This summer I’ve been particularly lucky to intern in what (in my opinion) is one of the most interesting departments of The Container Store – Cultural Programs & Community Relations. A small but mighty team, this department facilitates so much of what makes The Container Store a great place to work, from helping keep the company’s Foundation Principles top-of-mind daily with employees, to managing the Employee First Fund that helps employees in times of need.
This inside look at the conscious, company culture has inspired my belief and love for The Container Store but has also prompted a lot of questions. It’s clear that working here is a pretty unique experience, but I wanted to find out more detail about how The Container Store maintains such a culture. I was excited to get a chance to chat with Audrey Robertson, Vice President of Cultural Programs and Community Relations, in one of her rare, spare moments.
Divya: Since I’ve been here, I’ve been fortunate to work on a bunch of different projects, which have all been exciting and rewarding. And I realize that with The Container Store’s 1Great Person = 3 Good People hiring philosophy, every employee has this robust and diverse range of responsibilities. With so much going on in the company every day, how are you able to keep everyone rallied around the Foundation Principles, and focused on the bigger picture of driving toward The Container Store’s culture and values?
Audrey: So much of our set-up process for employees keeps our culture top of mind. Through the interview and training process, we start an employee’s career with a leading emphasis on our culture and maintain that connection every day through conversations, communication, huddles, and performance reviews. We find people who not only relate to our culture but see it as a competitive business advantage —not just something we do that’s a “warm and fuzzy,” but a way that we conduct ourselves as a company in order to ensure we’re successful and everyone associated with our business succeeds and thrives. Our employees therefore understand the importance of making every decision through the lens of our culture, which drives the value of our business.
Divya: I want to ask you a little bit more about the culture as a business philosophy: I’ve really enjoyed working in this department because we get to interact with so many external partners and supporters and engage in cultural projects related to Conscious Capitalism, sometimes to the point that I forget that I’m working for a retail company which aims to sell products! How does all of the focus on The Container Store’s company culture help support the “bottom line” of the business? It must go hand-in-hand somehow, right?
Audrey: Absolutely, it does. Communicating who we are and what we stand for to our external stakeholders does so much to build our brand. When we interact and share our values with students, vendors, and community partners they feel deeply connected to our company which grows our customer base and forms relationships and collaborations which are long lasting. We also create ambassadors for our brand who build our business through word of mouth and drive customers to our stores. And we fuel internal loyalty and pride through our cultural programs like the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For announcement, We Love our Employees Day, and the Employee First Fund which keeps the foundation of our company strong.
Divya: You’re so right about building those long lasting relationships with our community—I’ve really been amazed by how much The Container Store cares for and engages with the communities around their stores, from collecting donated items for families in need to donating 10% of every new store’s Grand Opening weekend sales to a local non-profit. Why is it important that the company gives back in this way?
Audrey: The community is an equal stakeholder in our business just like our shareholders and employees and we are committed to ensuring all our stakeholders thrive. Without one in harmony with the rest, there is a kink in the chain. The Container Store is a product of our communities, without their support, we wouldn’t exist. We don’t want to be a corporate company without a local face; we want to be The Container Store of Miami, San Diego, Dallas…wherever we are located. Of course these relationships are mutually-beneficial, as more and more customers are voting with their pocket books, choosing to do business with companies that share their values and philosophies and support the causes that are important to them.
Divya: I’m getting a little nostalgic now, because as the summer winds down, so does my time here. I remember on my first day at the company I had my desk all set up, meetings on my calendar already, and was taken to lunch – I felt like a superstar! Is this the treatment all employees get on their first day? Why does TCS put so much thought and effort into welcoming a new employee – even an intern?
Audrey: We see every new employee as a new family member and everyone is so excited to welcome them and make them feel at home. Because we are a team-based environment, rising and falling together, we don’t see new team members as competitors to our own career paths, but rather as welcome additions with fresh perspectives and abilities that will help our company grow. From a business perspective, because of our 1=3 hiring philosophy, every employee is treated as a valuable asset that we don’t want to lose –turnover is expensive on many levels. Having an employee first culture has always seemed like the most logical way to run our business: when our employees are happy, challenged and fulfilled in their career, they can take better care of the rest of our stakeholders – our customers, vendors, communities and shareholders.
Divya: It is so logical, and I’m so glad I got to experience and understand this culture of taking care of employees and stakeholders while I’m still a student. Why do you think it’s important that TCS shares its employee first culture with young people?
Audrey: I get to do a lot of wonderful work with the National Retail Federation Foundation, which works to attract the best and brightest to the retail industry by showing them how much we have to offer, as well as work with the Conscious Capitalism organization. One of my favorite parts of working with both of these groups is the emphasis on mentoring and engaging young people. It’s so wonderful to be able to reach people starting their course in the world with the message that you can make business decisions based on love and taking care of people and still be successful. When young people see that businesses can be built on collaboration, trust, and love, they expect these things from their employers, who are then forced to evolve or else lose the interest of talented, young people. When we have an entire generation working to elevate the consciousness of business, refusing to waste their time in unhealthy work environments, or choosing to start their own businesses built on the tenets of Conscious Capitalism, THAT’s when business can and will become an even greater force for good.