We’re exploring kindness in the workplace this week as part of our #KindnessCounts month, so who better to speak to than James Timpson, CEO of British retailer Timpson? The company has won countless awards for its enlightened approach to its staff and recruitment, and has been named in the top 10 of the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For every time it has entered. Follow the link in our bio to read more about James Timpson’s advice to ‘recruit lovely people’ and his approach to ‘Upside-down management’:
I try to run the business in a very simple way. It’s not always successful, but here are the three principles that seem to work quite well:
1. Recruit lovely people: you can teach most people to cut a key or repair a watch, but you can’t teach someone who is a miserable, lazy, grumpy person to have a magnetic and kind personality. I’ve tried; it doesn’t work! So we recruit solely on personality, even if it means we interview ex-offenders, the long-term unemployed, or those who are just plain eccentric.
10% of our colleagues were recruited directly from prison. We do it because it makes good business sense. The facts back up my point. Those you recruit from prison are more loyal, more reliable and more honest than those you find on the street. Many of our Foundation colleagues have been promoted to very senior positions in the company, which goes to show that talent is often found in the most unconventional places. CVs are just useful for getting a name and phone number.
2. Look after them: the most efficient way to spend money in a business is to invest in amazing your colleagues. If your business has a downturn, the natural reaction (and certainly the case if your finance team likes to control things!) is to stop spending money on saying ‘thank you’, celebrating personal and company milestones, and supporting colleagues when they have a problem. If anything, the best thing to do when you’re up against it is to spend more!
Every Timpson colleague has their birthday off, can go to any of our 10 holiday homes, have a company loan and a dream come true. They even receive an extra week off for their wedding and the company provides the wedding car and driver too. A company’s role isn’t just to make money; it’s to create a safe and kind working environment where people feel they can be their very best.
3. Trust them: Most organisations have hundreds of rules and processes to ensure that the odd rogue colleague finds it difficult to make mistakes. Unfortunately, this means that the 90% of great ones have to work in an environment where they aren’t trusted. I’ve found the easiest thing to do is to have very few rules on one hand, and a determined policy of ensuring the rogues find their happiness elsewhere on the other. The advantage is that I don’t need to employ people whose job is compliance, and can invest in looking after everyone instead. We call this ‘Upside-down Management’.
So our rules are very simple. In fact, we only have two: you look the part and you put the money in the till. Anything else goes. Our colleagues can give things away for free, decide on their own discounts, do their own marketing in the shop, order their own stock and decide when to take a break. Many customers think that we are a franchised business because our colleagues act like it’s their own business. It isn’t; Upside-down Management gives everyone the opportunity to be themselves, to run the shop as if it were their own, and to share the rewards of their hard work through our weekly bonus scheme. If you don’t feel you can trust someone to do their job without rules, you’ve either picked the wrong person or you’re better off working somewhere with lots of rules, processes and meetings.
The next time you go to one of our shops, check that we recruit lovely people, ask them how we look after them, and see if you can even haggle a small discount!
James Timpson, OBE was named in the 2016 Debrett’s 500 in the Philanthropists and Activists sector.