Finding Workers Who Fit
The Container Store built a booming business for neatniks—who turned out to be their best employees.
By Vicki Powers

(Business 2.0) – Since founders Kip Tindell and Garrett Boone opened the first Container Store in Dallas in 1978, containing growth has turned out to be their most daunting challenge. The privately held company has quietly expanded into a 33-store nationwide chain with projected 2004 revenue of $370 million and annual sales growth that has topped 20 percent in all of its 26 years. Behind much of that success, analysts say, aren't just the popular knickknacks the Container Store sells for Type A neat freaks. Just as important is the company's organizing principle for human resources: turning its best customers into loyal, top-performing employees.

In an industry with an average employee turnover rate of more than 70 percent, worker churn at the Container Store is less than 10 percent for full-time employees and 30 to 35 percent for part-timers. And nearly a third of the company's 2,500 workers come from referrals. "To be a great place to shop, you need to be a great place to work," says Doug Fleener, president of Massachusetts-based retail consultancy Dynamic Experiences Group. "This company is in total harmony, from the sales floor to the distribution center." Forget the closet—here's how the Container Store organizes its talent. — VICKI POWERS