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Shiplake College News

An Evening With... James Timpson

Members of the Shiplake College community were delighted to welcome CEO of the Timpson Group, James Timpson on Monday night for a conversation with the Headmaster, Mr Tyrone Howe.

Each week during lockdown, the Headmaster will be holding 'An Evening With...', with some interesting people from the world of business, media and sport to talk about their lives and careers.

James has been Chief Executive of the Timpson Group since 2002, helping the business grow to over 2100 shops, and developing several innovative ways to run the business at a time when traditional High Street retailing has suffered.

The growth in photo, dry cleaning, barbering and locksmiths has combined with a rapid expansion of Timpson shops in out of town locations. More than half of Timpson shops are now in supermarkets and supermarket car parks. The Pod concept, first starting in James’s local Tesco in Warrington, and now seen in over 500 sites, is pioneering a new way to offer retail services out of town.

Mr Howe started off by asking James if it was always assumed that he would go into the family business.

He said: "During my time at university, I loved working in the shops during my spare time, and really became interested in business from this. I loved putting money in the till, the team work and spirit and above all I really liked people!"

As well as growing up being part of the family business, James had an unusual upbringing. His parents, as well as having three children of their own, fostered nearly 100 children and adopted some children too.

He said: "I grew up in a mad house. My mother's passion was children. She started off helping friends who were going through a difficult time by having their children come and stay. She then started fostering and was good at it and it grew from there. Her ethos was always about giving back and helping people."

Mr Howe then asked about the Timpson Group's unique recruitment policy.

He said: "We have 4,000 colleagues and we recruit purely on personality. Our people need to be fun, engaging and have spark.

"Fifteen to sixteen years ago I was invited to a local prison and was shown around by a 19 year old who had got into a fight and ended up in prison. I liked him and felt he had something. I asked him what he planned to do when he left prison and he said he would be looking for a job. I told him to get in touch with me when he was out and he did, and he is still with the business today.

"I then started to go around other prisons to work out who would fit well with the business."

Because of the success of this, Timpson set up a training academy in Liverpool Prison, which was a workshop for inmates to learn how to repair shoes and watches. It was a real success and other academies for their photo businesses including Snappy Snaps were set up in other prisons too.

He continued: "These people have made a massive impact in our business in a very positive way and I'm very lucky to have them."

Timpson now employs over 600 prison leavers (this is over 10% of the company). James is Chair of the Prison Reform Trust and supports various prison charities and support groups, and was presented with an OBE in 2011 for the training and employment of disadvantaged people.

When asked about how other colleagues felt about working alongside people who had spent time in prison, James said: "If they are good people, that's fine. Sometimes good people make mistakes. Other colleagues have been quite relaxed about it. With the 1,500 people we have recruited from prisons over the years, only four have gone back to prison."

The key to the growth of the business has been the continual development of the culture of Upside Down Management. James believes a culture based on trust and kindness is key to this.

He said:"We have two rules, put the money in the till and look the part. Colleagues will perform far better than if you insist they stick to prescribed rules. 

"And in return we look after people, everyone is equal, we want people to be happy in their jobs and for this to be the best job they have ever had."

The company has various benefits such as free holiday homes, a Dreams Come True scheme, weekly Lotteries and mental health support. This has ensured Timpson has been one of the UK’s best companies to work for over the last 18 years.

Thank you James for your wonderful insight into Timpson and for sharing your life's work with us.

Join us next Monday 25 January for An Evening With... British and Irish Lions rugby legend, Willie John McBride (sign up details will be sent out in this week's parent's bulletin).

An Evening With James Timpson feedback:

“Thank you so much for the inspiring and most interesting talk arranged with James Timpson this evening.  What an amazing person and family as well as a superb business model.  Our son was looking forward to the talk and enjoyed it very much. Pleased to say we often have his school blazer dry-cleaned at Timpsons!”

“Thank you very much for this event. It was excellent. We both really enjoyed listening to James and Mr Howe. “

"James was very clear and really quite inspirational - I will certainly take the 'trust' message on board and try and use it with the students - when we're back!”

“What a brilliant evening! The past hour has flown by listening to James Timpson and the Head; a wonderful mixture of inspirational thinking grounded in common sense. There was so much food for thought whether you are 14, 40 or getting towards 80! Well led by Tyrone in conversation with an impressive natural leader!”

“We just wanted to give feedback as to how enjoyable and engaging the session with Mr Howe and James Timpson was today. As this was the first of ‘An Evening With’, I wanted to let you know how positive this was for us to watch, and as a family it certainly filled our dinner conversation this evening! Please pass on our thanks to all involved.”

“I would just like to express my thanks to Katherine Green and Tyrone Howe, Shiplake College Headmaster, for organising the interview yesterday evening with James Timpson, Chief Executive of the Timpson Group, Hugely interesting and inspirational for any pupil/student. His views on the future of our High Streets also interesting. For all rugby fans, I eagerly await the interview next Monday with the highly respected and infamous British & Irish Lions captain Willie John McBride. Marvellous!!”