The Container Store CEO Shares His Best Advice For Small-Business Owners

Kip Tindell container storeCourtesy of Kip TindellKip Tindell is the cofounder, CEO, and chairman of The Container Store.

The Container Store started in 1978 as a wacky idea among three friends to start a business that sold only containers.

With an initial investment of $US35,000, appealing products, and smart marketing, it quickly caught on. Today, it has 6,000 employees, 67 locations in the US, and annual sales of nearly $US800 million.

We recently caught up with cofounder and CEO Kip Tindell, author of new book “Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives,” and asked him to share his best advice for entrepreneurs and small-business owners who hope to follow in his footsteps.

“Everything you do and everything you don’t do is so much more important to the world and in your business than you think it is,” Tindell said. “If you can be mindful of the power of your wake, it adds up to a huge business advantage.”

Every decision a business owner makes, he said, has the potential to affect employees, customers, vendors, stakeholders, and the wider community. He wants business to be a win-win for all.

That’s reflected in Tindell’s hiring philosophy. The Container Store follows “the 1 equals 3 rule,” the idea that one great person is three times more productive than one good person. It aims to find the very best employees, and then pays them almost double the industry average, which not only helps retain great people but also enables employees to better support their families. The average Container Store retail salesperson makes nearly $US50,000 a year, he said.

“You can pay them twice as much and still save, since you get three times the productivity at two times the cost,” Tindell said. “They win, you save money, the customers win, and all the employees win because they get to work with someone great.”

He takes a similar approach to vendors, striving to create mutually beneficial relationships with the professionals who make the products The Container Store sells. Following the lead of industrialist Andrew Carnegie, he believes that business owners should “fill the other guy’s basket to the brim. Making money then becomes an easy proposition.”

Rather than try to exploit his vendors, he asks how he can help them succeed. At first, it throws many of them off. But over time, they come to realise there isn’t a catch, and they return the sentiment by offering exclusives, custom-made products, fast delivery, and high quality, Tindell said.

Ultimately, the principles that have made The Container Store such a success all boil down to the Golden Rule: Treat others as you’d like to be treated.

“Life isn’t a zero-sum game, and business isn’t a zero-sum game,” Tindell said. “People who think it is don’t do well in business. It’s much easier to succeed when people love you and want you to do well.”

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