Decisions: John Timpson, Timpson, Chief executive of the shoe-repair chain


Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

... was to marry my wife, Alex. I fell in love with her personality, not her business acumen, but on a number of occasions she has told me what to do with the business. When we did the management buyout of Timpson in 1983, she said: 'It's going to work out - you get in there and do it.'

The other fantastic decision was made in the late 1980s when we were growing fast. The Sock Shop and others were floating at fantastic price/earning ratios, and people were making a lot of money. We were going to be next. We were talking to merchant bankers when Alex said to me: 'You won't like being told what to do by analysts and fund managers.'

So I told my six shareholders we weren't going to float and I had to buy their shares back. It cost me about £4.5m, but it was my best decision. Today, Timpson turns over about £150m, and it's because of Alex's advice that we own 100% of it. There was never any pressure to borrow lots of money to create more profit. We wouldn't be profitable with no debt if we'd floated in 1989.


The MBO included a shoe retail business, and almost immediately that business started to go wrong. My first bad decision was not to think why. There were far too many shoe shops on the high street and lots of other people like M&S started selling shoes. Our competitors were stronger than us, and if I'd thought about it, I'd have realised the business hadn't got a lot of hope.

Instead, I listened to other people's advice, which was to get in some professional management. The people who came in had been successful elsewhere, but they weren't the right answer. They built up structures, had business plans, did all this traditional management stuff - which I've now learnt is not the way to run our family concern. The business rapidly worsened, and that led to my next mistake.

I knew that there was no chance for it a year before I put it up for sale, and in that year the price I was able to get halved. When you instinctively know that something is right or wrong, get on with it, and don't worry about what other people say.

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