How an "Employee-First" Culture Can Succeed
Kip Tindell has been at the helm of The Container Store since it first opened its doors in Dallas, Texas, in 1978. Now, the "storage solutions" company has over 39 stores and offers over 10,000 products designed to hold everything from prescription pills to wrapping paper.
As detailed in Kip's book Uncontainable, The Container Store has produced 15 to 20 percent annual sales growth since its founding and has been on FORTUNE magazine’s list of "100 Best Companies to Work For" for the last decade running.
Question: How does an employee-centric business lead to long-term gains?
Kip Tindell: When we opened our Houston store, it was doing about triple what we anticipated and all of the principles, all of the values were kind of falling by the wayside, and it didn’t feel like our business. It felt like somebody else’s business. We couldn’t hire enough people, we didn’t like the people we were hiring. And at that point, we just realized that if you were having trouble with an employee, you couldn’t just go out and eat Mexican food with them and straighten everything out. There was just getting to be too many people. And so we would have to, in for form of stories, in the form of culture, write down, speak what the business philosophies and principles really were, repeat them over and over again. Get everyone to talk about these things. And really, make sure that they were kind of guiding our... Basically what we’ve done is we’ve agreed on a set of "ends," and we’ve liberated everyone in the company to choose the means to those ends that they think is most appropriate, because life it too situational and retail is certainly too situational for anyone to think that they’re smart enough to tell employees how to behave in any given setting. So there’s really radical empowerment, but we’re not going in a thousand different directions, we’re all going in the same direction toward the same ends because of that.
So whereas, the average retailer... the average retailer, embarrassingly enough only invests eight hours in each first-year employee. And we invest 272 formal hours of training with each first-year employee. And we can do that because people have joined The Container Store, and thank God they never leave. And so growth challenges you to really formalize and communicate those to make sure they are straight in your own mind and you know...
The other thing is the employees are so proud of these philosophies. They’re so proud to be working for a kind of a values-driven organization. The other thing is that in this conscious capitalism model where you’re balancing the needs of all stakeholders, not just the shareholder, the employees, the community the environment, the vendors, you can’t tell the difference between the vendors and employees at The Container Store. We forge these incredible relationships with our vendors that give us a huge competitive advantage.
I think that’s probably the most intellectually stimulating aspect of business that I’ve discovered that the balancing act of the stakeholder model where you may put the employee or the customer first, but it’s a balanced thing between all stakeholders of the business as opposed to just focusing on the shareholder. That’s fun. And it’s not just fun, and it’s not just altruistic, it works. That’s the hardest thing about talking about conscious capitalism to people.
People think that we’re just being altruistic. No, if all you wanted to do was to make as much money as possible, as rapidly as possible, I would submit to you that this methodology is the best way to get there.
Question: What is your concept of "Wake?"
Kip Tindell: W-A-K-E, like a boat’s wake. Very simple, but you know, we all... I mean everything you do and everything you don’t do impacts your business and the people around you far, far more than you think it does. Something that we talk about, not just with our young employees but everybody—even arrogant people have no idea of the power of their wake. If you build an organization where everyone’s really conscious of their wake... well actually, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You know that corny movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life?” That’s my favorite movie because it shows so beautifully the power of one guy’s wake. Right? And everybody’s like that.
If you build an organization where people are mindful and conscious of the incredible power of every individual’s wake, you know, nobody can compete with that. That’s a beautiful, special organization where... well there’s a lot of power to the whole concept of being mindful of how much bigger your wake is than you have any idea that it is.
Recorded October 28, 2010
Interviewed by John Cookson
Having set company-wide goals, The Container Store has "liberated" its employees to choose their own paths to achieve them.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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