Family Business Philanthropist Award

Facing our Greatest Immediate Challenge – The Role of Philanthropy

Magazine article
Winners: John Timpson CBE and Alex Timpson MBE

John Timpson and wife Alex have made a significant philanthropic contribution over many years, giving time, money and skills to a wide variety of causes.

As well as committing high value donations to dozens of charities over the years, the Timpsons offer much more and it’s this pioneering approach that has won them the Family Business Philanthropist Beacon Award.

John is a successful family businessman whose philosophy has inspired many and whose success in retail earned him a CBE in 1992. He describes his approach in How to Ride a Giraffe and his latest book, Upside Down Management, which was published in April. It reveals his deep understanding of the power of people.

He says in his book: “Upside down management relies on good people. One of the best decisions we made was to stop employing shoe repairers. For 10 years we have recruited personalities and then taught them the skills. Our increased turnover and profit reflects the better calibre of our people.”  

It’s this kind of thinking that has made their family business the success it is.  

The Timpson family business was taken over in 1973, but 10 years later John led a £42m management buy-out. In 1987 he sold the shoe shops and concentrated on building the shoe repairing and key cutting business, which has diversified into engraving, watch repairs, dry cleaning and photo processing.

Timpson now has over 850 branches nationwide with a turnover of £150m and profits of over £10m.

As a mentor to the many organisations the Timpsons support, John generously shares his business insights and his consummate business skills.
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While Alex has played a vital role in the development of today’s Timpson business, and is a dedicated volunteer for many causes, her MBE was awarded in recognition of her contribution as a foster carer. The Timpsons have fostered over 90 children and are adoptive parents to two.

In commenting on their award, John says: “This award really should recognise our entire staff. For Alex, myself, son James and the rest of the family, the transformation in trading, which enables our philanthropic activity, is well beyond our wildest dreams. The success has been created by a team full of superstars and we are very grateful for all the support from Timpson employees.”

Andrew Wates, chairman of the Institute for Family Business, who headed the Beacon Awards Family Business  scrutineer panel, said: "Our judges commended the Timpson family business - it has a long history of generosity and entrepreneurial spirit. John has clearly brought his own business skills into helping those who are disadvantaged. Philanthropy and social responsibility are part of the DNA of family business. Family firms are often regarded as ‘local heroes’ supporting communities and Beacon helps to promote these values.