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1988: Our Houston Store Manager Amy C. with co-founder Garrett popping champagne to celebrate the Grand Opening!

As Kip said in his Message yesterday, we’re just so excited and proud to be celebrating our 35th anniversary as a company!! This month, we’ll be posting several blogs that revisit monumental times in our history – major revelations, milestones and of course, celebrations – so that all of our readers can walk down memory lane with us and hear more about how The Container Store has come to be, well, The Container Store!

FoundationPrinciplesI’m sure it won’t surprise you, but one of the single most impactful moments in our history was the creation of our Foundation Principles – our values-based business philosophies that guide every decision we make for our employees, customers, vendors and the community. So, we’re going to take you back in time to the dark and stormy night where it all began…(at least we like to say it was a dark and stormy night as it sounds even more dramatic…)

It was 1988 and we had just opened our Houston Store. That store made us take a look at our business a little harder. From the day we opened the doors, we did three times more business than we had ever experienced at any of our other stores, which became quite overwhelming to our employees. We already had a 10-year-old company with strong values and culture; however, communicating this to an entire store of new employees, most who never had been exposed to The Container Store or our way of doing business, was quite a challenge.

Our now CEO, Kip, struggled with how to clearly communicate our culture so that all the employees in the Houston Store would act and make decisions using the same set of values and knowledge as the employees in the rest of the company.

In a moment of inspiration, he referred back to a file he had started many years ago called his “philosophy epistle file” where he’d put various anecdotes, musings and philosophical phrases that he admired. During his time in school, the things in the file were on a philosophical level and as he started college, they took more of a business slant. He invited the entire Houston store staff over to their Manager’s home (this is where the dark and stormy night comes into play), and chose many examples to communicate the message that no matter how big the company became, our guiding principles and values would stay the same. Kip was so nervous to be sharing all of these ideas that were so near and dear to his heart – but to his surprise they were incredibly well-received by the staff!

Over the years, the philosophies that Kip shared that night were condensed into our Foundation Principles. By understanding and supporting these principles and philosophical guidelines, we can all respond in unison to similar circumstances. In other words, we act as a unit, all working in the same direction toward the same goal. Retail is far, far too situational to attempt to achieve a concerted effort through inflexible rules and policies.

So, instead of using the typical phone-book-sized retail procedural manual to guide our decision making, we use these Foundation Principles to keep us on track, focused and fulfilled as employees. With this combination of values-driven business philosophies and a one-of-a-kind product selection, The Container Store continues to work toward the goal of becoming the best retail store in America!

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