Published On: Fri, Sep 17th, 2021

Martin Thurley, Group Managing Director, Liniar

First Job: I started as a temp on a 3-month contract in the late 1980s in the Goods-In department of a local joinery company – main duties were making tea, sweeping the warehouse and standing in the cold and rain checking in timber off wagons. I stayed there almost 20 years, ending up as General Manager. Some very demanding and talented people helped, educated and guided me during these impressionable early years. I owe them a lot and still reflect and use much of what they drummed into me in terms of remaining grounded and treating all people at all levels with respect… job titles mean nothing.
Date joined Liniar: Feb 2017
Most useful gadget: Water resistant speaker – I can listen to the morning news whilst in the shower (good time management!)
Most useful website: ‘Thisismoney’ – I dabble in stocks and shares – great for all financial news and information.
Business person you admire: Bill Gates – A leading philanthropist who’s influenced the super-rich to help those less fortunate (a true humanitarian).
Recommended hotel for business: If I’m ‘up North’ then it’s the Holiday Inn Barnsley – I spent several months there a few years ago living out of a suitcase Monday to Friday. Fantastic people, service and food, with a true Barnsley welcome (including their famous ‘Barnsley Chop’) with complimentary use of the Bannatyne gym next door. If I’m in London, then the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge takes some beating.
Favourite UK restaurant: I’m not one for fancy restaurants. One of the best places I’ve eaten with customers and colleagues is the local White Horse at Woolley Moor, Derbyshire – excellent food and accommodation. The Quanex chairman insists on staying there when he’s visiting from the US.
Best business decision: Deciding to attend a meeting one evening in 2016 to potentially join Liniar – I wasn’t 100% sure about remaining in this sector and nearly cancelled at the 11th hour. I’m so pleased I didn’t! Liniar and the team are superb and I’ve never been happier or more excited in my career. Liniar is in a great position, with world-class facilities built by Roger Hartshorn, and now with the full backing and support of Quanex (win/win).
Other interests: I’m a football fanatic – a Leicester City fan (super Foxes!) I also enjoy swimming and getting out on my mountain bike to unwind and relax. Other than that, you’ll find my wife and I walking our Cavapoo, Boof, at weekends in Sherwood Forest.

Working Week: Pre-COVID I’d be up early and in the pool for a swim around 6.30am (I try to thrash out a mile most mornings) and into the office around 8.30am. My day usually consists of time with individual members of the superb senior management team, with 99% of this time spent on supporting and progressing the many exciting projects we have in our minds or on the go. If I’m not doing this, then I’m talking to customers to ensure we’re all aligned regarding market conditions and opportunities. This includes seeking out ways to improve – we’re a solid business but we’re also a learning organisation with a philosophy of Continuous Improvement. I’m also part of the Quanex global senior leadership team / strategy council – this is very exciting in terms of the freedom and involvement we receive in terms of shaping our own futures and driving a great global business. Quanex is the most inclusive and supportive business I’ve worked with.

Working Location: I spend the biggest amount of my time at our plant in Denby, Derbyshire – where the action is. I enjoy the buzz of being around people and in a large scale 24/7 operation. I’m really spoilt with such superb facilities and people.


After four fantastic years at the helm of Liniar, 2020 presented me with possibly the greatest challenge of my career. I believe we’ve recovered from the effects of the pandemic on our industry more quickly than many – and in fact 2021 looks set to be our most successful year ever. I’ll explain why this is the case and what that means for Liniar customers.

Lockdown – When everything changed in March last year, we quickly took the decision to close our site, with a gradual lockdown over the course of a week. We paid 100% of furloughed employees’ wages for the first three weeks (when anxiety was at its highest) and kept all main admin functions running. When furlough pay reduced to 80% pay, our senior management team also took a similar reduction – we wanted to show we were all in this together.

We continued paying suppliers and collecting cash throughout – this was important in order to maintain good relationships and cashflow. The site was closed for six weeks in total, and I remember we faced some deep uncertainties. When would we be able to reopen? Would we be able to save everyone’s job when we did? As leaders we all felt the weight of responsibility for our 500 employees and their families, and this guided us through the decisions we made.

During lockdown, the senior team held daily Zoom calls to discuss, align and agree plans in the light of ever-changing guidance. We communicated regularly with employees, customers and suppliers, using email and texts to stay in touch. Our video calls had the effect of bringing the senior team closer together, with a deeper understanding of each other’s roles and functions – an unforeseen and welcome benefit. We even managed to bring in an element of fun, dressing up as sportspeople one memorable day. Looking at screenshots from those meetings take me straight back to the feelings we went through at this strange time – I even had one framed for each of us at Christmas! And of course, we launched our PPE project… it boosted everyone’s spirits to know we were helping with the national cause.

Reopening the site – When the initial restrictions were lifted in May, we reopened our factory with some trepidation. Within the first couple of weeks, however, we found demand soaring, causing challenges of its own. As the year continued, Liniar, along with our industry colleagues, faced Force Majeures, shipping and customs delays, rising price volatility and more – but our previous investment in state of the art machinery and the dedication of our teams combined to help us meet every challenge thrown our way. Even now, we continue to face continuing and relentless increases in raw material costs. With global demand outpacing capacity and general supply chain disruption across virtually all key materials, we’re all facing the highest levels of price inflation and volatility in our industry’s history.

With demand outstripping production rates, even with an additional 200+ agency staff on board, we took the decision to manufacture over Christmas, thanks to volunteers from across the workforce. This meant that once customers reopened in January, we were ready to supply them with 100% of stock, although we kept ‘made to order’ items temporarily closed until we were confident of laminated foil supply.

Back to normal – I’m pleased and proud to say that were able to return to our usual 99% ‘On Time In Full’ delivery service by February this year, including coloured foils and ‘specials’. In my opinion, we were only able to achieve this because of three things:
(1). Previous, sustained and ongoing investment into our site, machinery and facilities – originally by Roger Hartshorn and since 2015 by our parent, Quanex Building Products – enabling us to quickly achieve unprecedented production levels with profiles at a consistent quality.
(2). The excellent senior management team I’m fortunate to have around me – I can honestly say I’ve never worked with a more committed and hardworking bunch of people, and this also extends to the wider team at Liniar.
(3). Our ongoing communication strategy – even when news was not what any of us wanted to share, we made sure customers and employees were informed alongside us every step of the way, and they’ve fed back how much they appreciated this.

40% growth headroom – I feel extremely fortunate to have the site and team that we have here at Liniar. Not only have we fully recovered, we’re in the enviable position of having around 40% headroom for growth, right now. Whilst others are still struggling to catch up, we’re able to take on new customers, and as a result our growth is set to reach record levels in 2021. We have our eyes firmly on the milestone of £100m sales this year – a staggering 2 years ahead of the original goal in our 5-year strategic plan!

The future – We’ll continue to invest through 2021 and beyond, ensuring a ‘supersized’ single site. As always, we have lots of exciting new products in the pipeline, which will also help our customer base to grow. No matter how large we get, however, we’re always careful not to become complacent. We may be a big business now, in terms of footprint, revenue and people, but we’re definitely NOT ‘big business people’! Our customers know they can contact any member of our senior management team, including myself, and we always want to remain accessible and accommodating. It’s part of our philosophy and DNA, along with caring for our community. I see my job as creating a safe, high performing and exciting place to work – and ultimately, this will be the measure of my success as Group Managing Director.