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James Timpson talks about Timpson as a Retail service Business

James Timpson is Managing Director of Timpson, one of the UK’s largest retailers. Timpson has over 900 stores across the UK and Ireland. James is a straight talking, no nonsense individual. In this video James gives us an insight into Timpson, his leadership style and their upside down management structure. Alongside this, hear how Timpson use the Mr Men Model in recruitment and the importance of recruiting for personality.

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Video – over 4 mins

James Timpson is the Managing Director of Timpson, James describes his business as a

“Retail service business, we are retailers but our business is all about service”.

James says the most important people in their business are the people who put the money in the till. Timpson operate an upside down management structure where the most important people in the business are those working in the shops and everyone else is there to support them. Timpson’s branch colleagues are given the autonomy to “order what stock they like, charge customers what they like, open when they like etc. as long as the customers are happy, the customer service is good, the figures are good and they are happy”.

As a leader James spends as little time in the office as possible he says in “an average week I’m not in the office because when I’m in the office I’m not making money”. James likes to visit every shop once a year so he can check out how the stores are being run and what his colleagues are like.

Timpson believe that the key to business success is being really good at hiring and really good at firing. Timpson hire on personality and “Ok” is not good enough for them. They use the Mr Men Model for recruitment recruiting for Miss friendly, Mr Happy, Mr Up For It etc and not for Mr Dull, Miss Fib, Mr Lazy, Mr Scruffy etc. They put a huge emphasis on training and have a lower than average industry level of employee turnover.

Timpson are also the biggest recruiters of ex-offenders in the country. At Liverpool prison Timpson train 14 prisoners every day. They learn how to mend shoes, mend watches, engrave items, and all about customer service. They have a shop in the prison where prison staff can go and get their items fixed whilst giving the trainees an opportunity to practice working in a shop.  One month before release they are measured for their uniform and given the Timpson employee training manual. On the day of their release they are met outside the gates by their Timpson mentor and taken to their accommodation. The next day they start work.

James Timpson is part of the Wavelength speaker’s bureau to view his full biography, find links to other video’s and to book James for a speaking engagement go to Wavelength Speakers Bureau James Timpson.

The current Chairman of Timpson – John Timpson the great grandson of the Timpson’s founder is also part of Wavelength’s speakers bureau to find out more go to Wavelength Speakers Bureau John Timpson


Timpson is family owned business with five generations of the Timpson family being involved in the business since it was established in 1865 by William Timpson.  Timpson is one of the UK’s largest retailers with over 900 stores across the UK and Ireland operating shoe repair, key cutter, engraver, watch repairer, photo processing, dry cleaning and laundry services. Timpson is renowned for employee engagement, service excellence and social innovation. Timpson has a unique culture which is driven by a series of core values. They believe that “The ideas, usually employee generated are what really makes the Timpson workplace what it is”.

Here are the Timpson principles that make their business a success:

  1. Aim to be the best
  2. Enjoy Change
  3. Visit the business – however big the business becomes, visit every shop.
  4. Keep looking for ideas – you don’t need consultants, the best ideas come from your people.
  5. Show leadership – don’t delegate strategy.
  6. Win hearts and minds – the chief executive makes major decisions but doesn’t tell people what to do.
  7. Weekly newsletter full of stories about people in your business
  8. No secrets in the business (unless it’s confidential or personal) – tell everyone everything
  9. Upside Down management  – Timpson trust their branch colleagues to serve customers in their own way.
  10. Amaze your customers
  11. Obsessed with your people – most of Timpson’s management principles are about their people, almost everything depends on their team.
  12. Pick great people
  13. No big shots – Timpson won’t employ anyone who is too big for their business
  14. No head office  – Central administration is done at Timpson House but no one tells their branch staff what to do, they run the business and everyone else is there to help.
  15. No politics – Timpson see office politics as the biggest time waster in British business.
  16. No cheats, no drongos – Timpson won’t keep people on who steal or falsify figures or who simply don’t fit into their culture.
  17. Great place to work
  18. The bonus scheme – Timpson currently pay £5million a year in branch bonuses.
  19. Training
  20. Be fair- Timpson believe in doing unto others what you would wish to be done to yourself.
  21. Know your people
  22. Life long employment
  23. Support people in trouble
  24. Praise – Timpson believe praise is the most under-utilised management tool.
  25. Charity – Timpson have raised £2million for Childline.
  26. Celebrate success – everyone should be proud of your achievements.
  27. Have fun – Timpson want colleagues to enjoy their job they say people who have fun make serious money.
  28. Family business – keeping Timpson in the family allows them to have an unconventional management style.

To find out more about Timpson visit the Timpson Homepage and view the Timpson Blog

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