The Next GenCast


Episode 18. Backstage with: Sir John Timpson.

My guest this week is Sir John TImpson, Chairman and owner of Timpson. Yes of Timpsons, the high street shop where we, our parents and perhaps our grandparents have gone to have shoes repaired, keys cut or in my case have holes punched in shoe and watch straps because they are always too big! 

John Timpson was born in 1943 and was educated at Oundle and Nottingham University. The Timpson family business, founded by Sir John’s great grandfather in the 1860’s, was taken over in 1973, but 10 years later Sir John led a £42m management buyout. In 1987 he sold the shoe shops and concentrated on building the shoe repairing and key cutting business.

Timpson now has over 2000 branches nationwide, including the Max Spielmann, Johnsons the Cleaners and Snappy Snaps brands. In 2001, The Sunday Times list of best companies to work for had Timpson in 4th place - the highest placed retailer and the highest placed UK owned company. Many observers can't understand how a firm of shoe repairers can keep its staff happier than some of Britain's richest companies. 

The answer lies with the chairman of Timpson and his no-nonsense approach to management. John has ensured they do more than cut keys- they also have a culture of cutting out policy and processes so people can do the job to the best of their ability, and they embody some of the most progressive thinking in the business world. That ethos is even more remarkable when you learn that around 12% of their employees are ex-convicts. 

If looking after more than 2000 Timpson shops wasn’t enough, Sir John also fostered over 90 children with his late wife Alex, and used what he learnt about attachment to influence the way he looked after his staff. He was appointed CBE in 2004 for services to the retail sector, and was knighted in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to business and fostering.

We talked about all of this, and plenty more:


  • His early journey (4 mins)
  • "Upside-down management" (5.5 mins)
  • What the culture looks like in practice (7.5 mins)
  • Giving staff autonomy on the front line (15 mins)
  • Why they have a 'Director of Happiness' (19 mins)
  • Looking after staff mental health and wellbeing (21 mins)
  • The Timpson recruitment strategy (26 mins)
  • Performance mangement and the 'Happy Index' (29 mins)
  • Recruiting from prison (34.5 mins)
  • His reflections from fostering over 90 children (39.5 mins)
  • What the NHS can learn from the Timpson culture (43 mins)
  • A book, a role model, and top tips (45 mins)

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More Episodes


Episode 17. Backstage with: Dame Barbara Hakin

Dame Barbara Hakin’s immense personal contribution to the NHS has spanned four decades – as a clinician, manager and national leader.During her long career she has worked as a GP for 20 years before taking up her first management role in the NHS, first as a Primary Care Trust Chief Executive in Bradford and then as a Strategic Health Authority Chief Executive in the East Midlands.She went on to become National Director of Commissioning Operations and Deputy Chief Executive at NHS England, where she helped oversee the establishment of CCGs. Described as Sir David Nicholson’s right-hand woman and a forthright and skilled operator, she has often been depicted as the most influential woman in the NHS during her time there. In this conversation Barbara provides a fascinating overview of how primary care has evolved over time, as well as advice on leading effectively as the shortest person in most rooms, whether clinical credibility matters, and influencing politicians.Side note: Given the number of three letter acronyms mentioned, you might find this historical overview and this one useful to look at alongside the conversation. The King's Fund also has some great animations and explainers which might help. Please see a summary of the terms she mentions below too in case it's helpful. *Highlights:Her early journey (3 mins)Work life balance (6 mins)Remaining a doctor and being in management roles (10 mins)Her first experiences of NHS management (16 mins)Being an influencer (21 mins)Having presence and making your voice heard (24 mins)Journey to helping to set up NHS England (28 mins)Imposter syndrome (33 mins)The Health and Social Care Act, and Andrew Lansley (34 mins)Advice on working with politicians (38 mins)Her favourite health minister (41 mins)Her view on integrated care systems and the trajectory of primary care (42.5 mins)Future challenges for primary care post-Covid (48 mins)Final 3 questions - a leader, a book, and top tips (51 mins)*Social media:@NextGGP/@nishmanek*Subscribe to the Next Gen GP monthly bulletin to keep in the loop about future webinars, podcast episodes, and our virtual*EXTRAS========Here are some explanations of the terms Dame Hakin uses:Commissioning:the process by which health and care services are planned, purchased and monitored.Fundholding: In 1991, the Conservatives introduced thepurchaser/provider split.Health authorities began to commission (buy) care, and GP fundholding was introduced. Under GP fundholding, GPs held real budgets with which they purchased primarily non-urgent elective and community care for patients; they had the right to keep any savings and had the freedom to deliver new services. Fundholding was not compulsory and applicants initially had to meet a number of criteria to enter into the scheme. Smaller practices could group together to form fundholding consortia.PCGs and PCTs: Fundholding and family health authorities were replaced in 1999 with 481primary care groups (PCGs).In 2000 the government announced that PCGs would becomeprimary care trusts (PCTs).PCTs were managed by a team ofexecutive directorsheaded by achief executive.PEC: Other board members of the PCT included the chair of theprofessional executive committee (PEC).This waselected from local GPs, community nurses,pharmacists.Broadly speaking, PECs provided a clinical viewpoint on the strategy and operations of the PCT.SHA:In 2002, groups of health authorities were formed calledStrategic Health Authorities (SHAs).These were responsible for developing and improving health services in their local area, ensuring quality, measuring performance, and making sure that national priorities were integrated into local plans.2012 Health and Social Care Act:In 2012, the 10 SHAs and the 152 Primary Care Trusts which looked after services at a local level, were replaced byNHS Englandand more than 200Clinical Commissioning Groups. The proposals were primarily the result of policies of the then Secretary of State for Health,Andrew LansleyICS:TheseIntegrated care systems (ICSs)are a key part of theNHS long-term plan, and are intended to bring about major changes in how health and care services are planned, paid for and delivered.ICSs are partnerships that bring together providers and commissioners of NHS services across a geographical area with local authorities and other local partners, to collectively plan and integrate care to meet the needs of their population. In November 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement publishedIntegrating care: next steps to building strong and effective integrated care systems across England, which Barbara references towards the end of the podcast.

