Timpson - a name we’re all familiar with – their unobtrusive maroon signs part of the fabric of our high streets and travel experiences. Seems inevitable – a solid family business, a constant in a time of rapid change. Sounds dramatic – but when you look around and see gaps where Blockbusters, Woolworths and HMV used to be – being an established business is no longer a guarantee of unshakable foundations.
So looks can be deceiving, and success was by no means a certainty for Timpson, as John Timpson CBE explained at the Shared Services Forum’s recent annual conference in Manchester. In fact neither is natural progression to CEO, just because your father’s the Chairman. All boards and organisations contain different and sometimes conflicting personality types and one day in 1973 John Timpson’s father, Anthony found himself ousted by his uncle in a board room coup. John stayed with the firm and ten years later successfully led a management buyout.
With the growth of cheaper mass produced shoes, the shoe retail side of the business seemed to be in terminal decline – something which John recognised and he sold that side of the business for £15m, deciding instead to take advantage of the loss of traditional ironmongers from the high street to grow the key cutting business alongside shoe repairs. Something which is so ubiquitous now, it almost seems like an obvious fit – shoe repairs and key cutting – of course!