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  • Writer's pictureErika Clegg

Timpson's Magic Dust

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

With everything in life, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. I love it when people are maverick and flourish. Most entrepreneurs I know have consistently done it the 'wrong way' and bounded forward through life.

Despite being over 150 years old, TIMPSON LTD is thoroughly entrepreneurial. And as entrepreneurs, one 'best practice' mould they have completely smashed is for their values.

I recommend that a values set contains seven items, max. Theirs has 28.

I recommend that values are phrased consistently, in a logical order, and follow a theme. Theirs veer all over the place. There's no grammatical consistency at all.

They call this 28-strong values set their Magic Dust.

How can ANYONE remember and work towards 28 random items? And yet .... and yet. Over 5,500 Timpson people are completely committed to the Magic Dust. It's sprinkled everywhere, by everyone. Across the whole team there is dedication to delivering on its promises and meeting its high expectations.

It's because, from the Timpson family and throughout the team, there is a total commitment to those values. They are applied with a relentless vigour, stitched into every action and decision. The belief in those values is so strong that the business makes absolutely sure they deliver the goods. As with all real values, expectations are high - look at the values set below and you'll see some tough stuff built in. As I say on repeat, values don't have to be 'nice' - they are about setting the bar high to help people achieve great things.

As John Timpson says: "It took me ten years to ingrain this way of working into our culture. My deepest thinking colleagues realise that this is a never ending project…….’We always live on a tightrope – it wouldn’t take long for the magic dust to disappear‘”

And in return the rewards are superb. Team members are treated with respect, kindness and generosity. Speak to someone at your local Timpson and see what they think: I can almost guarantee their eyes will light up as they talk about the business and their experiences in it.

Timpson call their methodology 'upside down management' - the customer-facing staff on the floor in the shops are supported rather than controlled by management, and expected to use initiative.

It's genius. That positivity flows outwards to Timpson's customers and communities, helping the business to survive and thrive in changing marketplaces and through unexpected situations that have floored most of their competitors.

Here are Timpson's values:

  1. Aim to be the best

  2. Enjoy Change

  3. Visit the business

  4. Keep looking for ideas

  5. Show leadership

  6. Win hearts and minds

  7. Weekly newsletter

  8. No secrets

  9. Upside-Down management

  10. Amaze your customers

  11. Obsessed with our people

  12. Pick great people

  13. No big shots

  14. No head office

  15. No politics.

  16. No cheats, no drongos

  17. Great place to work

  18. The bonus scheme

  19. Training

  20. Be fair

  21. Know your people

  22. Lifelong employment

  23. Support people in trouble

  24. Praise

  25. Charity

  26. Celebrate success

  27. Have fun

  28. Family business

As an aside: why do I recommend fewer values? Simply put, unless you are prepared to put the effort in that a large, unwieldy values set requires, it makes your task easier to have a small punchy set of memorable, relevant values. What works for Timpson takes a huge concerted effort: it really is a 'never-ending project'. You might prefer an easier way to shape your culture through values.


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