I was recently delivering a talk and the conversation moved onto brands I admire. I very quickly realised that my all-time favourite brand isn’t glamorous, it’s certainly not trendy, but it is utterly brilliant…it’s Timpson. The shop that among other things repairs shoes, watches, jewellery and mobile phones, cuts keys, dry cleans clothes, engraves stuff and prints photos.

It’s hardly hi-tech, but I think it is profoundly changing real peoples’ lives as much as any Apple, Amazon or Google. And it doesn’t have an annoying CEO who thinks that standing on a massive stage holding forth in a dark shirt and jeans somehow makes them worth listening to.

If you go into one of Timpson’s shops and read the posters and literature, you will get a feel for the company. But in case it’s a while until you need to fix your shoes, let me tell you more. The reason I love it so is that it has an incredibly strong ethos and purpose which shine through in everything it does.

It was brought to the UK’s high streets by Sir John Timpson (who I today discovered has fostered over 90 kids – I love him even more than I did before!!). James Timpson followed in father John’s footsteps to take over the business in 2002 and he’s proven himself to be an incredible chip off the old block!

Over the last 18 years, James Timpson has received widespread recognition for his ‘upside down management’ model. Staff are called colleagues, with each colleague given great training and then trusted to do things their way, rather than being nailed down by a lot of processes.  I’m not a process person so this is music to my ears!

Outside of Timpson store

Indeed, the company’s management approach is based on a culture of trust and kindness. But this isn’t some mission statement that’s written down, stuck in a drawer and forgotten. The brand ‘does’ trust and kindness.  On the kindness front the company has 10 holiday homes and lodges at popular locations across the UK and in Europe. These are offered free of charge to colleagues and their families. Employees are given an extra paid day off for their birthdays and in September the company announced staff could also take a paid day’s holiday to take a child to school on their first day.

The communications behind this announcement were characteristically in tune with customers. Posting on Twitter, James Timpson, wrote: “If you find our shops a bit short staffed this week, I’m sorry.

“We have a colleague benefit where you get an extra day off when your kids have their first day at school, so a number of colleagues are doing a very special job away from their shops!”

As you would expect, this was met with widespread praise with one person summing things up when they said: “I love the work life balance and the general empathy from your company. Will make it a mission to find a Timpson before going anywhere else.”

Taking a gander at the company’s website I note that the perks don’t end there.  When a colleague gets married, Timpson give them a £100 bonus, an extra week off work for their honeymoon and the use of the company limousine and driver for their wedding car! 

This trust and kindness ethos works in a commercial sense too.  The company looks after its colleagues, they look after the customer and the bottom line looks after itself.  I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but that seems to be the approach they are going for.

Timpson

Not surprisingly the company’s HR department is called ‘people support’ – its main role being to help the company’s people with their issues such as debt, addiction, bereavement and so forth. Employee benefits include access to Timpson’s financial health first aider and a full-time mental health nurse. While companies have recently been thinking about employee mental health and so forth, Timpson has been doing something about it for ages.

It also operates an annual ‘Happy Index’ and employs prison leavers.  A tenth of the employees are ex-offenders and at least seven of the group’s 2,000-plus stores are run by people still serving their sentences, who are able to work under day release schemes.

These staff members have been trained at two women’s and five men’s training academies inside prison facilities, all funded by Timpson.  The company spent more than £692,000 on recruiting, retraining, mentoring and other support for ex-offenders via its charitable foundation last year, with activities including training schemes in prisons to help people prepare for when they get out.

Indeed, Timpson’s area managers visit local prisons to sign up recruits. They are supported by a full-time recruitment specialist who also helps other companies interested in recruiting prisoners.

The company’s caring employment credentials don’t end here. It’s also mindful of other groups struggling to find work such as armed forced veterans and the long-term unemployed. Echoing this, the company has offered a free suit cleaning service for the unemployed going to interviews who can’t afford the service.

It does all of this not because it thinks it will make the company look good, cool or be different; it’s not a cloak of goodness which the business adopts to flog more services. Timpson does it because it believes business should be about making a difference not just a profit. The business has a clear purpose and is completely authentic.

It walks the talk – and importantly for me, it does the talk brilliantly!

 

 

Louise Findlay-Wilson, Managing Director at Energy PR, is a regular speaker and commentator on brand communications. The owner of Energy PR – Louise has worked in communications for over 30 years.  During this time she has handled campaigns for major brands ranging from NatWest, TSB, Schwartz, 20th Century Fox, the BBC, Cap Gemini and St Paul’s Cathedral through to exciting start-ups – helping them use communications to build their brands and businesses.

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