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Lessons From Uncontainable

October 4th, 2017 by Morna

Have you ever been in The Container Store? One is located about 15 miles from my home, so I’m familiar with the store. I was a bit overwhelmed with the first trip. So many storage choices. I had no clue.

I wasn’t, however, familiar with its history. That’s where Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives comes in. It’s written by the Chairman and CEO, Kip Tindell, along with Paul Keegan and Casey Shilling. It’s not just the story of The Container Store. It’s the story of Kip’s life and and how that showed up in his business. It also focuses on his commitment to what is know as the Conscious Capitalism movement. Interesting to learn that John Mackey, co-founder of the Conscious Capitalism Movement was Tindell’s roommate in college.

The book was the reading for our ICAP Members’ Studio Book Club in October. I originally selected it for two reasons. I liked his discussion of the corporate culture and the seven Foundation Principles of his company. And, his most trusted business advisors are women.

I’m not sure how many small artisans, particularly those who work from home and by themselves, take the time to think about what their guiding principles are. My guess is that you know your personal values and translate those to your business. And for many, it may come down to how Tindell was guided by the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I was also taken by what he called his “philosophy epistle file,” which he began in high school. This is his collection of anecdotes, quotes and musings that struck him over time. He came back to that file many times in his life as he was growing his business. How many of you have such a file? I know I do.

Here are The Container Store’s seven principles to think about and consider how you could apply them in your own business.

1 Great Person = 3 Good People®

If you hire the right people for the job, you get more productivity from them. Tindell also believes that if you hire great people you can afford to pay them better. His pay for retail workers is greater than the industry average. He also offers hundreds of hours of training to his employees. Many of his employees are long-term and it’s hard to get a job with The Container Store. Happier, more productive employees are better for your customers. There’s a saying in business that if you’re an A company, you hire A employees. If you’re a B company, you hire C’s. If you are hiring, be sure to look for the great employee not merely the good employee.

Communication IS Leadership®

Not everyone agrees with Tindell’s position that every employee should know “absolutely everything.” It works for him, and he’s not concerned that his competition may know something. For him, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. If you expect your employees to be “partners” in your company and support its growth, I think you need to let them know what’s going on. So communicate and share.

Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim. Making money then becomes an easy proposition®

I loved this principle. If you help someone win, you will win in the end. Tindell uses this to mean helping his vendors, those who supply products for him to sell. I think it’s as applicable to your buyers and your employees. For example, if you sell patterns to a shop, can you offer ways to help the shop owner build her business. Again, it becomes win-win.

The Best Selection, Service, & Price®

Tindell says that most companies aim for or meet two out of three. He want to hit the trifecta all the time. Can you look at what you offer and see if you are setting this standard?

Intuition does not come to an untrained mind. You need to train before it happens.®

Are you born with intuition or is it developed? According to the dictionary, intuition is “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.” So while you may think of intuition as something “in your bones,” it had to get there somehow. It should just be guesswork. It makes sense that the more you train your mind, the more intuitive you become.

Man in the Desert Selling®

This was another great principle. Tindell tells a great story – he’s a Texan full of stories – about what you should be giving a man in the desert. The man might need water, but he needs a lot more. As you look at what you offer, do you take time to understand the customer’s needs? Take time to learn who your customer is and ask questions so you can meet those needs. If you do that, you’ll be able to sell – or serve – more to her.

Air of Excitement®

Tindell says that you can feel this as soon as you walk into a store. Can you think of your local shop and how you feel when you go in? Some shops have this and some don’t. If you aren’t a shop with a physical presence, you can also create an air of excitement in how you deal with customers, what your website experience is, and how you interact on social media.

This was a really good read, or listen in my case. It would be worth your time to get your creative juices going as to how you work with your employees, vendors, and customers. For Tindell, this resulted in on average 20% growth per year.

Your turn!

Where in your business could you apply Tindell’s principles apply? What are some of your guiding principles?

 

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2 Responses to “Lessons From Uncontainable”


  1. Laura Estes said:

    My father was still living when I started my business. He was a highly successful, sought after accountant. People trusted him to sort out some pretty sticky accounting situations. He insisted on doing things legal and correctly. His advice was, produce a quality product, put your name and contact info on it, ship promptly and sort out any problems fairly, making your customer feel cared for, even if it cost you a little money. They will be happy and speak well of you.


  2. Morna said:

    Laura, I remember your sharing that with me. Wonderful that you had his guidance and a good business model to emulate.

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