Famous for his ‘upside down management’ that puts people at its heart, the entrepreneur has made high standards of service legendary at the eponymous group, which under his leadership shifted away from its origins in shoe retail to specialise in services that range from shoe and phone repairs, to dry cleaning.
“You don’t create great service by a set of rules,” Timpson says. “The secret is very simply. To trust the people who serve the customers to do it the way they want.
“It took time to get it right. Eventually we got it to work. The big lesson is it only works with the right people.”
Because of that uncompromising focus on the right people, those that do not make the grade are quickly winnowed out.
Timpson says: “Right up our priority list is something I don’t think other businesses do enough of, which is to get rid of people who are no good.
“We just get together and say ‘look, your best will never be good enough for us’.”
Timpson is also famous for its progressive approach as an employer of ex-offenders, and for initiatives such as free suit cleaning for unemployed people attending job interviews.
Timpson’s unconventional approach has brought commercial success.
The retailer now has more than 1,300 stores, and in its most recent financial year turned over £130m.
The group is increasingly establishing a presence through concessions in big grocers’ stores, and last week bought the dry-cleaning arm of Johnson Services Group for £8.25m as it continues to expand.
John Timpson now chairs the group, which remains a family concern and is run by his son James.