“MY wife says ‘let’s stick to football, religion or politics’,” laughs Mark Dixon.

“But it was 15 years of my life and I’m proud of it.”

The chief executive and chairman of 70-year-old furniture maker Godfrey Syrett is recalling the times he’s been gently reminded to introduce a new topic at the dinner table.

The 15 years he highlights refer to facilities management company Promanex Group, which Mr Dixon founded and ran for a number of years, before selling it to Costain in 2011.

It wasn’t always that way, however.

Born in Gateshead, he left his North-East roots behind when he took a job in a division of Rolls Royce’s industrial power group, based in Derby.

He wasn’t away for long though.

Mr Dixon studied a Master of Business Administration (MBA) course, which, ironically, was based in Newcastle.

It was during those studies that Promanex started to take shape.

Mr Dixon’s dissertation looked at what made a good business plan.

He went one step further and used the thesis to create a model for a service business plan.

Promanex had just moved that little bit closer.

After taking the plunge, Mr Dixon founded the company with a handful of colleagues – Rolls Royce had begun to sell off parts of its operations by now – and he says he couldn’t be happier with how it played out.

“The success story is that when it was sold in 2011, it had sales of £70m and well in excess of 1,000 employees,” he said.

“I stayed on for 18 months with Costain and my intention was then to retire.

“I did nine months and then I got bored.

“I had phone calls from people asking if I could go in and help them out.”

One of those calls introduced Mr Dixon to Godfrey Syrett, which makes goods in a factory at Langley Moor, near Durham City, and has a distribution centre on Belmont Industrial Estate.

The decision, he says, was an easy one.

He said: “I said I would have a look, but when I came and saw it I instantly fell in love with it.”

Mr Dixon wasn’t slow in revealing his vision for the firm, which previously supplied and installed furnishings, including chairs and storage units, for Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary Clinical Resource Centre.

He raised a growth target from £40m to £50m, to be achieved by 2020, and he’s confident of doing so, revealing international trade will support his plans.

He has also played down worries over Brexit, saying businesses shouldn’t feel constrained by impending changes to European trade.

He added: “We did £27m-£28m last year and will do about £30m this year.

“I want to start looking at exports; there is a lot of collateral in the Union Jack and the UK.

“Combine that with leading-edge design and quality products like furniture and you have a winning formula.

“The world is a lot bigger than just Europe.”

Five minutes with…Mark Dixon

Favourite North-East building and why? St James’ Park. I was awestruck when I first went there in 1968 and am captivated by how it has changed and grown within the city. It’s just a pity the standard of football hasn’t reflected this transformation.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid? I started my career as a graduate engineer with Babcock Construction and got paid £5,000 per annum.

What is the worst job you've had? As a student, I worked in a factory in Ashington that made cake decorations. I worked inside an oven that dried out plaster pillars for wedding cakes.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner? Singapore Noodles.

What would your superpower be? To fly.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party: Peter Sellers, Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much? My wife’s engagement ring.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why? No idea. I don’t follow Twitter. I’ve only just discovered what an emoji is.

Favourite book? Kim, by Rudyard Kipling.

When did you last cry? My last visit to St James’ Park.

What is your greatest achievement? In 1996 I wrote a business plan, raised £700,000 of risk capital and started Promanex. In 2011, we enjoyed annual sales of £70m and employed in excess of 1,500 employees. We sold the business for £18.8m.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given? Brendan Casey, a HR manager at Rolls Royce International Combustion, convinced me to do a three-year executive MBA at Newcastle University Business School. I had a high pressure job and three young children. I thought he was mad. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Favourite animal and why? Our Border Collie Molly. Intelligent and loyal.

Most famous person on your mobile phone? Bobby Moncur.

What was the last band you saw live? Coldplay.

Describe your perfect night in: Log fire, a good glass of claret, wife, dog, good movie.

In another life I would be... a chef.

Who would play you in a film of your life? Stanley Tucci.

What irritates you? Negativity and procrastination.

What's your secret talent? I can read people’s minds.