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Tim Martin: Leading from the Top

Wetherspoon’s founder and chairman, Tim Martin, was just 24 years old when, shortly after qualifying as a barrister, he swapped the legal bar for one of his own and opened his first pub, in Muswell Hill.

Since then, during the company’s 30-year history and growth, Tim’s drive, enthusiasm and energy have ensured an adherence to strong core principles, a strong customer focus and a belief that you can never stand still.

Starting with a single pub, Tim stood behind the bar and approached the difficult learning curve of running a pub, while gaining an appreciation of the importance of thousands of baby steps and small improvements which make a business successful.

This same ethos stands as true today as it did back in 1979 – and Tim characterises his business by adopting a very democratic approach to running the pubs, creating an inclusive environment for all staff to be involved in changes and ideas.

Tim believes that fixing small things and making small improvements are more important in a company than the more grandiose schemes which might attract the attention of the media or the stock market. He also tries to ensure that big ideas emanating from the board or senior managers are subjected to a ‘sense test’, by being put forward at weekly meetings to a wide range of staff. This helps to prevent his and others’ flights of fancy from being adopted, simply because they are from directors.

Tim also understands that pubs are run by managers and are about people; so, every week, he still pounds the beat, visiting numerous pubs, looking at the smallest details, talking to customers and ensuring that the business is always seeking to move forwards.