Container Store CEO cuts the clutter
Fortune interviews Kip Tindell, CEO and Co-Chairman, the Container Store.
(Fortune Magazine) -- When Kip Tindell and his partners set out in 1978 to open a store that would sell storage and organizational products, they had a hard time persuading industrial manufacturers to sell them supplies like egg baskets and tool bags for consumer use in the home.
Nearly 30 years later the 39-store chain offers over 10,000 products designed to hold everything from prescription pills to wrapping paper. Tindell's team has also managed to parlay an initial $35,000 investment into a $500-million-a-year clutter-fighting company that has produced 15 to 20 percent annual sales growth since its founding.
Fortune's Jenny Mero chatted with Tindell, 54, about his briefcase obsession, how a boat's wake inspired his management philosophy, and why a founding father of the home-storage revolution can't seem to keep his own files current.
Put employees before customers.
If you take care of your employees, they'll take care of the customers - and that will take care of your shareholders. To myopically focus on the shareholders is wrong. So we invest heavily in our employees. Our sales staff receives 241 hours of training; the industry average is eight. We offer health-care coverage to part-timers, and we offer what we call "mom-and-pop shifts" that allow parents to drop off and pick up their children. And in keeping with my passion for the outdoors - I love fly-fishing - our new headquarters in Coppell, Texas, includes a stocked pond and a really nice lawn.
Do plenty of drive-bys.
My day is full of nonstop, unscheduled interaction with others. I'm usually out of my office and in somebody else's, having one-on-ones. The staff calls them "drive-bys." A lot of people try to keep their offices quiet, but I like to hear - and encourage - loudness and laughter.
Try to stay organized.
I'm supposed to be an expert in organization, but sometimes I fail to be perfectly organized. I have three different folders labeled CURRENT. Well, which one is current? I have folders for each day, too. I won't get through Wednesday, so everything in it will probably wind up in a "current" file.
Always be ready to work.
I have a weakness for briefcases. Mine is like a purse for me; it's got my life in it. I always carry a calculator in it. If I go on a fishing trip, people laugh because I bring the briefcase with me. I wear them out quickly. When I fly, I never watch the movie. I fill my briefcase with work and reading material and read the heaviest thing first. That way I can dump it on my way out.
Mind your wake.
Someone made me a bumper sticker that reads GOT WAKE? and I keep it with me all the time. I have this theory that your wake, just like a boat's, is much bigger than you realize. Everything you do - and what you don't do - impacts the people around you a lot more than you think.