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How innovative management can work for small firms

Timpson key-cutting and dry cleaning stores are known across the land. The company’s boss, John Timpson, is becoming almost as famous. His column in the Daily Telegraph has publicised ‘upside down’ management idea. 

This concept involves giving autonomy to the store managers in his 1,300-plus branches. They can stock what they like. He trusts their judgement to resolve issues. He invests a lot in staff morale, making a fuss of people who get married, offering eight holiday homes for staff to use for free, and visiting 800 stores a year.

Gordon Rafferty is a keen exponent of Timpson’s methods. He’s used them to grow his removals business All Moves UK from one-man-with-a-van to a slick, 10-vehicle enterprise employing 15 staff and turning over £500,000. 

“I used to work for John, and I like his upside-down management,” he says. “Customers are at the top. I reward staff in the same way. I give them a bottle of wine, cinema tickets or a meal for two when we get good feedback.” The financials are open-book, so staff know exactly what margins the company is running. 

Training is foremost. “Our guys can pack wine glasses so you can drop the box standing on a table and keep every glass intact,” says Gordon.

His approach is unusual in an industry riddled with variable quality. “We quoted for a job recently against another mover,” he says. “It turns out its company address was a Little Chef on the A46. We’ve been calling for regulation for years.”

Quality tells. At the Alliance of Independent Movers’ Awards, All Moves UK picked up the Domestic Mover of the Year accolade.

Clearly, the upside-down approach is working.