The key to surviving in business is to never stop innovating. The most successful businesses are constantly looking at how they can shake things up, whether that’s by embracing technology, re-evaluating their business model, or overhauling company culture.

One business doing this is Timpson, the high-street brand specialising in key-cutting and shoe repairs (among a variety of other services). Every time that Timpson has entered the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For it’s been placed in the top 10, and the company has won several awards. A big part of this is due to the CEO and owner, James Timpson’s, philosophy: “If you treat people well, it is blindingly obvious that they will do a good job.”

Here’s how Timpson achieved success through their innovative people strategy, where employees are always put first.

Company culture

Timpson credit much of their success to their ‘upside-down management’ style. By this they mean that they put the responsibility in the hands of the staff that work in the shops, rather than in the hands of the upper reaches of the business. Staff working on the shop floor are called ‘colleagues’ rather than employees, and they have the freedom to set prices, arrange displays the way they’d like them, and do whatever deals they want. James Timpson explains this approach with “I don’t want rules to get in the way of people giving great service. The only rules are that you put the money in the till, and you look the part.”

Timpson - The key to surviving in business

Believe in people

First and foremost, Timpson’s founder believes that their success is because they employ wonderful people. Believing CVs to be irrelevant, the team interview everyone who applies – they're more interested in finding the right personalities, rather than qualifications. In addition to this, 10% of the colleagues are recruited from prison – more on this later.

Look after your employees

Timpson spend a lot of time on treating their colleagues well. Perks include free holidays, birthdays off, a birthday present - but in addition to this they go above and beyond. In the past they’ve helped colleagues with money problems, paid for surgeries, and sent people on once-in-a-lifetime trips. All this is aimed at ensuring that colleagues feel incredibly proud of the company.

“We’re looking for ways to amaze them so that they identify with the culture,” explains James Timpson. “We spend a lot of timing finding the people who are completely right for us at the start.”

Invest in the future

For 10 years now, Timpson have been hiring from within prisons. This started when James was touring a prison and, impressed by his 18-year-old guide, told him that he could have a job when his sentence came to an end.

The introduction of the scheme has been a big success, with other companies such as Greggs following suit and setting up their own training schemes. Many of the colleagues working on the shop floor are only on day release from prison and will return there after closing the shop and dropping the money off at the bank. They also hire prisoners who’ve just been released, and provide support to these ex-offenders adjusting back to life outside by helping with deposits, buying everyday items for halfway houses and providing mentoring – essentially taking away any excuses for failure.

“We all get served by people who have been to prison and don’t know about it, so we decided to open this up and also introduce training programmes in prisons,” explains James. “Prison employees are loyal, honest, and buy into our company culture because nobody else gives them a chance.”

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons


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