The usefulness of cabinet-making skills to a successful career in energy services may not be immediately obvious.
After giving it some further thought, however it is not so hard to see how the value of focused effort on a project to achieve a desired outcome is just as relevant in the world of business as it is to craftsmanship.
Chris Nussbaum, the multi-talented chief executive of Norwegian-owned well-integrity specialist TecWel UK, has applied many of the skills he learned on the way to becoming a qualified cabinet maker – and a few others derived from yoga – in his oil and gas career.
The handcrafted long-case clock – a modern version of the traditional grandfather clock – at Mr Nussbaum’s Aberdeen home is testament to the City and Guilds cabinet-making course he completed in London in the 1980s.
His passion for building stuff did not start or end there, however.
Known to his family and friends as Mr Fix It, Mr Nussbaum, 53, has always been in interested in assembling or repairing items – whether it be bicycles or computers – and making them work as they should.
This zeal for problem-solving and design, allied to a strong entrepreneurial streak, was evident during his degree studies at York University in the late-70s.
He set up his own bicycle repair business, collecting bits of old bikes from scrapheaps, to support his “meagre” resources during his period as a physics student.
Mr Nussbaum, who hails from the West Country and has Polish, Hungarian and German roots from his parents and grandparents, had already demonstrated a flair for languages during a two-year period involving lots of travelling and a spell working as an interpreter at a chemical plant in Sardinia.
He was fluent in Italian when he went to York and has since added German and a good standard of French to his linguistic portfolio.
Norwegian has proved more of a challenge, although he has lately been trying to acquire a good grasp of that language too.
After graduating, Mr Nussbaum joined the oil industry to see more of the world.
His six-year spell as a logging engineer with oilfield service firm Dresser Atlas, now Baker Atlas, was mostly spent in Germany, France and Italy.
It was during the time he was based in Bremen, Germany, that he met up again with a fellow York University graduate, Louise, who went on to become his wife.
The couple moved back to the UK – to the north-east – when Mr Nussbaum landed a new role with Dresser Atlas in the North Sea, but his desire to work for himself and gain small-business experience led to a dramatic change of career.
He said: “It was just before the oil slump in the early-80s and I had no idea at the time that some of my oil-industry colleagues were soon going to be made redundant.”
It was then that he did the City and Guilds and armed with his newly-acquired trade skills he moved to Yorkshire to set up a business with Louise.
Their Baby Bear children’s furniture venture was going well, with the prospect of sales through John Lewis department stores, until an economic downturn led to problems.
“Our young business was too fragile to survive,” said Mr Nussbaum, who looks back on his subsequent “penniless” unemployment as both a career low-point and learning experience. He added: “It is amazing what you learn when you suddenly lose everything like that.”
Getting back into work was not easy and it took a year, but in June 1990 Mr Nussbaum joined oilfield service firm Geoservices.
He was sent to Port Harcourt, Nigeria, where Geoservices was setting up a new logging operation.
The next three years were spent in Nigeria and Oman, where he was employed by Geoservices as a training supervisor, but working overseas meant he was not seeing much of his wife and two children – Peter and Rosa, now 22 and 17 respectively – back in the UK.
The work-family balance was restored in autumn 1993, when he was hired by Read Well Services (RWS) – an Aberdeen firm providing niche technology to the upstream oil and gas industry.
Mr Nussbaum led a team of RWS engineers providing an in-house data-acquisition service to Elf Enterprise. He later became team leader for a joint well-service venture – involving RWS, Transocean and Wellserv – on BP’s Magnus field.
In February 1997, RWS appointed Mr Nussbaum as its technical sales manager.
The firm went on to achieve record sales figures and established its first international operation, in Qatar.
Mr Nussbaum’s credits at RWS include delivering a strong sales performance in a contracting North Sea market and securing long-term contracts with operators Maersk, Shell and BP.
It was during his spell at RWS that he developed an “on-off” working relationship with Stavanger-based TecWel and, when the Norwegian firm made the decision to develop new business in the North Sea, a new opportunity came up.
Mr Nussbaum said: “I had a brilliant time with Read, but the chance to head up a new operation and build it up from scratch was just too good to resist.”
Becoming CEO of the new TecWel UK business, which has only been up and running since June, meant the cabinet-maker could pick up the building blocks and start work on yet another new project.
TecWel UK will have five employees in place by next month and the aim is to grow its workforce to 10 by the middle of next year.
“We are hoping for annual turnover of £3million by the end of next year,” said Mr Nussbaum, who will also be involved in the integration of TecWel into new parent Seawell, which recently acquired the company in a deal worth about £16.6million.
TecWel was established in September 2001, with the purpose of developing and manufacturing a new generation of cased-hole logging tools.
The company now has offices in America, the UK, the UAE and Malaysia, in addition to Norway, and plans to develop its branch network to other parts of the world.
Its UK division is based at the Badentoy Business Centre, at Portlethen, for now, although there are plans to move to new offices soon.
Since returning to the north-east in the early-90s, Mr Nussbaum has been involved in a number of community activities, including the scouts, the Round Table and also his local residents’ association.
He also has a strong passion for yoga and meditation techniques, which he said he used daily to put himself in the right frame of mind for tackling important business decisions.
“I went to a yoga class my wife missed several years ago and was instantly hooked,” said Mr Nussbaum, adding: “I really couldn’t do without it. With a high-profile job, there was always a worry I would not have the right work-life balance.
“Yoga helps me to focus and I put the techniques into practice daily.”
Son Peter is a medical student at St Andrews and daughter Rosa is travelling the world in a gap year before starting a course at Edinburgh College of Art.
What car do you drive?
My wife’s car. I am looking around for a classic, perhaps an old Jaguar.
What gadget would you never leave home without?
My Leatherman multi-tool knife.
Have you ever broken the law?
Yes, I was caught doing 38mph in a 30mph zone about 15 years ago.
What or who makes you laugh?
The Now Show (Radio 4) and Aberdeen’s Albert Terrace Book and Bottle Club (every month, without fail).
What’s your favourite film?
I can’t name just one: Blade Runner, Solaris (1972 version), Ashes and Diamonds and Pretty Woman in no particular order.
What’s your favourite book?
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery.
What’s your favourite singer/band? Nina Simone.
What’s your ideal job, other than this one?
A doctor: possibly in clinical psychiatry or microbiology.
What’s the best piece of business advice you have ever received?
Always remember that a successful business must always grow. It can never stay still.
Worst business advice?
Take out a personal pension with Equitable Life, you can’t go wrong.
What do you drink?
I am very fond of good water. Also malt whisky, wines, various ales and beers.
How do you keep fit?
Yoga, walking and badminton when I can.
What’s your most interesting habit?
What’s your biggest extravagance?
My children, but not unwillingly.
How much was your first pay packet and what was it for?
£6 three shillings and fourpence, for one week’s work at a Fine Fare supermarket in Bristol stacking shelves. I went out and bought myself a complete new outfit and still had change.
With which historical or fictional character do you most identify?
Clint Eastwood’s man with-no-name character, but in reality I have almost nothing in common with that persona.
How would you like to be remembered?
With a very fond smile, by as many people as possible.