In this installment of our TCS Leadership Spotlight series, we spoke to Joe Wilkinson, our Vice President of Customer Solutions and TCS Installation Services, about his feelings about leadership, his career path, and spicy margaritas.
- Name: Joe Wilkinson
- Title: Vice President of Customer Solutions and TCS Installation Services
- Birthplace: Danville, IL
- Tenure at The Container Store: 23 years
- Favorite Leadership Quotes: “Don't tell people how to do things; tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” - George Patton
“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.” - Colin Powell
- Loves: Spending time with his two dogs, Tuck and Chance; spending time with friends; great food; spicy margaritas; relaxing in Las Vegas
- Favorite Snack: Chips with salsa or queso (or preferably both)
- Favorite TCS Product: Eagle Creek Pack-It System
- Personal Hero: “Steve Jobs—not because of his management style, but because he knew that innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. He was always innovating, moving forward, and not looking back.”
If one were to characterize The Container Store’s Vice President Joe Wilkinson based solely on his favorite leadership quotes (see the Patton and Powell quotes above), you might be tempted to peg him as a stern leader, but everyone who works with him knows that’s simply not the case. “Joe is a very compassionate, encouraging, and customer-focused leader,” says Customer Contact Coordinator Chuck Mavrinac. When great customer feedback about a Customer Solutions employee is emailed to the department’s management team, Joe is often the first one to reply to the email and congratulate them. In fact, Joe has a reputation as one of the company’s most gracious leaders—and considering the number of gracious leaders we have at The Container Store, that’s really saying something!
Joe’s journey to The Container Store began while he was in college. While attending Marion College and Indiana University, he took a part-time job at a large retail chain and eventually became a manager. He was tasked with opening new store locations and found he had a knack for it. “While at TCS we have a more well thought-out approach to opening new stores, this retailer gave us only eight days to get new stores fixtured, merchandised, and opened!” he remembers. Luckily, he was able to survive this trial-by-fire approach and learned plenty of valuable leadership skills along the way. As time went on, he also increased his skill set to encompass inventory analysis and store planning by helping the company pilot and execute a “clearance store” concept.
Although Joe was not necessarily interested in other work opportunities at that time, the quality of his work ensured that other companies were interested in him. He was contacted by a recruiter working on behalf of The Container Store, so he consulted one of his trusted work mentors for advice. “If you’re ever looking to leave your current company, it should be for The Container Store,” the mentor told him. Those wise words were enough for Joe, and he decided to take a chance. Right away, Joe says, The Container Store’s culture and attitude hooked him: “Even the warm welcome I received from the receptionist was so sweet and so different from what I was used to at my other company.”
Joe began his career at The Container Store in our Visual Sales department. During his time in that department he introduced the concept of the “photogram”—a visual guide for how each display and fixture in the store should be merchandised, accessible to the entire company—and our stores still utilize it today. After 16 years on the Visual Sales team, Joe became our Vice President of New Stores and Remodels, Store Facilities, and Indirect Procurement. (Try saying that five times fast.) And later, as the needs of the business changed over time, Val Richardson took the reins of the New Stores team and Joe became Vice President of Customer Solutions and TCS Installation Services, the title he holds today. “My favorite part of my job is spending time with my team,” he says. “I love visiting the Customers Solutions Department as often as I can to visit with them and see their energy.”
In addition to his compassionate leadership style, Joe is also known for his drive and vision, a quality that has become invaluable to his latest role—supervising the direction of our Customer Solutions Department and TCS Services. The Customer Solutions Department includes all of the phone and live chat agents in our contact center, and TCS Services includes our Installation Services team, Contained Home, and Custom Closets designers. Under Joe’s steady hand, these have consistently proved to be some of the top-performing areas of the company. “All leaders have vision—that’s a must,” explains Jason Lomonaco, Senior Director of Customer Solutions and TCS Services. “But what makes Joe a great leader is that he has a purposeful vision that inspires us to be better in all aspects of our business. Whether it’s an enhancement to a system or improving our service level, his compulsion for success drives us to be the best version of ourselves.”
Joe sums it all up by referencing his favorite Foundation Principle: Communication IS Leadership. “One of the most important leadership lessons I’ve learned over the years is that you have to listen to others to understand—you don’t just listen in order to reply,” he explains. All of us here at The Container Store certainly appreciate Joe’s leadership, and we’re so excited to see where we go from here!