Our team at Gibsons are always working hard to bring our customers the best jigsaw puzzles, playing cards and board games. So, we thought it was high time that we introduce you to the people behind the puzzles.
Michael Gibson is the Chairman of Gibsons and has been living and breathing this company for over 50 years. We hope you enjoy getting to know him!
Tell us a bit about your Gibsons career. What year did you join? How has the office environment changed between then and now?
I joined Gibsons in 1966 as a clerk in the office. The office environment has changed immensely. We had manual typewriters – calculators were just coming in, but no fax, no computers, no Telex. We just had the telephone and mail for communication. My first job was typing (two fingers and that hasn’t changed) invoices using carbon paper to provide two copies, one for the ledgers and one for the Agent. The totals were arrived at manually, using what we would now call mental arithmetic. The office manager was John Matthewson and he taught me double entry book-keeping. The post consisted of orders, cheques and invoices from our suppliers. There were just three of us in the office. There was just one toilet and no hot water. The office walls were a cream colour, possibly they were originally white and the cigarette smoke had changed them!
If it was up to you, where would Gibsons be in another 100 years?
I would like to think that we had just celebrated our double centenary and that the company was still very much a family business.
What do you feel was your greatest achievement?
Well there are quite a few things I feel good about. In the early days, persuading my father to take licences from Waddingtons for some of their games, to extend our range. Organising the move out of London to south Wimbledon in 1971. Axing our summer range of beach games and kites to concentrate on being a games company, buying our first freehold in 1979, making the move into jigsaws in 1986 and raising the industry bar in terms of image and quality.
But above all, I think overcoming the challenge that I was presented with when my father died in 1973 and at the age of 27, I became the company’s Managing Director. That was frightening at the time, but 46 years later a more profitable and financially secure business reached its centenary – that was such a great feeling and is still with me now.
Are you more of a puzzler or a gamer?
Neither really! We had games as children, but we never really sat around a board game as a family. Although I haven’t myself got into jigsaws in a big way, I do have an empathy with puzzlers and an instinct and imagination for making an appealing picture.
What’s your favourite memory at Gibsons?
There are too many and it’s too hard to pick out a favourite. But many of my fondest memories go back to the hard times when we had to make do. The fun we had at the Toy Fair staying in some pretty basic hotels and the camaraderie with the Agents. Never did I ever get any feeling of resentment that I was the MD’s son (probably because they could see I was being treated as badly as they were!); we just got stuck in and those friendships and the support they gave me are a joy to look back on.
Another is going to the buffet car on the Eurostar on the way back from Paris and buying a half bottle of champagne to celebrate asking Geoff to become a director.
Oh gosh there are so many, but 99% are connected with the people I have worked with at Gibsons both past and present. I started my working life in a large company and yes I benefitted from lots of facilities that I left behind when I came to Gibsons, but there is no doubt that working in a small operation and being an important part of what is going on, far outweighs being a small cog in a big machine.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I really enjoy making marmalade. My mother used to make it and the aroma reminds me of my childhood.
What’s your favourite Gibsons product at the moment?
“Impertinent Questions” – oh sorry I’d forgotten we discontinued it in the early 70s! Okay, I would have to go for Pass the Bomb – that was another proud moment when we won the Game of the Year award in 1996!
What would you have on your ideal pizza?
A “Long John Silver” from Captain Flints in Salcombe.