For those of us determined to be more organized or make the most of their time, the October 14 Voices of Experience featuring Kip Tindell, chairman and CEO of The Container Store, was a memorable evening filled with positive tips on leadership and making the world a better place.
The store’s employee-first culture and steadfast commitment to “conscious capitalism,” coincide with Tindell’s commitment to improving the quality of customers’ and employees’ lives, excellent communication and having fun. In fact, his personal life philosophies eventually became molded into the seven foundation principles of The Container Store that guide the company’s culture and business practices:
- One equals three. Great employees are three times as productive as good employees, and therefore are worth paying 50-100 percent more than the industry average.
- Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim. The Container Store has successfully crafted mutually beneficial relationships with vendors that result in an increased bottom line.
- Man in the desert selling. The Container Store strives to provide customers with a complete solution, resulting in ecstatic customers.
- Communication is leadership. Consistent, effective, compassionate communication is an essential part of leadership and business. “Life is too short for opaque people,” Tindell told the Voices of Experience audience.
- Intuition does not come to an unprepared mind. Employees must anticipate the needs of customers, which they’re better able to do when given excellent training.
- The best selection, the best service, the best pricing. The Container Store strives for all three objectives.
- Air of excitement. Customers can tell when employees love their jobs and enjoy helping customers—and it makes them want to return to The Container Store time and time again. “Business is not a zero sum game,” Tindell said. “Someone doesn’t have to lose for someone else to win.”
The Container Store’s principles, Tindell says, match up with the four tenets of conscious capitalism: higher purpose, conscious leadership, stakeholder orientation and conscious culture. At least some of his philosophies on business are shared by his longtime friend and former college roommate, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market (and cofounder of the nonprofit Conscious Capitalism), who spoke at Voices of Experience in January 2013.
As Tindell has grown his company from one small store in Dallas, that he and a partner opened in 1978, to 67 stores today–he believes in bringing only the very best people into the organization. “You want people who have a lot of social IQ,” Tindell said. “Intellectual IQ is great, but it’s not as important as social.” The Container Store hires just three percent of its applicants, so it seeks out that special combination of positive, creative problem-solvers with exceptional communication skills. Employees enjoy a company with lower turnover, great pay and a culture that you must see to believe.
The Container Store’s employees come first and always have. Tindell says that even in the throes of the Great Recession (the company’s first time experiencing a decrease in sales) he remained committed to retaining the employees in which the company had invested so much. “Putting our employees first is not only the right thing to do, it also happens to be more successful than any other business methodology,” he said. “If you take great care of the employees, they take great care of the customers.”
By 2010, The Container Store emerged from the recession and began posting record numbers. The company went public in November 2013, but Tindell says that that he has no intention of changing the way they do business. “We’re staying the same,” he says. “We know that the culture creates the value.”
Kip Tindell recently authored the book Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment & Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives.
Learn more about Voices of Experience at daniels.du.edu/voe.