Put People First — Reflections from Kip Tindell, CEO, The Container Store

“You can build a much more wonderful company on love than you can on fear.”

- Kip Tindell

Kip Tindell’s philosophy of business is very straightforward: treat people well, and the rest takes care of itself. For The Container Store, the company Kip started and still runs, putting people first begins with employees.

“One of our Foundation Principles is 1 great person = 3 good people. Literally, one great person generates three times the business of a good person. If this is true, then hiring great people becomes the cornerstone of a great business. To achieve this:

  • Be very selective of the people you hire.
  • Pay them one and a half to double the going rate. If they are giving three times the productivity of a good person, this is actually more cost-effective.
  • Give them more than enough experience. The average retail employee in America is trained for eight hours. The Container Store trains new full-time employees for over two hundred and fifty hours.

These all combine to create an environment where people are inspired to work, which naturally trickles down to the customer. This company principle stems from Andrew Carnegie on his deathbed: ‘Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim then making money becomes an easy proposition.’ The ‘other guy’ starts with the employee.”

Another of The Container Store’s Foundational Principles reads: Intuition does not come to an unprepared mind. You need to train before it happens. This principle is based on the great value Kip and The Container Store place on intuition and experience.

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“Many people think that intuition and logic in business are incompatible. Good business is about solid numbers and plans, right? Without intuition, it becomes difficult to make creative leaps to understand people and solve their problems; intuition is necessary to give customers a great experience. Yet, intuition is the ‘sum total of life experience.’ So, it’s more likely for someone with little experience who uses their gut to make mistakes. People don’t generally like to make mistakes, but to be effective, intuition must be trained. Unlike logic, your intuition becomes greater the more you learn about a subject.Valuing logic in the workplace creates ‘safe’ behavior, which can only be so productive. To really supercharge productivity caused by intuitive leaps, employees should be encouraged to creatively solve problems and make mistakes. Allowing them to make these mistakes fosters their own dynamic growth, which pays back tenfold. Properly honed, intuition is the doorway to release your genius.”

Kip is a passionate ambassador for Conscious Capitalism and serves on the board of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. When Kip reconnected with his former college roommate John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, for an interview with Time.com, after decades without contact between them, he was delighted to find that the two deeply shared a philosophical perspective on business and had both built their businesses on the foundation of those beliefs.

“Conscious Capitalism promotes the idea of creating a workplace where people look forward to getting out of bed and going to work in the morning. If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning . . . because we spend more time working than any other waking endeavor, and most people on the planet don’t like their work.

Business is not a zero sum game. In order to gain something you don’t take something away from someone else. The people that really do well in business, and do so for a long, long time, understand what synergy is. Synergy is the most powerful thing in business and can make the most money in business. You work to creatively craft a mutually beneficial relationship, and that’s not only the most fun and intellectually stimulating thing in business, it’s also the most profitable. It’s all about trust and synergy and building something together.”

You can hear more of Kip’s insights in person, in a conversation with various stakeholders of The Container Store, at Conscious Capitalism 2013, April 5th & 6th, in San Francisco, CA. Visit consciouscapitalism.org for information about the event.

© 2013 Jeff Klein, author of It’s Just Good Business: The Emergence of Conscious Capitalism & the Practice of Working for Good

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