Sir John Timpson speaking at the Solent Business Growth Summit 2017
Empowering and trusting staff is the way to run a successful business, maverick entrepreneur Sir John Timpson told the South’s business leaders at the Solent Business Growth Summit 2017.
Keynote speaker Sir John, who heads the giant, independent Timpson group with 1,940 shops and more than 5,000 staff, said his unique, ‘upside down management’ style had paid dividends with the business achieving a £350m turnover from a core of shoe repairs and key cutting.
He was speaking at the Ageas Bowl’s Hilton Hotel, near Southampton in the fourth such breakfast event promoting business growth and backed by four of the area’s big firms with a strong operational presence in the Solent region.
He said: “Our key to success is doing things differently. I find the best way to plan is with an A4 pad and a biro. We have no marketing department and we don’t advertise, but we do look after customers and staff well.
“My light bulb moment came 23 years ago and it is simple and obvious. The only way ahead is to trust the people who serve customers with the freedom to treat them however they wish.
“We have an upside down management structure with the CEO at the bottom. We also have just two rules for staff: 1. Look the part 2. Put the money in the till.
“No one believed anyone would run a successful business by letting people get on with it – and it took five years to convince my middle management of the benefits.
“I’m free to run the business as I want. I’m not interested in best practice or KPIs – if it’s not common sense we don’t do it.”
Hosts for the fourth annual event were four companies – Santander Corporate and Commercial Bank, accountancy, investment management and tax group Smith & Williamson, commercial property consultancy Hughes Ellard and law firm Trethowans.
Sir John, 74, knighted in this year’s Birthday Honours for services to business and for fostering 90 children with his late wife Alex, also revealed his unusual methods of employing staff for the UK’s leading high street service retailer.
He said: “When we recruit new staff we look for personality above all else. We are not bothered about CVs, qualifications or even sometimes what candidates say in interview situations. It has worked – we have a business full of personalities.”
The Timpson Group is also renowned for taking on ex-offenders, with 10 per cent of employees being former prisoners.
“I was nervous when we started the policy, but it has worked well. Over five hundred of our current colleagues joined us from prison and those that have joined us over the last 15 years less than three per cent have reoffended. Some of our senior managers came to us via that route.”
Sir John also spoke of how his company treats staff well – including birthdays off having 10 holiday homes for staff use, a hardship fund for those encountering difficult times and a monthly Dreams Come True scheme costing approximately £200,000 a year.
However, he did have a warning for businesses that have underperforming or disruptive employees who don’t care, are disruptive or moan all the time.
“Get them out – generously, nicely and quickly – because every time it happens in one of our shops the business improves. You can’t create a great business unless you get rid of the people who aren’t interested in being great.”
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement