Students hear why Mr Happy gets hired

Thursday 4 May 2017

Are you Mr Grumpy, Miss Slow or Mr Happy?

The first two need not send their CVs to Timpson, the high street retailer specialising in shoe repairs and key cutting, where personality counts for more than qualifications.

As John Timpson CBE, who has led the family firm for over 40 years, explained to lower sixth students at The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL), you can train someone to cut keys but you can’t train their personality.

John believes that the route to a successful business is to “pick the right people and give them the freedom to get on with things.” Thus interviewers at Timpson use a Mr Men approach – they complete a checklist of characters and candidates who tick enough boxes are invited for a half-day trial in the shop.

To describe his approach to doing business John coined the phrase ‘upside down management’, giving a great deal of autonomy to those colleagues who serve the customers and make the money. Although the response from management, “who like telling people what to do” was initially lukewarm, the idea took hold and the company has been run this way for 20 years.

John said: “Business is not a process, do it your way. You’ll be successful if you have a great idea and the courage of your convictions. The only way to make sure you give really fantastic service is to trust the people who serve customers to do a great job.”

As you might expect from someone who recruits staff using a tick box system based on the Mr Men, his advice to students was to “leave this place with a great personality and lots of character.”

John’s visit was one of a series of talks by inspirational speakers for the sixth form Aspire programme. Aspire is designed to complement the A-level curriculum by helping students to develop the skills and personal qualities sought by universities and employers in addition to good grades. The programme also includes taught courses to learn new creative, practical and life skills, and an afternoon a week spent on voluntary work, sport or mentoring activities.

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