In his book Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives (Grand Central Publishing, 2014), the Container Store CEO Kip Tindell discusses how he built the retailer into a national success. In the following edited excerpt, he explains just how much one great employee can improve your overall productivity.
Talent is the whole ball game. "¨It really is. When you surround yourself with hugely talented, passionate, dedicated, and genuinely kind people, you will succeed in whatever you do--there's no doubt in my mind about that.
This first foundation principle is our hiring and payroll philosophy: One great person is equal to three good people. We really believe that. It's not much different from trying to build a basketball team to win the NBA championship. We're trying to get the very best people we can, in the stores, in the office, and in our distribution center. No one is overqualified. If a retired Federal Reserve chairman wants a job in our accounting department, that's great with us.
We absolutely want our employees to be the very best. We love and are compassionate to everybody, but we want excellence.
I think life is too short not to try to do anything and everything with excellence.
My feeling is that we all have to go to work and we have to be there all day anyway, so we might as well do something we really feel proud of, something we get to go home at night feeling really good about. And it's really important to work with people who are great at what they do.
So we say that one great person can match the business productivity of three good people. Then we say that one good is equal to three average, and one average is equal to three lousy. So by that logic, I guess one great is actually worth 27 lousy. Right?
I'm being somewhat tongue-in-cheek, of course, since such multiples are impossible to quantify. But I would say that our 1=3 ratio vastly underestimates the value of extraordinary people to any endeavor. One great employee can easily generate seven or eight times--even, sometimes, 20 times--the productivity of the merely good employee. I think the two most important things about the foundation principles--and the Container Store's culture--are, No. 1, you get to work with great people you respect and who really have your back, and No. 2, communication. Nothing makes people feel more like they're a part of a true team than real communication, and nothing makes people feel not a part of something than being excluded. So we think that great people and communication are the two most important aspects of our culture.
Now, just to clarify, I certainly don't believe that any one human being is better than another--that's not what our 1=3 philosophy is about. My belief is that everyone is to be treated the same way, from the janitor to the chairman. If you're not treating the cabdriver and the waiter with the same respect you give your doctor, say, or the town mayor, there may be some real ego and insecurity issues that you need to take care of.
But when it comes to productivity, some people are just head and shoulders above the rest--and that's the kind of person we want on our team. That may sound a tad Darwinian, but at the Container Store, we don't let the high premium we place on love and compassion suggest that we'll ever settle for anything less than the best. That's why, as I mentioned earlier, I'd want Jordan Spieth on my golf team. I would be thrilled just to be around him, and he would inspire me to play better. Working alongside people of that caliber makes you go home at night feeling great about everything you accomplished that day and thrilled to get up out of bed and go back to work the next morning to reach for the stars again.
Being on a great team, in my opinion, is one of the most rewarding of all human experiences. And our team has a clear goal: to be the best retailer in America. That's probably my competitive nature talking, but I can't think of a single downside to relentlessly striving for perfection--all the while doggedly and joyfully ensuring that everyone associated with the business is thriving.
Of course, we understand that people make mistakes. That's why we create a warm, safe, nurturing workplace that allows employees to take chances without fear of reprisal when they fail. Allowing people's individual creative genius to flourish benefits the entire team. I don't think we're the best retailer yet; being so close to the business, I often feel as if we still have a long way to go. But amazingly, I do get told pretty frequently by some wonderful business leaders that we're sure headed in that direction.