Linda Lane, the 52-year old managing director of the family business Griffin Glasshouses, readily admits that greenhouses are in her blood.
The company manufactures and erects bespoke greenhouses for gardens and estates throughout the UK, Scandinavia, Europe and the United States and has, since 2012, also produced the National Garden Scheme range from which a proportion of sales value goes back to the charity.
Linda took over as managing director in 2012 when her father, David, the founder of the firm, retired. She had joined the company eight years earlier looking after sales and the business now employs four other members of the family.
David formed Griffin Glasshouses in 1967, just before Linda was born. He invented a glazing system, still used today, which he patented.
“I am driven by a small voice in the back of my head that continually reminds me we have to strive to be the very best in our industry. I believe it is the quality of our workmanship and finished products that gives us the edge in business,” says Linda.
“We never induce our customers to put us forward to friends, but a high percentage of all new business enquiries are a direct result of personal recommendations from happy Griffin Glasshouse owners.
“The best part of my job is meeting prospective clients, understanding their wishes and interpreting them into a finished product that absolutely thrills them. Every one of our greenhouses is different and it is being able to find that aspect that personalises it for clients that gives me a real buzz.
“I visit virtually all clients and complete the initial measuring. It’s a busy life and each year I clock up something like 28,000 miles.”
It was in 2011 that her cousin, Paul, who is technical director, first developed the company’s Victorian glazing system – steeply pitched roof and narrow glazing bars – that became Griffin’s trade-mark Victorian Style. They added the decorative ridge cresting and end finials and now offer similarly styled cast interior benches and shelving.
“We are continually upgrading our designs to make our greenhouses more efficient and attractive. Customers want that very traditional appearance but on a maintenance free structure. Colours too are important. Up until 15 years ago a greenhouse was usually white – no more. We have recently installed our first purple one in Ireland and can offer any RAL colour that is powder coated onto top quality aluminium,” she adds.
The other delight of her business life is understanding the different requirements from overseas markets. In America the objective is to have a quintessentially English looking greenhouse. But in Scandinavia they are used for an entirely different purpose.
“We often have to accommodate wood burning stoves and fireplaces as the greenhouses are used more as living space than for growing plants. In the UK, clients have built mini mountains inside a greenhouse, complete with a cross wind, for Alpine plants and in another a low-lying sandy desert for a cacti collection. Life is never dull in this industry,” says Linda.
Working with her brother, Peter, as sales director, his wife Sharon who is Linda’s PA and admin manager and their son-in-law, makes Griffin a real family business. Linda is married to Richard, who is in finance and they have two daughters, Chelsea (25) in marketing and Gabi (22) studying law.
Having recently moved house, Linda is busy designing her new garden which will, naturally, have a Griffin Glasshouse as its central focus along with a water garden “lots of flowers and shrubs” and a vegetable garden for Richard.
To relax from her busy life, Linda runs regularly and recently completed a half-marathon on behalf of the charity Horatio’s Garden. Griffin supplies a greenhouse to the various gardens that are created at spinal injury hospitals around the country. She also enjoys modern jive dancing. She loves cooking and entertaining but quickly admits that gardening and greenhouses are her enduring passions.