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Posted by Sarah Brown on 29 Oct '13

Winning by Doing Good

How changing the world and success can coincide even in a simple business like mending shoes

The other night I was listening to The Bottom Line on Radio 4, a business show which was talking about upside down management. They had John Timpson on, chairman of the Timpson group talking about how he had turned his business upside down. It is an interesting business for a variety of reasons; firstly there is no marketing department as they believe everyone is responsible for marketing. As part of this all the service staff are empowered to sort problems with a budget of up to £500 to spend per issue. The main role of the managers and senior staff is to support the front line staff and ensure the right people are in place.

10% of staff are ex-offenders who they often start working with in prison – ex-burglars cutting house keys! The tabloids had a field day on this concept but it has worked well for Timpsons who have found them to be highly motivated and committed and very loyal to an organisation that was willing to give them a chance. They have no more problems with the ex-offenders than with the other staff.

Why are they like this?

Because the owner realised the only way to compete with a competitor with a lot more money was to stand out with excellent service and this can only happen if the front line staff have the power and motivation to give this service. Their catch phrase is “great service by great people” and on their website you can look at what they believe makes them different their Magic Dust which includes their focus on staff and customers.

Timpsons is a family business which believes in “Winning by doing Good” to staff, customers and the wider community. John and his wife Alex have been recognised for their philanthropy; together they have fostered more than 90 children. John Timpson says: "We are proud to have made a difference to peoples' lives through our work with children and by providing training and employment for people leaving prison. But we always recognise that charity begins at home. After our close family our next priority is to look after the welfare of loyal work colleagues.

"Our work with ChildLine, After Adoption and the Prison Service has brought an added dimension to Timpson. The example of public service set by Alex's fostering has inspired a large number of Timpson colleagues to get fully involved in our charities programme."

They have been recognised as one of the best companies to work for and it is a financial success turning over £136 million up 3.5% on the previous year and making a post tax profit of £8 million down in percentage terms but still pretty good for a business which is mainly about shoe repairs and cutting keys. Timpson is also bucking the recessionary trend among retailers, has bought a photo processors and is expanding from the high street to out-of-town shopping centres.

For years I have been promoting the concept of Corporate Personality – not as a legal term – but as what an organisation is at its core. While marketing can be partly communicating this, everyone contributes to the personality of the organisation and only if everyone is consistent is the personality consistent and thus the organisation trustworthy – this is what makes Timpsons stand out.

They “Win by doing Good” both for their customers and the wider community employing prisoners helps change the world – they offend less, they cost the state less, they have more meaningful and fulfilled lives and Timpsons benefits with committed staff, having the opportunity to train them in prison and certainly as far as I am concerned attracting a new customer.

I am looking for more examples of organisations and businesses that are “Winning by doing Good” for a book I am writing so please share them with us on Facebook or by email me. I will credit everyone who sends in organisations I mention in the book.