The Visionaries: Tim Watts - Watts Happening; His Employees Call Him Tim or Boss, and He Encourages Them to Eat More Fruit. His Management Style Could Be Described as Benevolent Dictatorship. Chief Business Feature Writer Paul Dale Investigates the Business Philosophy of Tim Watts

By Dale, Paul | The Birmingham Post (England), September 12, 2000 | Go to article overview

The Visionaries: Tim Watts - Watts Happening; His Employees Call Him Tim or Boss, and He Encourages Them to Eat More Fruit. His Management Style Could Be Described as Benevolent Dictatorship. Chief Business Feature Writer Paul Dale Investigates the Business Philosophy of Tim Watts


Dale, Paul, The Birmingham Post (England)


Fact File

Dreamed of becoming a pilot on leaving school.

Failed to win his wings after being declared psychologically unsuitable.

Fanatical about horse racing.

No formal business training.

Admits to being a risk taker.

Took over one-office business from his mother. It's now worth pounds 450 million.

Believes in promoting family values among employees.

Business motto: we don't tell people what to do.

You must make your staff the focal point of everything because they are the people who deliver my reputation day in and day out

You can call Tim Watts larger than life but the description is something of an understatement.

Unique would be a better way of putting it.

To quote the man himself: 'I'm not exactly a wilted flower.'

Certainly, when Mr Watts is in a room all others are likely to know about it. A big man, he likes to leave his mark on a conversation.

Benevolent dictatorship might be the most accurate way to sum up his business style.

Employees are encouraged to call him Tim, or Boss but never Mr Watts because formality is frowned on in the Pertemps 'virtual family' concept of worker-management relations.

He masterminds a pounds 450 million recruitment agency, finding work for thousands across the world, yet he takes pride in knowing almost all of his own internal workforce by their first names.

He plays squash with them in the company leisure centre and drinks with them in the pub across the road most nights but there's no doubt that his loyal staff wouldn't dare take liberties.

'I'm a hard taskmaster,' he admits after reprimanding an employee for parking in the wrong spot at the Pertemps HQ - a Grade I listed manor house at Meriden. The car is mud-spattered. Mr Watts does not like untidiness or disorder of any kind.

His own car, a Bentley with the personalised number plate 1 Job, resembles its owner - powerful and spotless.

He does not like being unable to answer difficult questions. When an impressive array of computer equipment was installed recently at Meriden Hall it must have dawned on him that even rich and powerful men cannot always have their own way.

'We have been trying for three months to calculate the computer power in this building. Three months! And the nearest they can come up with is infinity, which of course cannot be correct,' he complains.

Tim Watts doesn't play by the official rule book. On leaving school he wanted to become a commercial airline pilot, until his instructors suggested that he was 'psychologically unsuited'.

'I did a stint with BEA and BOAC but got the sack because I was prone to take risks. I wasn't the right sort of character to be a pilot. With hindsight, they were perfectly correct.

'Psychologically, I am very much a risk taker, always backing my own judgment against the manual.'

He switches from talking about the finer points of business to the finer points of horse racing. A champion of the turf - his company has sponsored the St Leger and he has more than 20 horses in training - he has a horse named Pertemps Jack running at Brighton as we speak.

'Now, here's a tip for you,' he says. 'There's a horse of ours called Dim Sum, ridden the other week by Frankie Dettori in his comeback race. It won, of course. It's running at Redcar on September 30 in the big championship race, and it will win.'

Mr Watts, aged 51, says he owes much of his business success to his mother, Constance, who died in 1998. She founded Pertemps in 1961, opening a recruitment office at 14 Temple Street, Birmingham. Pertemps - the name stands for Permanent and Temporary Staff - still has a presence there.

'It was a typical agency specialising, in the days before we had to be politically correct, in hiring lady secretaries. I don't think we employed men for years,' Mr Watts recalled. …

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The Visionaries: Tim Watts - Watts Happening; His Employees Call Him Tim or Boss, and He Encourages Them to Eat More Fruit. His Management Style Could Be Described as Benevolent Dictatorship. Chief Business Feature Writer Paul Dale Investigates the Business Philosophy of Tim Watts
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