Remarks by Kip Tindell
Thank you, President Schlesinger and thank you, Danna.
And to all of the graduates, congratulations on your remarkable, fabulous achievement.
I’m honored thatyou’ve invited me to be a part of the Babson and the greater Boston community. You all are undoubtedly stronger and more united than ever.
I’m excited to have been asked to share some of the things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur who helped to start a retail store back in 1978.
What I found – and continue to realize every single day – is that everything you do and everything you don’t do impacts the people around you and your business or your family or your community, far far more than you realize.
Okay, well, my favorite movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. I know it’s kind of corny, but the whole movie is about showing one guy, George Bailey, the size of his wake.
At The Container Store, we talk a lot about WAKE – W-A-K-E like a boat’s wake. I really believe that being a CONSCIOUS business means that everyone is aware of their wake. And I think that all of our wakes are much, much bigger than we can ever imagine.
So,when I look out at all of YOU and see your bright eyes, big smiles and the incredible amount of SUPPORT you all have from your family and friends, there’s no doubt you’ll have a tremendously positive WAKE.
So WAKE, is a beautifully simple thought I wanted to present to you.
And then you know…along the way…we found that when we gave into our tendency to think that anything is possible, that, is when the magic seemed to happen. It’s like the quote that says, “At the moment of commitment the universe conspires to assist you.”
For starters, who would have thought opening a store that sells empty boxes was a good idea? J Definitely not our parents who had put us through college.
But in our minds, we weren’t selling empty boxes – we were selling solutions that saved space and that ultimately, saved time. That’s what we were selling – time. Even back in 1978, time was what people needed.
As the company grew, we quickly realized that we could and should have the same set of values for both our personal and professional lives. There shouldn’t be a looser set of conduct for business. “You’ve gotta understand, it’s just business” doesn’t fly.
If you wouldn’t treat your friends or family a certain way, why on earth would it be alright to treat an employee or vendor that way?
These values became what are now our seven Foundation Principles that guide every single decision we make.
We also believed we could find TRULY GREAT PEOPLE to work in retail! Yes, retail! In fact, I think it’s the greatest profession in the world – there’s the product, the people, the technology. We spend quite a bit of time trying to convince the best and brightest coming out of school to consider retail as a CAREER. I can’t wait to see who the next Stanley Marcus or Mickey Drexler will be – could be one of you!
But we always held out for the most incredibly talented, smart, dedicated, enthusiastic employees – and we found them! Thousands of them who have spent their life’s journey with a retail company surrounded by other GREAT peoplehelping to change our customers’ lives.
When surrounded by great people, you get to experience the true delight of team. I passionately believe that team is one of the most beautiful of life experiences when done well.
You know…I once heard a story that Andrew Carnegie, the famous industrialist and philanthropist, was lying on his death bed in the Berkshire mountains of this fine state when a cub reporter from New York paid him a visit.
"Mr. Carnegie, you are one of the most successful industrialists of all time,” the reporter said. “I’d just like to ask for posterity: Is there anything you attribute your incredible businesses success to?"
Carnegie thought for a moment, then replied, "Actually, yes, there is one beacon, one guiding light that’s responsible for all my success: Fill the other guy's basket to the brim. Making money then becomes an easy proposition.”
That statement became our business philosophy and another of our Foundation Principles.
With this we learned that business is not a zero sum game – someone doesn’t have to lose for someone else to win. It’s harder by far to operate this way – to take the time to find the synergies, to be creative in crafting mutually-beneficial relationships, but when you do it, everyone succeeds – everyone thrives.
We also gave in to our feeling that intuition could have a place in business – an important place, I might add. We say that, “Intuition doesn’t come to an unprepared mind. You must train before it happens.” I once heard from a wise person that intuition is merely the sum total of your life experiences. So why would you want to leave it at home when you come to work?
Trusting and leveraging that intuition you’ve built at Babson and prior will allow you to unleash your creative genius. You’ll be vastly more productive, more innovative and have more of an impact on your organization and the world.
Something else that has a place in business is transparency – yes, TRANSPARENCY. And I actually think we’re only in the second inning of businesses realizing how important it is. Consumers (and employees) are demanding it.
Our Foundation Principle that says Communication IS Leadership – Leadership IS Communication…they’re the same thing. Well, I think that’s helped us with this – we’ve always been an open book. Just think of how being open, honest, transparent with your friends and families builds trust and relationships and it can work the same way in business.
As you know, nothing makes someone feel more included, more a part of the team, more committed and passionate than knowing absolutely everything is communicated to them openly and completely.
Soby now, you’ve surrounded yourself with GREAT people, you’re leveraging your intuition and you’re working to create mutually-beneficial relationships.
You have a commitment to communication IS leadership, you have grace of authority – you’ve checked your ego at the door…and everyone wants to be around you.
THAT’S when EVERYONE thrives – that’s what you want – that’s WAKE.
One of our greatest hopes is that the practice ofrunning a business this way…simultaneously taking care of everyone connected to the organization, operating from apurpose beyond just profits and leading with consciousness – what we along withothers call Conscious Capitalism– becomesthe preferred and most accepted way of doing business.
It’s what will nurture and develop the stunningly sustainable and enduring companies of the future and will solvecapitalism’s public relations problem.
It’ll prove that you can do the right thing inbusiness – you can make decisions based on love …Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines taught us 30 years ago and now we hear it from our good friend and Boston native, Bert Jacobs with Life is good, that you can build a much better company on love than on fear.
AND the best part is businesses that operate this way are wildly profitable. And profits,of course, aren’t bad – they’re prerequisite to a conscious business – without them, you can’t properly take care of employees and their families, vendors or the community.
So, whether you’re starting your own business, are, or become part of an existing one, the world needs your unwavering bravery to give into your tendency to think anything is possible…in anything you do – because it is. And when you do, that’s when you will change the narrative of business and THAT is when the magic will happen – THAT’S when everyone will thrive.
Thank you again for having me here today as part of the Babson community.