Episode 16. Backstage with Laura Neilson.

I've been really excited to do this episode for a while now. Dr Laura Neilson invariably moves our Next Gen audiences to tears and sparks standing ovations, because of her incredibly powerful story of influencing health inequalities from when she was only a medical student. Laura is the CEO of Hope Citadel Healthcare CIC, and a director of the Focused Care CIC - a unique approach to managing vulnerable patients in areas of deprivation. She founded Hope Citadel whilst shewas a medical student living on a council estate in Oldham. She noticed the inequality in healthcare for the poorest, seeing the "inverse care law" in stark reality, and decided that it was possible to make a difference – so she set up a GP practice. Hope Citadel now run 11 GP practices in some of the most hard-pressed areas of Greater Manchester, aiming to provide whole-person healthcare to all.Laura is passionate about tackling health inequalities andbreaking down barriers to universal services.In 2016, Laura was recognised as a remarkable leader in healthcare when she was awarded the HSJ Rising Star award.In this conversation she tells me about her journey to setting up Hope Citadel, where she found the courage to influence health inequalities as a medical student, and her views on the role of doctors in social justice.*Highlights:Her early influences (3 mins)'Noticing the gap' (7 mins)Digging deep and finding courage (9 mins)Setting up Hope Citadel (13 mins)Stories that made her stop (19 mins)Going to too many funerals (21 mins)"Focused care" (23.5 mins)Quality improvement vs playing (26.5 mins)Being told she couldn't do it (28 mins)Feeling out of her depth (30.5 mins)Learning how to lead (33 mins)Feeling overwhelmed tackling health inequalities (37 mins)Lessons from Covid for society (39mins)The role of doctors in social justice (41.5 mins)Her vision for her patients (43 mins)What can we do? (45 mins)Sustaining her energy (48 mins)Final 3 questions - a leader, a book, and top tips (50 mins)*Resources:Focused careBrene Brown's Dare to Lead book and the podcast on SpotifyHealth Equity in England- the Marmot Review 10 years onMore about Aidan Halligan, who was an inspirational leadership figure for many people *Social media:@NextGGP/@nishmanek*Subscribe to the Next Gen GP monthly bulletin to keep in the loop about future webinars, podcast episodes, and our virtual

Episode 15. Backstage with: David Richmond

After our last episode with Rachel Steen who is just embarking on her career as a qualified GP, for Episode 15 we spoke to someone retired from clinical practice, with decades of experience in clinical leadership to draw upom. This conversation is with Dr David Richmond, who is currently a Non-Executive Director at Birmingham Women and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.David was Medical Director at Liverpool Women's Hospital for 25 years, and was involved with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) for 20 years. This culminated in becoming the Vice President (Clinical Quality) and then President of the College. Here, he was instrumental in delivering the first national outcome report for maternity which is now the National Maternal and Perinatal Audit programme. His clinical specialty was that of Urogynaecology. As Chair of the Audit Committee of the British Society of Urogynaecology (BSUG) he developed the national BSUG surgical database with others. He retired from NHS clinical practice in 2017.In this conversation David reflects on his decades of experience as a clinical leader, including: *Highlights:His leadership journey (3.5 mins)Overcoming self doubt (6 mins)Balancing clinical and leadership roles (7.5 mins)Challenges he faced as President of the College (12.5 mins)His work on reducing perinatal mortality (14 mins)Lessons from working with politicians (19 mins)Balancing life at home (27 mins)A recommended book and person (30 mins)Top tips for new leaders (32.5 mins)*Resources:Recommended book: Winning by Clive Woodward*Social media:@NextGGP/@nishmanek*Subscribe to the Next Gen GP monthly bulletin to keep in the loop about future webinars, podcast episodes, and our virtual