Monday, November 10, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - part 4


We do everything possible to not have employees. I don’t mean we’re against help, or against teams. But I’m a fan of bonuses and commissions. I don’t even believe in child allowances—nobody should get paid for breathing.

Most farms going through a growth phase similar to ours would simply hire minimum wage workers. But we have attempted, and for the most part succeeded, in building in a commission-based package for every position. When our daughter-in-law took over restaurant sales, we put her on a commission. Our delivery driver receives a commission per pound delivered, above a guaranteed floor. Both of those positions, therefore, receive a reward for watching for new customers and taking care of existing ones.

We use independent growers who are on a per piece pay scale. That way they can work hard and or more conscientiously, and earn more. When we hired an apprentice manager, he also took on the tour guide role and we share 50/50 in that income. Yes, he gets a floor salary, but also enjoys building an independent business within this framework. The income earning potential is open ended.

Can you imagine what would happen in America’s public schools if graduates who had been out for, say, ten years, could rate their teachers and the top ten percent received a $50,000 bonus check? And the bottom ten percentile were fired?

I suggest that rather than spend a bunch of money on trendy advertising and catchy PR firms, why not redesign job descriptions to create such an enthusiastic workforce that we wouldn’t need to hire ad agencies or PR firms? We live in a culture that loves minimalism and just-get-by-ism. I think too often we create that spirit by being too timid to innovate our compensation packages so that eager beavers get more than a pat on the back. I have no wage or salary aspirations, and keep my remuneration just a few percentage points above the heavy lifters in our business. What would I do with all that money, anyway? I’d rather go the grave a pauper but loved by my people, than go wealthy and unloved. Perhaps if more CEOs were less materialistic, their workforce would also show more noble values.

To be continued...

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