When I was first moving out of my parents' house after graduation I knew I needed a job that had two main ingredients 1) flexibility 2) health benefits. I was casually shopping at The Container Store and found out that store offered both (sort of, but we'll get into that later). I was in. Plus a 40% discount to outfit my new room in Park Slope? Sign me up!
Shared Adoration of the Customer
I didn't realize that I would actually fall in love with The Container Store as a company. And I told that to the New York Times, actually. At TCS they champion the customer and I loved that. Maybe it's the acting training in me, but I have always been able to put myself in the position of the customers across from me and understand their points of view. I could see that someone would get cranky waiting for an order to be brought out from the back. But at The Container Store I - not any sort of a manager or anything - had the authority to offer that person a gift card. I felt like the powers that be had both the customer's back and mine.
Understanding the Foundation Principals
The Container Store has six Foundation Principals (which they've turned into the basis for a blog) that provide a value system. When I worked there it made for a shorthand that I could understand. "Visual sells" reminded me that aesthetics are always, always, always important. "1=3" taught me that one great employee is better than three good ones - so hold onto the great ones. The only companies I'd ever worked for were mom and pop restaurants and theater companies. Coming up with tenants to build a company philosophy on was a foreign - but welcome - concept. Of course, I've learned since that many companies have their own version of the Foundation Principals that they follow. They have "huddles" to get everyone on the same page, they have their own jargon. But my 23 year old self hadn't worked any job - theater or not - that had anything like that. It was eye opening.
Although I learned so much from it, eventually I had to leave. The store wasn't quite as flexible as I needed it to be. Finding someone to cover my shifts so I could go on tour with Chicago City Limits and audition for commercials became too stressful.
But over all, working there showed me that you can put the customer and the employees front and center and still have an enormously profitable business.
Have you ever created foundation principals that drive you, your business, or your brand? Leave me a message on Twitter and let me know! @annieschiff