Desert Island Discs – John Timpson

I am a great fan of Desert Island Discs, it’s required listening – usually via the podcast. I was lucky enough to meet its creator Roy Plomley more than 35 years ago and found him to be as urbane and charming in the flesh as he sounded on air. A great man for asking questions in real life too. He is up there with Alistair Cooke, Brian Johnston and Wynford Vaughan Thomas in my personal list of top broadcasters.

John Timpson DiDLast Sunday was recommended for all business owners. Kirsty Young’s guest was John Timpson, chairman of the high street chain that bears his family name that was started by his great-grandfather in 1865. Timpson’s is one of those businesses to which I had not given a second thought, I was surprised to hear that it is still family owned and has more than 1,400 outlets. What an enlightened employer he seems, all staff are referred to as colleagues, they are given the day off on their birthday, have use of the company holiday homes free and are entitled to use the company’s hardship fund if money gets tight. In addition, 10% of the company’s employees have spent time in prison.

I particularly like the great deal of autonomy they are allowed in running their shops, all he asks is, “that they look smart, turn up on time and put the money in the till”, they are allowed to spend up to £500 to settle a complaint with a customer without referring to head office. He calls it ‘upside down management’.

No great fan of spending money on marketing and advertising, he says “You don’t have to be a tyrant to be successful, from all the evidence I can see you can do good and run a good business.”

Married to his late wife Alex for over 47 years, together they fostered 90 children.

He was an absolute delight to hear – great shirt and tie too – the spirit of John Harvey Jones lives on in more ways than one.

Listen here.

Never Too Big To Stock Shelves – Guest Blog


This is from the two pint chicken blog

Monday evenings are generally quiet in my local supermarket.  Yesterday evening I nipped round the shop and soon filled my basket.  When I got to the checkouts there were queues – not unusual in a big city but unusual even on busy days here.  Customers were looking round for the shortest queue but nobody was making a fuss.  Again it’s unusual to see so few tills manned.

As if by magic the boss appeared – as in Mr Benn

He quietly called a name and his manager appeared, extra staff materialised and the boss took control of the stage.  No fuss, no shouting just quietly directing – staff to tills, staff to pack the customers bags, customers to the newly opened tills.  Then the boss was gone.

There were lots of smiles from the customers and knowing looks between the staff.

We all aim to have a smoothly run business with the perfect team and happy customers / clients / patients and often this happens.  The trick is knowing what to do if the stage show wobbles and knowing it is wobbling before the wheels come off.

Does your team know you mean it when you say it without shouting?

One of the ways I think respect is gained is by showing you are Not Too Big to Stock Shelves.  Do you do everything you expect others to do?  Are you still seen to do these things – not just back in the days when you started the business and had to get your hands dirty, but now when you are successful?

You know a good boss when you see them. They will be stocking shelves, answering the phone, restocking the soap in the toilets – the list is endless – when the need arises.  They will also disappear when they are not needed and get on with the other boss type jobs.

Have a think about your smoothly run business and give some thought to your plan if the stage show should get a bit of a wobble.

Happy shelf stacking

About the author.



The Monday Morning Quote #360

A couple of quotes from Andrew Grove who died last Monday.

“Success breeds complacency.

Complacency breeds failure.

Only the paranoid survive.”

“A corporation is a living organism; it has to continue to shed its skin.

Methods have to change.

Focus has to change.

Values have to change.

The sum total of those changes is transformation.”


Grove is credited with having transformed Intel from a manufacturer of memory chips into one of the world’s dominant producers of microprocessors. During his tenure as CEO, Grove oversaw a 4,500% increase in Intel’s market capitalization from $4 billion to $197 billion, making it the world’s 7th largest company, with 64,000 employees. Most of the company’s revenues were reinvested in research and development, along with building new facilities, in order to produce improved and faster microprocessors.[14]



Lefsetz on Founders

From The Lefsetz Letter – March 13th. I don’t always agree with what Bob Lefsetz writes but I enjoy what he says and usually the way that he says it.


Don’t take no for an answer. But when their product is in the marketplace to no acclaim, to little adoption, they pivot.

He who is invested in the present will get lost in the future.

Founders remember when they were broke, what it took to gain traction, managers can do only thus. Which is why Apple is failing under Tim Cook yet burgeoned under Steve Jobs. Jobs remembered working in the garage, hustling… When Steve came back to Apple he was willing to make the big decisions, the big leaps forward, he slimmed the product line, narrowed the focus and went all in on an advertising campaign that satisfied himself, not focus groups. If you’re not willing to leave some people out, you will never succeed. Play to somebody, not everybody. Remember when Jobs famously said he was ceding the enterprise to focus on education? Today education is owned by the Chromebook. You must own something or you own nothing. Right now Apple has a huge footprint in mobile phones, but worldwide iOS is dwarfed by Android. Will the next great leap forward come from Apple? Probably not, probably from another outsider with nothing to lose who has pivoted from failure to success. There is no founder left at Apple, it’s to their detriment. There are no founders left at the major record labels, to their detriment. With the roll-up of live entertainment scrappy founders have been eviscerated, centralized buying might do well for the bottom line today, but hampers you in the future, there’s no one with their ear to the ground taking chances locally, and concert promotion will always be a local business.

Founders are not hampered by their education. The reason so many successful entrepreneurs never finished college is because college too often puts you in a box, tells you how to think, emphasizes no instead of yes.

