High fidelity: Julian Richer rewards staff loyalty with holiday homes and trips on the company jet. Next? He's planning their inheritance...

 

Why can't all bosses be like Julian Richer? I'm not going to beat about the bush here: I think Julian is great. If I had to hold up someone as a role model for other wannabe tycoons to follow, the founder of the Richer Sounds hi-fi chain would be that person. Let me be clear: for all I know, he could be another Rev Paul Flowers, formerly of the Co-op Bank, and spend his dosh on crystal meth and crack. But if there are such horrors in his cupboard, I don't know what they are.

So what earns him this accolade? The way he treats his staff, the fact that in surveys 95 per cent of them say they love working for him. And then the way his approach translates into tangible results: 52 stores that produced profits of £6.9m from sales of £144.3m last year in an austerity-hit economy, and helped him to build a personal fortune estimated at £115m.

Based in what property agents refer to as the "secondary" shopping streets – the tattier end – his shops, full of in-your-face Day-Glo posters, have won awards galore for their levels of service, and achieved sales unheard-of in the electronics industry. For years, his London Bridge branch could claim to have the highest sales density of any shop in the world.

It was no surprise to hear Richer, 54, who still holds 100 per cent of the company he started 35 years ago, explain this week how he has formed a trust for when he dies so that the business becomes a mutual, similar to John Lewis, under which every staff member receives an equal share, with the IT director, Julie Abraham, stepping up to managing director.

That's how he is. He's often talked of the business surviving after he's gone, of putting a structure in place to ensure his methods continue. He calls them the Richer Way (he's pulled them together in what must rank as one of the best business books in history, now in its fifth edition, called, not surprisingly, The Richer Way).

These include: providing free access to holiday homes in the UK and abroad (regardless of sales performance); trips aboard the company jet for those who suggest the best ideas; cash handouts for staff so they can go to the pub and brainstorm; the use of a Bentley for the store which does the best each month. His reasoning is simple: a happy workforce supplies good customer service, boosts sales, decreases complaints, and eradicates theft and absenteeism.

Others have taken note. Richer is in huge demand as a consultant (Asda, BAA and Halifax are just three, much bigger firms to benefit from his wisdom) and motivational speaker.

He is devoted to what he calls "the biz" (another favourite term is "the buzz" – to succeed, the biz must have the buzz), and has been all his life. Richer grew up in Bristol, the son of parents who worked for Marks & Spencer (it was from their tales of M&S, which also famously treated its staff well with perks such as a good canteen and hairdresser, that he developed the notion of the Richer Way).

At 14, during the energy crisis and while at school at Clifton College, he bought a case of candles for £3 and sold it for £15. That was followed by second-hand hi-fi equipment – he would do up turntables and flog them. Aged 17, he had three people working for him.

His parents wanted him to become an accountant, but that was never a realistic option: at 19, he opened his first Richer Sounds shop at London Bridge. It was tiny, but it was passed by 70,000 commuters a day.

Already, he was treating staff well – thanks to M&S and also, he says, his socialist housemaster at fee-paying Clifton. Later, there was a third influence: Tom Peters's seminal US management work In Search of Excellence.

Married to Rosie since 1982, Richer has many parallel and philanthropic interests. He was the first patron of The Big Issue Foundation, an early director of the Prince of Wales's Duchy Originals, and he's the founder of Acts 435, a charity launched by Archbishop John Sentamu to help those in need, and ASB Help, a charity to help the victims of antisocial behaviour.

A committed Christian, he's never seriously thought of selling his business, of floating it on the stock market. "The biz" is his life's work and he sees it as only natural that those who have contributed to his company's success, the staff, should inherit it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones