Timpson is a brand you might overlook a lot of the time. It’s a company you only interact with when you absolutely need them; shoe repair, key cutting, dog ID tags. It’s not a brand that screams “exemplary brand values case study”. But you’d be wrong. They may not be flashy or sexy, but Timpson nail their brand values. And not just in a “we put them on our website so that’s it” sort of way. They’re living and breathing them every day. But how, you might ask? I’m going to walk you through all the different ways Timpson showcases their values so you can understand what it means to actually live by your values, not just tell people what they are. And to do that, I’m going to start with what Timpson calls their ‘magic dust’.
Timpson’s ‘magic dust’
In amongst the keys, trophy engraving and business signage you can buy on the Timpson’s website, there’s also a boatload of content on their values. And one of those standout pieces is their ‘magic dust’ story. Whilst the art direction is hoky at best, the story it tells is pretty damn good –
Our core values created our culture and give us the adrenaline to help the business perform far better than I ever expected…people ask for the secret of our success. There isn’t one, just a series of good principles which add up to a load of common sense.Timpson website
This scene-setting around what Timpson stands for is told in the first person from their company leaders. But it’s accessibly written, understandable by anyone within their business. It’s even written in Comic Sans to make it more accessible to dyslexic employees.
So, what goes into Timpson’s ‘magic dust’?
That’ll be these 28 points…
- Aim to be the best
- Enjoy change
- Visit the business
- Keep looking for ideas
- Show leadership
- Win hearts and minds
- Weekly newsletter
- No secrets
- Upside down management
- Amaze our customers
- Obsessed with our people
- Pick great people
- No big shots
- No head office
- No politics
- No cheats no ‘drongos’
- Great place to work
- The bonus scheme
- Training scheme
- Be fair
- Know your people
- Life long employment
- Support people in trouble
- Celebrate success
- Have fun
- Family business
Which ultimately amounts to:
This is how we run the business. pic.twitter.com/awhksXCogv— James Timpson (@JamesTCobbler) October 12, 2020
So, what’s remarkable about any of this? A few things really:
- More than half of those values are people-orientated. Whether that be people within the business or the people the business serves; its customers. To see a genuinely people-centric retail business is rare. What’s more, Timpson is a large employer. They employ 5,400 people and create revenue amounting to £330M. They may well be the only example of a large employer I’ve seen that actually puts people before profit.
- A lot of those values wouldn’t be out of place in a Silicon Valley startup. “Aim to be the best”, “Enjoy change”, “Keep looking for ideas”. Innovation, and encouraging innovation, has kept Timpson alive when similar brands have faltered. Try to name another brand that does what they do at their scale – you can’t.
- Good communication is valued and present in all of their brand values. They even create a 16-page newsletter every week full of stories from everyone within the Timpson family. That’s staggering. They state it’s time-consuming and expensive, but worth it.
- The magic dust story is delivered in an interactive piece of content that’s visible on their website. They understand the value of showcasing their values. I have no doubt it wins them good talent and peer envy.
What’s even more remarkable about all of this is I wouldn’t know about any of that if it weren’t for their CEO’s Twitter account, which is where I was first introduced to their awesome value showcasing.
James Timpson’s Twitter
James Timpson has been CEO since 2002 and has led pioneering initiatives to keep the company alive when other retailers have suffered. One of those innovative ideas was the ‘pod’ concept or the small Timpson branches you often find within or next to a local supermarket. James trialled the idea in his local Warrington Tesco and it grew from there. So clearly, James Timpson has business smarts, but why do we care about his Twitter account?
Because of stuff like this…
Welcoming prison leavers in to our business has been one of the best things we’ve ever done. Finding talented people with a personality is what we look for, and it’s amazing how many of my future colleagues are in prison today. Here’s a link to learn more. https://t.co/r5hysGdfyB— James Timpson (@JamesTCobbler) October 27, 2020
A message for my Max Spielmann colleagues in Wales who will be closing their shops for the next 17 days. Don’t worry about your pay…you will receive 100% of your salary until we reopen again. Stay safe and thank you for all you’ve done this year.— James Timpson (@JamesTCobbler) October 23, 2020
This is how our company hierarchy works. pic.twitter.com/OP1n4z7OoU— James Timpson (@JamesTCobbler) October 13, 2020
Timpson’s Upside Down Management ethos
All of this thinking comes from the Timpson ‘upside-down management’ approach where the CEO is at the ‘bottom’ of the hierarchy and the customer is at the top. Apparently, it took the company 10 years to create this model, but it’s an awesome example of servant leadership and how your brand values influence everything – even how you structure your business. They are not something you put on your website and forget about. They inform every inch of your structure and every message you send out to your audiences. Just like James’ tweets.
Today is the start of our new financial year. Our focus again is not on making profit, it’s on running a kind and compassionate business. If we do this well we seem to make a bit of money at the end of the year.— James Timpson (@JamesTCobbler) September 25, 2020
What’s even more admirable about this approach is how they choose to convey it to their employees. The Upside Down Management section on their site relies heavily on images and clearly written English so anyone can understand it. Why does that matter? Because it intrinsically links back to their values of “No secrets” and “Be fair”. That’s living your values, not telling people about them.
What can your business learn from Timpson’s approach?
If you want your company to take a leaf out of Timpson’s book, remember these two lessons:
- To truly live your brand values they have to be present everywhere; your business structure, your site content, how your CEO conducts themself online
- Whilst it’s important to show your values through actions, it’s also important to let people know what they are; tell your story properly on your website, your social channels, your training manuals, everywhere