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My role on the Women’s Business Council

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John Timpson

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In his first blog as the Women’s Business Council (WBC) member of the month, John Timpson, Chairman, Timpson PLC tells us about his interests and affiliation with the Women’s Business Council. John’s maverick management style shines through a weekly Telegraph column and his book Upside Down Management. In 2004, he was awarded the CBE for services to the retail industry. Timpson, the UK’s most active recruiter of people from prison, also provides support to adoptive families.

Timpson was founded by my great grandfather, William Timpson, who at the age of 16 opened his first shop in Butler Street, Manchester in 1865 and five generations of my family have now worked in the business. At Timpson we employ a very distinctive business method. I call it Upside Down Management. I realised that the success of the company depends how we serve our customers, so I turned things on their head, making a manager’s role to support the colleagues who serve the customers. This gives a great deal of autonomy to the small teams working in individual stores.
While retail businesses cannot be totally flexible (you can’t run a high street shop if you are working from home), we at Timpson do advocate flexibility as far as is possible. Our in-store colleagues are given the autonomy to set their own shift patterns around their requirements and the store opening hours. This level of trust in my colleagues supports my philosophy that if you treat people well, it is blindingly obvious that they will do a good job.
I am a strong advocate of the benefits of flexible working however; I believe that any move towards a flexible workplace must be led from the top, by the Chief Executive, as illustrated in the Timpson PLC case study. Flexible working only succeeds where senior management understands the potential benefits. There is still a stigma attached to working flexibly, particularly at senior management level and that is what I want to change so we can all embrace the benefits of having committed enthusiastic colleagues who are able to fit their work around their other responsibilities.
Later on in the month, I will be hosting a CEO breakfast meeting with business leaders to discuss how men can act as agents of change and promote the benefits of flexible working for both businesses and their employees.
Following that, I will be speaking at the Work and Family Show presented by My Family Care. I will be talking about my role on the Women’s Business Council, what I’ve learnt about flexible working, the innovative approaches of some employers and what I hope the WBC can achieve.
Read more about my work for the Women’s Business Council
Some of my past blogs include:
Home can put the heart back into the working life
Giving former prisoners a second chance

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