“IT’S all about turning a negative into a positive.”

Dave Nicholson’s summary couldn’t be more apt.

In fact, it’s a knowing reflection from years of toil and of how success can be tinged with disappointment.

Loading article content

A farmer as a young lad, he is now managing director at Nicholson’s Transport.

The company, based in Billingham, near Stockton, provides delivery and warehouse services, runs a Hiab division, which offers lorry-mounted cranes, and oversees the Box Clever storage firm.

The Nicholson’s group was founded nearly 30 years ago by Mr Nicholson.

Earlier this year, it opened a warehouse in Eaglescliffe, close to car parts maker Nifco UK’s vast base, from where it provides space for companies to shift goods with greater ease.

Yet it could have all been so different.

As a youngster, Mr Nicholson was very much focused on agriculture.

It was a love that endured, to the point where he bought his own farm, at Wynyard, near Stockton.

He had grand plans to create a cooking school under the field-to-fork mantra and was also looking at a potential restaurant and opportunity to take advantage of the rising demand for luxury camping.

But then things changed.

When the economic downturn hit, his dream took a knock.

He said: “My passion in life was farming; I worked on a good farm in Sedgefield when I left school.

“I bought my own and my children were brought up in that environment.

“But it wasn’t just farming, it was a bit of a lifestyle business and I looked to do other things with it.

“But in the last financial crisis I had to sell it.

“We had everything with one bank and it held the cards down.

“It didn’t leave me with many options.”

The recession didn’t just harm Mr Nicholson’s farming endeavour though.

He was also forced to make changes to his company’s Yorkshire division.

He said: “We had to close one of the businesses down in Yorkshire; we had to cut our cloth to start with.

“But we then started a new strategy and began reshaping for the future.

“That work means there is room for expansion today and we are now much stronger than we were then.”

Mr Nicholson’s transport venture started as a one-man crusade, when, as an owner-driver, he realised the financial benefits outweighed what he could earn on a farm.

As jobs began to trickle and then roll in, the company started to find its feet.

Within a few months, another driver, who is still with the company today, was brought in, and others continued to follow.

The group now provides employment for about 60 people.

But it also has another facet, which goes beyond its traditional offering.

Starting a business, as Mr Nicholson knows well, comes with its various travails.

That’s why his company now opens its arms welcomingly to new ventures, providing them with the nourishment to grow through their early months.

He said: “I spend quite a lot of my time helping start-ups get going.

“We give them space on our site, whether that is manufacturing or office space.

“They are starting from scratch, which is difficult, and we want to help grow them.

“If they stay with us that’s good, but if they go they can stand on their own two feet.

“It’s all about helping others; it’s what North-East business is all about.”

Helping others is one thing, but what about helping yourself?

Just how easy has it been building Nicholson’s to the operation it is today?

“It hasn’t all been a bed of roses and it’s been hard work”, added Mr Nicholson.

“It’s also not been about how much work I’ve put in, it has been about the people around me.

“I learned the hard way of trying to do everything myself.

“If you do something well, the business will come.

“That philosophy is still with us today.”

Five minutes with... Dave Nicholson

Favourite North-East building and why? South of the region, it’s Kirkleatham Museum, near Redcar. It always has lots of interesting historical stuff going on. In the north, it’s The Sage - it needs no introduction.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid? A farm labourer. £40 a week on a Youth Training Scheme (YTS).

What is the worst job you’ve had? I have never done a job I haven’t enjoyed. The most unpleasant part of farming is dealing with dying or dead animals. Also, having to close our Doncaster operation and lay-off good staff due to the recession.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner? I wouldn’t cook. I’d take you to our local place, The Tuns, at Sadberge, near Darlington.

What would your superpower be? Never having to sleep.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party? Norman Wisdom, Lee Evans, Peter Kay and my wife, Moira.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much? Personally, my lawn tractor, which was £4,500. For the business, a Hiab truck at £250,000.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why? I don’t do Twitter.

Favourite book? Discover your Destiny, by Robin Sharma.

When did you last cry? Probably when I made the decision to sell my farm to support my business though the recession.

What is your greatest achievement? My family; three great kids and one fantastic wife.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given? Follow your dreams and never give up.

Favourite animal and why? My dog, Meg. She’s always pleased to see me and never answers back.

Most famous person on your mobile phone? Business-related… Hilary Devey.

What was the last band you saw live? Rod Stewart.

Describe your perfect night in: Family dinner, TV and a bottle of wine or two.

In another life I would be... Smarter, wiser, more outgoing, but still following my dreams.

Who would play you in a film of your life? As Norman Wisdom is no longer with us, it would have to be my son, Joe.

What irritates you? People who don’t take responsibility for their own actions.

What's your secret talent? If I told you that it would no longer be a secret.