Container Store CEO Kip Tindell: Great Workers Deserve Great Salaries

Kip Tindell, CEO of the Container Store, explains that his employees are the company's most valuable asset and that it's important to pay them what their worth to foster a positive workplace culture.

Kip Tindell: We, at The Container Store, and I'm just speaking with my Container Store hat on as the CEO of Container Store, one of the foundation principles, the company is sort of based on a sort of seven foundation principles that are all very simple but very thought-provoking, kind of like the golden rule: very, very simple but very thought-provoking at the same time, things that nobody ever disagrees with. How many people do you know that say I don't know about that do unto others thing, maybe that's not such a good idea after all. So one of them is one equals three; that one great person can easily do the business productivity of three good people. It's actually an understatement. There's all kinds of things that you do 14 times or 38 times better than me, but one equals three allows you to kind of hold out for only the great employee. I mean we think the most important thing that we do is who we hire to join The Container Store, that wonderful company, so we're looking for people that we think will do at least three times the productivity that someone else might hire for that position, and no one's overqualified.

I mean we always joke that if a retired federal reserve chairman wants to work in our accounting department that's fine with us. If you go to our stores and look at who's working there you have masters degrees. The average full-time sales person in the store makes about $48,000, which is not an enormous amount of money but it's a lot of money, it's a whole lot of money for a retail sales position. First you have to believe that you can get great people to work in a retail sales position or in a hot distribution center in Dallas Texas. And boy have we been successful at that. And we've been on Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in America list for 15 years in a row, number one twice, number two twice. We have a reputation for being a great place to work, and so we seek out great people. We put you through eight interviews, so we wind up with great people and they're very productive and they're very innovative. Then you can pay them well and you need to pay them well.

People join The Container Store and they never leave. I mean our turnover is single digit in an industry that averages triple digit, and pay is part of that. It's an inverted pyramid. I don't, as CEO, I make substantially less than industry average. The vice presidents make maybe about industry average, but the people closest to the customers and the people in the stores make well above industry average. In fact we say in general 50 to 100 percent above industry average; that can vary a little geographically. It's different in San Francisco and New York than it is in Fort Worth and Atlanta. But you're getting three times the productivity at only 50 to 100 percent higher labor costs. So the employee wins because she's getting paid 50 percent more than somebody else would likely pay her, the company wins because It's getting three times the productivity at that only 50 percent higher cost, and the customer wins because they're getting this engaged really great employee.

When you go in the stores the people that wait on you have been there four years or eight years or 12 years, they love their jobs and they're truly interested in your storage and organization problem. So, we're not advocates of paying mediocre people well, we enjoy excellence, we insist on a meritocracy and we really believe in paying great people well; we give much bigger than usual annual increases. I'll look forward to the day when we have people on the sales floor making $100,000 a year. We don't have a single one yet but I think we will sometime and I think plenty of people are good enough to make that. A great place to work it's not just about pay, but pay is still important. People's families depend upon it. It's very important.

We're trying to pay in accordance to contribution. Most business people will tell you I don't know, some of my worst people make the most money and some of my best people make the least money. And you just have to realize how important it is. You have a finite pie of compensation. The person who makes the 15th biggest contribution should have the 15th biggest slice of the pie.

I think it's important that people feel mildly tickled, maybe you don't want them to feel wildly tickled, but maybe if they feel mildly tickled about their compensation they feel very hopeful about the opportunities they have for advancement if they want that or more money or a lot more money if they want that. So, there's also a pride factor. There's also the new groom wants his new father in law to be proud of what his salary is, so this stuff’s important.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton

Kip Tindell argues that paying employees well is not only the right thing to do, but good for the bottom line. Tindell is the CEO of The Container Store.

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    Politics & Current Affairs

    Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:

    "I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."

    Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.

    Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.

    The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?


    Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression

    In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.

    It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.

    Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.

    Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.

    The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.

    It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.

    In their findings the authors state:

    "The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
    upholding First Amendment ideals.

    Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."

    With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.

    Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner

    As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:

    • Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
    • Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
    • Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
    • Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
    • Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
    • Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
    • Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
      Patriotic.

    Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.

    It's interesting to note the authors found that:

    "Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."

    You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.

    Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:

    • 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
    • 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
    • 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
    • 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
    • 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
    • 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.

    Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement

    Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:

    • Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
    • Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
    • Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
    • Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
    • We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
    • If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.

    Civic discourse in the divisive age

    Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.

    There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:

    "In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
    dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
    the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
    These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
    putting our democracy in peril.


    Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
    immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
    become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
    Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
    The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
    re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
    building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."

    We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.

    This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.