cut the crap

Be like Richer Sounds: Get a Cut the Crap Committee

Julian Richer 

Richer Sounds was setup by Julian Richer in 1978. From a single shop near London Bridge, the business has grown to 53 stores and an eCommerce website, selling TVs, home cinemas and high end audio equipment. As it expanded, the business introduced a ‘Cut the Crap Committee’ as a way of identifying and removing unnecessary internal complexity.

Richer Sounds know how they win

Everyone strives to provide better knowledge and expertise, better products and pricing, and better customer service than the competition. They are proud that by putting their shops in cheaper, less obvious locations, they can pass on precious cost savings to their customers (the Exeter store is a throw in from the football ground and a bus ride from the city centre).

They also know that happy employees mean delighted customers and higher profits.

The organisation enjoys a unique, much lauded culture. They are proud that their store staff include ‘a remarkable number of budding musicians, DJs, and film buffs, fanatical about great sound and vision’1. Attrition is quoted at being between 1% – 2%, and absenteeism and stock theft are well below industry averages2.

Keeping the campers happy

The organisation pulls various levers to keep its people engaged. Julian Richer gives his home phone number to all new employees and many are inducted at his house. The highest performing stores receive access to the company’s sports cars and holiday homes. There’s even a hardship fund for staff who run into financial difficulties.

But it’s not give without take.

On day one, Richer makes it clear that all staff have a responsibility for identifying ways to continuously improve the business. Employees are paid for contributing to the established staff suggestion scheme, whereby named representatives will manage the channelled suggestions. “It does away with the low-level moaning that is so corrosive to morale” Richer says3.

Keeping things simple

Although Richer personally looks at and acknowledges each suggestion, not everything can be implemented. In fact, the business makes a big deal of protecting the simplicity of its operating model. Managers formally toot out complexity.

In his book, The Richer Way, Richer explains that “most companies just keep adding new systems. They never go through and clear out the obsolete ones”4. A Cut the Crap Committee was setup so high potential managers could focus on eliminating bad work. The organisation is also actively removing unnecessary administration and paperwork, unproductive processes and systems, and outgrown ways of working.

The result

Richer Sounds holds a Guinness World Record for the highest sales per square foot of any retailer. It is also able to donate more to charity, as a percentage of profit, than any other UK company5.

Takeaway: As we have seen in our own client work, stopping can create more value than blindly doing. Quite simply, stopping low value activity allows organisations to do more of what they are great at. Whether that’s selling HiFis, creating innovative mobile apps, or providing differential financial analysis.

The lessons to learn from Julian Richer are:

  • First of all, find a Leader who passionately believes in cutting complexity
  • Crowdsource simplification ideas from across the organisation
  • Have a clear and regular decision-making process (the Cut the Crap Committee provides a clear identity that is accessible to all)
  • Finally, ensure there’s follow through and that change sticks

You don’t need a committee to ask your people what they’d like to cut, kill or stop. You won’t be short on ideas, although making simplicity stick is hard. Typically, organisations and their people are hardwired to do more, not less.

But, find a way and there might be a place waiting for you in a certain Book of Records.



  4. The Richer Way, Julian Richer, 2009