"Imagine a shopper. She is having a bad day. Her heel just broke, she needs parking money and her mobile's battery is flat. Suddenly ""Timpson"" appears on the horizon, a nodding cobbler in the window. The day is about to get better. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff of Timpson. The shops might look like shoe repairers, key cutters and engravers, but they are also information and help centres — Yellow Pages are kept in every branch, they never say ""no"" to pleas for change for meters, and customers can use their toilets and even their phones.
Timpson, with its headquarters in Manchester, might have 568 branches but the company is keen for outlets to be part of the community rather than just a link in a national chain. It is a philosophy employees have taken on board: more than four out of five members of staff believe in the company's values and principles, and five in six believe they make a valuable contribution to its success, a rate bettered in just five companies among our top 100.
Because its 1,684 staff are spread across so many branches, internal communications are important. ""You say"" provides a chance for employees to do the talking in their meeting with managers. There are also lunches, update videos, newsletters and roadshows. The message is getting through — almost 70% say their manager shares important knowledge and information with them.
Average pay for a branch colleague is £14,948, while only 10 people earn more than £45,000. A substantial proportion would like more pay — just 60% believe their pay fairly reflects their responsibilities.
However, large numbers of staff like it so much they stay and stay — 778 Timpson employees have been with the firm for five or more years, 362 of them for 10 years or more. As the survey shows, 76% of employees say they would miss the firm if they left, while 72% report a ""strong sense of family"" in their teams and 74% ""love"" work.
The company spent £3m on training and £100,000 on social events last year, and there are internal awards — such as shoe repairer of the year. There is also a hardship fund. Unusually the family company, whose chairman and chief executive is John Timpson, does not want its people working late and 68% claim they are happy with their work-life balance. Timpson himself visits 380 branches a year and writes 30 letters a month to colleagues. His leadership, which he is prepared to prove on the cafe's pool table, ""inspires"" 77% of his staff, while 79% believe he runs the firm on sound moral principles — both scores bettered by only a dozen other companies in our survey.
This hands-on style is instrumental in Timpson's top 30 ranking on leadership alone — contributing to its fifth consecutive strong showing in our list, and a performance in the past five years that few can match.
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