaged by at the time. They were not interested and nothing came of it. I could not shake the idea though, and at the end of a contract I decided to give it a go alone.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

I think there are several things that are key to being a great leader: planning, empathy, compassion, hard work, having great people around you who are not "yes men" and crucially, being decisive.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Managing staff is always the biggest challenge, but also the biggest reward.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

Having four children at home means as soon as I walk through the door, I switch off as they demand attention. When they go to bed I start work again. A change is as good as a rest.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a truck or digger driver.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?

I have plenty! Dirty toilets, unwashed cups, emails for emails sake, inability to make a decision, litter, emails from an office next door, I could go on but won't.

Where do you see the company in five years time?

I see the company being responsible for recycling over 30% of the mattresses and soft furnishings thrown away each year in the UK.

I also see The Furniture Recycling Group being the leader in introducing producer responsibility for the manufacture of soft furnishings, which are difficult to recycle at the end of their useful life. We are currently working with lots of well known mattress brands on the design of new mattresses to incorporate end of life recycling needs. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

I'm not sure I am qualified but I’d say have a plan, work hard at it and be flexible enough to alter it if it can be improved, even if it’s not your own idea. Once you begin, you will receive lots of advice. Listen to it all and use it to help make informed decisions.