Had this email sent through to me recently by Wole… it was on a program he listened to on the radio. Here are his comments complete with relevant links:
I just happened to be listening to the InBusiness programme on BBC Radio 4, and what I heard has really got me excited. It’s about the Timpson shoe repair business and the management style that they’ve pioneered – which they’ve so aptly named “Upside-Down Management”.
Upside down management
Its so so prophetic (like the “upside-down church” sculpture – aka “device to root out evil”). The chief executive (John Timpson) and his son James Timpson (the Managing Director) are just like modern day apostles – but in the business arena. A father and son team – (3 generations?- maybe not quite? – but, hey I like the sound of it).
I particularly loved the way they dealt with the issue of employees stealing from the
- its so so prophetic.
- everything is decentralised, and opened up for all to see.
- very people focused – and its not just an empty sound-bite.
- empowering the grassroots and those on the front-line – they are encouraged to use their own initiative, they are able to try out new ideas and even to make mistakes.
- the Managers/Area Managers are only there to serve & support the shop staff – (ie. they are not there to boss them about)
Could this be a model for church?.
PS: Below are some links to listen to this programme. – and also a short synopsis of the programme by its presenter Peter Day
To Listen online:
How do you manage a traditional family shoe repair firm with 550 outlets all over the country? John Timpson does it by dropping in on them all the time to find out what’s going on, day by day. He calls it “upside down management”. Peter Day went along for the ride. Producer: Sandra Kanthal Editor: Stephen Chilcott
The MP3 file can also be downloaded:
Short synopsis about this programme by Peter Day
For real insights into how a business thinks and works, go round a supermarket with the boss. Not the manager of the store, but the chief executive of the whole operation. With the best CEOs, it’s like tramping a farm with the farmer who’s looked after the land for years: a stream of illuminating thoughts about things a random visitor would hardly notice: how the cheeses are displayed, how the special offer of the week is doing, how much expensive stock is tied up on shelves that are designed for bulky cereal packets but also have to hold expensive slimline toiletries.
They say that retail is detail; it’s impressive when a chief executive gets out of HQ and starts finding out for him or herself. (And quite a lot of top supermarket managements do it all the time.)
I spent a day recently on the road with John Timpson. Not a supermarket boss (and not the late “Today” presenter either). He’s the head of the family firm Timpson’s, more than 600 small shops scattered across Britain that do shoe and watch repairs, key cutting, engraving, and various other things: local service centres.
He is chairman of Timpson’s; his son James is managing director. Both of them travel, relentlessly. Most of the trips are to drop in on stores all over the country, to see first hand what’s happening and to scout for new property possibilities. John Timpson is known for his straightforward method of running a business. I wanted to see him in action because he’s set his management principles down in two very readable books.
“Dear James” is a kind of handover note to his son, written when he stepped up to became chairman 10 years ago.The new book is “How to Ride a Giraffe”, so called because that animal is what the firm feels like to some of the people who work for it: a strange thing, but it works.
As I expected (and as you will hear in the programme) the day out was indeed illuminating. John Timpson simply does not tire of finding out what’s happening to individual store businesses, and the people who work there.
Within seconds of arrival (and greeting the staff by name) he’s scanning the latest daily store accounts, compared with the same time last year. It’s a fixation, and not just to the boss.
Timpson’s branch staff are all in line for a bonus. It’s paid not yearly or quarterly, but weekly. Their pay reflects immediately how well the branch has done.
That is a very important element of the way Timpson is run. John calls it Upside Down Management, and it has a lot to teach other kinds of businesses.
In essence, UDM tries to turn the traditional structure of a firm on its head. The organisation chart shows the bosses at the bottom and the workers on top (they are, of course, called “colleagues”).
This is not just company bull, or that familiar corporate mantra “People are our most important asset”. It has taken years for the Timpsons to build a business which genuinely respects and seeks out idea from the people who work in the branches.
Watch repairs was one such idea, pooh–poohed for a long time because who would believe that cobblers could also fix watches? When Timpson take over another chain, the first things to go are the electronic point of sale machines. That sounds a bit retroactive. But epos tills mean that head office runs the branches. Upside Down Management means that the people in the branches have the power to vary prices for their own particular circumstances, offer deals.
Here’s a business genuinely trying to show its staff that business decisions are grounded in the branches, moderated or incentivised by the weekly bonus plan. Some people think that this is far too paternalistic, and Timpson makes no bones about being a family business, not a plc.
The last time we made a programme about this unconventional management, I visited the internationally famous Eden Project in Cornwall to hear about what the founder Tim Smit calls “monkey business”.
This inspirational leader had a sudden crisis one weekend when a vital backer demanded a management statement from him, the kind of thing all well run businesses are supposed to have. Tim Smit sat down and wrote Monkey Business, a series of unorthodox and very personal leadership ideas, and when he talked about them on air, there was a shudder of interest from listeners. These mavericks have a lot to teach conventional organisations, if conventional organisations know how to listen.