They sell plastic. Yet they are one of the most beloved companies in America. The Container Store started out as a single store in Dallas with only $35,000 in capital. Kip Tindell worked tirelessly to build his investment into the big name retail chain it is today. Fast forward to 2017. Today, The Container Store brings in $795 million in revenue, spent 18 years on the Fortune 100 Best Companies list, and offers fantastic wages for staff that feel “valued and respected”. It is safe to say that he has succeeded.
But how was all of this possible? To find out, we spoke to Kip Tindell himself.
Kip is a believer in “1 Equals 3”, or more specifically, one great person is equivalent to three good people.
By creating an environment where employees are well-trained and treated as humans rather than assets, productivity and profits soar. It all starts with the training. While the average retailer provides 8 hours of employee training, The Container Store provides 273 formal training hours.
He goes on to explain, “I’m not an advocate of paying mediocre people well. I’m a big advocate of paying great people well, and if you pay somebody who’s getting three times the productivity twice as much, everybody wins.”
Employers win because they pay two salaries for the work of three people. Employees win by getting much higher pay than the industry average. Consumers win because they are being helped by capable, motivated and well-trained staff. The Container Store recognizes the benefits of investing in their people and offering incentives in the right places.
In fact, a well-trained staff forms the basis for Kip’s next key to success: “Man in the desert”. Imagine you are stranded in a desert, about to collapse from heat exhaustion. Suddenly, you see a man in an oasis. What should this man offer you in your time of need? This question can be directly linked to how retail staff can make or break a business. Many people would be content with water and shade. But businesses cannot thrive with customers who are merely “content”. Instead, the man could offer you a sports drink to help replenish electrolytes, or a satellite phone to tell your loved ones that you are alive. It is when a salesperson exceeds expectations that people become lifelong customers.
Kip knows that if someone comes in with a poorly organized closet and walks out with a few shelves, chances are the closet will still be poorly organized. On the other hand, if the salesperson takes the time to truly understand and solve the problem, the customer will feel proud of their purchase and will share their experience with others. In other words, every happy customer is working for you as free advertisement. In fact, it is better than an ad because people trust their friends and family a lot more than a stranger on tv, the web, or a billboard.
Kip’s third and final key to success: “Communication is Leadership”. Kip believes that everything can be solved with proper communication, so he communicates everything to almost all of his employees at all times. It seems obvious, but it is very easy to overlook how often you are keeping someone informed. The amount of information necessary and relevant also has to be balanced, so that the person isn’t overwhelmed with things irrelevant to their jobs.
In his words,
“Nothing makes you feel more part of something than when you know everything’s communicated to you. If everything’s not communicated to you, you feel excluded. You don’t really feel a part of it.”
Lack of communication can be easily misinterpreted as a lack of compassion. When managing teams of people, it is essential to keep everyone feeling appreciated since this is when we do our best work. People don’t mind putting in extra effort when they feel successful and part of a larger purpose.
The three keys to success all share a common theme: treat everyone as you would treat yourself.
There is a reason that “the golden rule” is repeated over and over to every kindergardener, and it’s not because Charlie won’t share the Legos. It’s because humans are instinctively social creatures. There are benefits to treating your employees as people and going the extra mile for your customers. Kip Tindell has figured this out and made these conscious business concepts essential ingredients of The Container Store culture and brand.
Check out more great interviews and videos from leaders in conscious capitalism, in the new feature film Prosperity