Recruitment boss Tim Watts on getting Britain back to work
'First we give them a free haircut, then we buy them a suit and tie and a manicure. Once you change self-esteem, you change everything.'
Tim Watts has a problem; the more shares he gives away to his staff in Pertemps, his recruitment agency, the richer he gets. "De-leveraging your wealth is not an easy task," he says, with the biggest of laughs. "If I give away £5m of shares, my stake ends up being £15m. The more of the company I give away, the richer I become because the staff are more motivated, and so the business grows stronger."
It's a nice problem to have but not for the Birmingham entrepreneur, whose personal fortune is worth about £35m, because he wants to give more. He's already handed away about a quarter of Pertemps to his fellow workers who, together with their share options, own about 40% of the recruiter. With sister company, the Network Group, it's one of the UK's biggest independent recruitment agencies with 1040 staff and 200 branches in 70 towns.
Now the 63-year-old wants to gift the rest of the business to them – well, most of it – before he retires: " The tax they will have to pay is penal. It would bankrupt some. How ridiculous is that," he says. But there's a solution: "If the government wants to encourage more co-owned businesses like John Lewis as Nick Clegg said recently, there must be better tax incentives in place." It's a philosophy he wants to spread and why he helped found the Centre for Tomorrow's Company, the "think-and-do"-tank that calls for closer relations between workers and all stakeholders......