Continues here

It was 35 years ago today and my life changed.

This day in 1981 was a Thursday. I had completed an SHO post at Withington and wanted a change from oral surgery after 32 months in 3 contrasting hospitals. Back in my parents’ home in Cambridgeshire I picked up the BDJ and rang the number of the closest practice that was advertising for an associate.

“Could I come for an interview the next day?” Looking smart in a three piece suit, I drove my green TR7 thirty miles up the A1 to Bretton in Peterborough for inspection. The practice was modern, the principals young and we seemed to get along OK. They took me for lunch at a local golf club and we agreed that I would start a week later. My meticulous cv stayed in my pocket, my referees were not troubled.

Whilst I was waiting to meet the partners I sat in the practice office with the practice manager, a stern lady called Muriel who had moved, with her family, to the expanding city from her native Belfast to escape the troubles. I was aware that several nurses came to the office, they were apparently “looking for pencils or pens” but in fact were casting their eyes over the new candidate. Only one of them spoke to me, her name was Susan Henderson. She was straightforward and looked me in the eye when she asked me sensible questions. At that time she was a trainee nurse with one of the partners and had a deserved reputation for taking no nonsense from dentists.

When I did start work there our paths crossed regularly, it was a bit of a shoe box with 7 surgeries on 3 levels in converted houses and flats, and there was a communal common room. We worked together particularly during the intense GA sessions and I found her to be easy to work with as she had a great work ethic, knew what her role was and did her best to be good at her job.

Two years later I moved to another practice and soon afterwards she left to train to be a dental hygienist at Guys Hospital, on completion of her training we again worked together. Eventually we acknowledged that our feelings for each other went beyond the purely professional and I persuaded her to join me in my new ventures in Gloucestershire.

We celebrate 24 years of marriage this year and still  work together productively.

I am so, so pleased that I went for that interview – thank you Susan.

If you’re going to put your foot in it…

Great diary piece from Rory Bremner in the FT last Saturday about speaking at dinners & award ceremonies. The underlined bit made me laugh louder than I have all week – and wish I could have seen their faces.

The line from Gyles Brandreth in the paragraph above it was pretty good too.

Bremner FT 160319

NASDAL results show growth in private practice profits.


NASDAL – the National Association of Specialist Dental Accountants and Lawyers – today released their analysis of client figures for the year ending April 2015. Full report in Dentistry Online here.

Key points are:

  • The UK dental market has continued to grow at a rate of around 4.4% with relatively unchanged costs and a prolonged recovery in profitability.
  • Private practice profits per principal just overtook NHS profits in 2014 for the first time since 2006.
  • Average private practice profits per principal have jumped to £140,129 in the year ending 5 April 2015, compared with £130,613 the year before.
  • In NHS practices, the average practice profits per principal have marginally increased to £129,265, compared with £129,054 the year before.
  • Associate profits have remained relatively stationary in 2015 at £68,024 compared with £68,544 in 2014.
  • The average unit of dental activity (UDA) rates for NHS practices remained relatively stable at around £26.50, while the average UDA rates paid to associates in 2015 was £10.75, down from £11.23 in 2014.

The sample size for the statistics included 600 practices (which equated to 650 principals) and 600 associates.

I’ll comment tomorrow.

The Monday Morning Quote #359

“If a writer is so cautious that he never writes anything that cannot be criticized, he will never be able to write anything that can be read.

If you want to help other people, you have got to make up your mind to write things that some men will condemn.”

Thomas Merton


On award winning pies…

cmlxhemgydwew4gcgwkhI was listening to Simon Mayo’s programme on Radio 2 a few minutes ago and I heard him interviewing John Nicholl from A.F.Huddlestons Butchers in Windermere. Last Wednesday they won “the national title of supreme champion at the British Pie Awards” for their beef and vegetable pasty known as “The Grafter”. Their butcher’s business employs three people John, his wife, Elspeth, and another man.

Here’s a report from the local paper.

Last year was the first time they entered The British Pie Awards and they won the “meat and potato category”. John told the paper that, “We have entered competitions for years but winning at the British Pie Awards is just phenomenal”.

I think we can all congratulate John and his team on their success, especially as John took a break to speak to Radio 2 whilst making the 48 Grafters for tomorrow’s sale. In view of the publicity they will probably sell out in short time, but as they have no more space on the premises they can’t make any more pies and pasties.


So what’s the point of writing about this? I wonder if through the length and breadth of Cumbria and the North West there are loads of grumpy butchers and associated pie makers chuntering to each other on social media, the Great British Pie bulletin board or at local BPA (British Pie Association) section meetings, “it’s all a fix”, “you only win if you buy tickets for a table”, “won’t catch me going to London for one of those fancy affairs”, “I could win if I entered”, “a mate of mine ate one once, nothing to write home about”, “I’m reporting him to the GPC (General Pie Council) for unfair advertising”, “my clients love my pies that’s why they come back for them” etc etc….

You have to admire John & Elsbeth for being prepared to step up to be judged and above all being ready to lose.

Nothing ventured. Nothing gained. We all do what we can to earn a crust.


The Monday Morning Quote #358

“The only thing you have power over is to get good at what you do.

That’s all there is; there ain’t no more!”

 Sally Field,


via Box of Crayons

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