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Archive for the “Conscious Entrepreneurship” Category

kip-tindell-mainI had the good fortune to  be a guest at the coming out party for Kip Tindell’s new book Uncontainable on October 8 at the New York Stock Exchange, where he addressed the Inc. Business Owner’s Council.  Kip is the Founder and CEO of The Container Store, the largest company in the U.S. devoted to organizing customers and saving their space and time.

Kip is an enchantingly modest man imbued with a palpable missionary zeal for his company and the unique working principles on which it is based.  I have spent the weekend reading his book.

I would describe Uncontainable as one-third autobiography, one-third company love letter and one third business theology.

To put it briefly, Tindell’s book is the best book about creating corporate culture since Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table in 2006.  (In fact, Tindell is a colleague with Meyer, John Mackey, Tony Hsieh, Herb Kelleher, David Neeleman, Howard Schulz, and, as a philosophical precursor, Steve Jobs.  These and others make up the growing cadre of company leaders in the Conscious Capitalism movement.  I highly recommend  any business owner with an interest in efficacious corporate culture put Uncontainable  on her reading list.

This is meant to be a short essay so I will make no attempt to be encyclopedic in describing Tindell’s book.  But here are a few unsystematic things I found notable about the book and the man.

First and foremost, Uncontainable is a book utterly devoid of irony.  It is the rare business book that is unapologetic and forthright in its use of the language of love to describe his corporate community—his employees, his investors, his vendors, his customers, and even his private equity firm.  (Tindell calls his financial backer, Leonard Green & Partners, “the first conscious capitalist PE firm.”  He claims this is not an oxymoron, in Greens’s case, despite the rape and pillage reputation of PE firms.)  It is almost a sensual pleasure to experience the utter delight with which Tindell describes his business creation.

There is an ebullient joy and an overflowing spiritual generosity to the man.  His tall, attenuated frame virtually throbs with love and passion when he talks about his company.  He conveys a compelling and unfeigned delight that he is part of, as well as the leader of the good ship Container Store.  It is a joy to behold.  His enthusiasm is contagious.  He has an almost messianic passion for the business value of sheer  agape and goodness and service as business values for his employees and his customers.

Uncontainable_Cover_rgbFor example, Tindell couches his business philosophy about his employees as the following:  “Treating your employees with affection and respect is not only the right thing to do, it also happens to be the fastest road to success.  In fact, it’s much more successful than any other business methodology.”  (Uncontainable, Hachette Book Group, 2014, p. 5)  I couldn’t agree more.

Tindell believes in maximizing the individual creativity of everyone who touches his company.  He hires outside traditional retail talent pools.  He welcomes artists, actors, and stay at home moms.  He then claims to basically “love” these hires to success.  He tries to hire on applicant’s ability for customer care and patient avidity to genuinely serve his customer and his fellow man.  He often judges these things on how a candidate treats the waiter at lunch.

He wants his people to use their intuition, which he defines as “the sum total of one’s life experience.”  He states,  “…you don’t want to straightjacket employees with a manual about how to do their jobs.  Instead, we unshackle our employees to follow their own individual creative genius.”  His expressed management style sounds almost as though he intends to stage a play, rather than run a company.  (He even admits he loves the drama of his enterprise and its retail narrative.  The way he describes it is almost like a communal art event.)

I find it encouraging that conscious business leaders like Tindell are increasingly being sought out to share their magic elixir at even the most hide-bound business schools.

Tindell is, nonetheless, a committed capitalist.  He is not a minister or a priest or a socialist.  He just believes in leading with a servant’s heart and with the belief that genuinely caring about everyone The Container Store comes into contact with is the surest road to profitability.

In this he is very like Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group here in NYC, who I have written of often in the past.  As Danny so succinctly puts it,  “Generosity is clearly in our self-interest.”

Or as I like to put it to my executives and employees,  “Good is greed.”

I think Jim Collins sums up the argument very well in his book Built To Last.   He says,  “Core purpose is the organizations fundamental reason for being.  An effective purpose reflects the importance people attach to the company’s work—it taps their idealistic motivations—and gets to the deeper reasons for an organization’s existence beyond making money.”

Amen, Brother Jim.

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pascalBlaise Pascal, the 17th century French mathematician and philosopher, said:  “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Sitting quietly in a room alone is not what entrepreneurs do.  I wonder if we entrepreneurs are not becoming poster children for a speed addled society.  It’s like entrepreneurs are adopting an increasing societal go-go-go, move-move-move trope and taking it to the tenth power.  Like we are on a wildly careening roller coaster chasing the killer app and the great disruption, yet never contemplating the why of our activity.

I particularly feel this when I am in a massed group of entrepreneurs.  Take for instance Inc. Magazine’s GrowCo convention, which I attended last month in Nashville.  It was full of an exhausting array of brilliant, passionate entrepreneurs, chief of whom was Mark Cuban, who gave the keynote address in which he mentioned that he never read a single book not specifically related to his business in his first eight years of enterprise.  Surely that must be a loss and a sadness to Mr. Cuban’s soul.  (Am I the last businessman extant who still talks about “souls”?)  Such passion and focus may be necessary for success, but it’s not a price that is spiritually healthy to pay.

marc-cubanThere is an addictive frenzy to our technology enhanced, evolving business process that is leaving little room for context, personal centering, or contemplation of the meaning of our activity.  (I am particularly sensitive to addictive process since I am a former addict myself.)  As entrepreneurs we can easily succumb to the escapist frisson and excitement of our high-risk balancing act and the adrenaline rush of our often fearsome process, that is not much different than the sex addict reveling in the euphoric chemicals of his/her own body.

James Gleick put out a book last year called Faster:  The Acceleration of Just About Everything.  (Random House, 2013)  He states, “Our computers, our movies, our sex lives, our prayers—they all run faster now than ever before.  And the more we fill our lives with time-saving devices and time-saving strategies, the more rushed we feel.”  Gleick calls this “hurry sickness.”  I prefer “hurry addiction.”

T.S. Elliot presciently nails our current conundrum in his poem “The Endless Cycle.”

“The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness,
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence,
Knowledge of word, and ignorance of the Word…
Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

785_james1_1Dr. Edward Hallowell refers to our current parlous societal speed madness, in his book Crazybusy (Ballantyne Books, 2007), as “culturally induced ADHD.”  He says,  “When you’re ‘crazybusy’ your life is out of balance and you enter what I call the “F-State”—frenzied, fearful, forgetful and frantic.”  It is almost like this induced ADHD state is a point of pride to  many entrepreneurs.  (Note my post of April 29, “The Brag of Busyness and the Entrepreneur”).

All this is easier said than solved for the speeding entrepreneur.  Yet, as Mohandas Ghandi said,  “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”  Thanks, Mohandas.

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