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Kip Tindell, Co-founder, CEO, The Container Store


Kip Tindell, Co-founder, CEO, The Container StoreAchievements

With the foundation of The Container Store in 1978 Kip Tindell created a new niche of retailing, selling multifunctional, storage and organization products. With $500 million sales in 2006 his company remains a leader in estimated $3.2 bn industry that continues to thrive. In early 2006 Kip Tindell was inducted into the Retailing Hall of Fame. The Container Store has been in the top-10 of FORTUNE magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” the latest eight years one after another. 

Career Highlights

While in Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas in 1969 Kip Tindell got a job in the paint department at Montgomery Ward. There he became a superstar salesperson and also forged a close friendship with Garrett Boone, his future business partner. In 1978 Kip teamed up with Garrett to launch a new retail concept. 

The first challenge was to find products to sell. In January 1978 they were "two guys in search of an idea”. Initially Tindell wanted to open a custom-made furniture store. That went nowhere. Some time later Kip noticed stackable Akro Bins at a trade show. He looked at the bins and thought, “There's a need for storage pieces. There might be business in this.” Tindell and Boone knew that busy people needed more time - and that having a place to keep things saved time. They decided to open a home organization product store.

The great innovation and at the same time the great trouble was that organizational products were at that time sold for commercial use only and were not available to consumers. "A lot of people thought it was odd to open a store selling empty boxes," Tindell says. But many of those commercial products helped him to clearly define the original concept – to sell multifunctional, storage and organization products that would save customers space and time.

The first Container Store opened in July 1978 filled with milk crates, Swedish wire shelving and wire leaf barrel etc. The founders offered many different products - so many that their customers were amazed. But they were much more amazed with the employees at The Container Store trained to help solving everything from the tiniest of storage problems to the most intimidating organizational challenges. Customers receive extraordinary service, along with fresh ideas and a very interactive shopping experience.

Today 38 company’s stores showcase more than 10 000 innovative products. But for Kip Tindell the goal never has been growth for the growth’s sake. For him growth and success have always been the inevitable result of a fundamental set of corporate values, centered on strict merchandising, exceptional customer service and strong employee commitment. 

Leadership Experience

Kip Tindell is that kind of a leader one can frequently watch in his own stores, selling dusting shelves and helping with customer carry-outs. He managed to create a fundamentally new retailing business - home organization product store - based on the original concept, exceptional customer service and amazing attitude to the company’s employees.

His actual obsession by the people aspect of his company makes him an anomaly in the retail business. "I believe you can have retail people who are not just a bunch of bubble gum chewing kids. Retail can be a great career. Find great people, believe in them, and share success with them," he once said. Kip’s belief has turned into one of The Container Store's core business philosophies, according to which one great person equals three good people in terms of business productivity.

So, why not hire only great people? Kip Tindell has proved that he knows well how to find them. He asserts that recruitment is a part of everyone’s job, including all executives and himself:  “Our director of recruiting realized that it's not his job to recruit great people," Tindell explains. "It's the job of our 3 000 employees. We want their friends, their family, their cousins… A soccer game is as good a place to discuss a job at The Container Store as the Dallas headquarters offices”. Thanks to this approach, The Container Store has not had to run an employment ad in more than two years. Most employees are college educated and most were customers first.

The Container Store pays its employees 50 to 100% more than most mass-market retailers. And there is a weighty reason for such politics. “Kip and I worked for 18 years very closely on building the structure that allows us to pay more - to think out of the box and devote 10 percent of store sales to payroll,” Beth Barrett, vice president of operations, recalls. As a result of that hard work, The Container Store’s salespeople do not work on commission; they are either salaried or paid by the hour with wages far above the retail industry norm. It allows them to spend as much time as necessary to help customers find what they need and they often join in teams to find an original solution for the customer.

Thus, Kip Tindell has nurtured a fierce loyalty to the company, which has an incredible number of career employees – who might never have dreamed of a career in retail. “A funny thing happens when you take the time to educate your employees, pay them well and treat them as equals,” he declares.

Background links:                          

Golden Gut, Forbes

Thinking Outside the Box at The Container Store, WORKFORCE Management

It's Time to Plug Talent Leaks, Business Week



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