This is not something I anticipated when I went into business, but over the years, I've found that many employees, especially at the hourly level, have financial emergencies that come up from time to time. As a result, I have given out hundreds of loans over the years, ranging from $50 to $6,000, for a variety of "emergencies." I almost always have been repaid. That said, I would only give a loan to an employee who is in good standing and who has longevity on the job, and the money has to be for something that is truly a life-would-be-difficult emergency. I've learned that a well-timed $300 loan can mean an awful lot to someone who's in a jam and making $24,000 a year. For example:
Just a few months ago, a driver at my company was in trouble. He had a car that didn't pass the emissions test, which led to his license plates not getting renewed, causing tickets to pile up, and ultimately getting the car impounded. The car wasn't worth that much to him so he just "let it go." He thought it would just get junked. Little did he know that tickets and fines were piling up on the vehicle. It caused a trigger in the Department of Motor Vehicles system, and his driver's license was revoked. He didn't even know about it, because his address had recently changed and he didn't get the notice. At the end of the day, he found that he had to pay fines in excess of $5,200. I decided to lend him the money. To some extent, this was a self-serving decision. He's a valuable employee, and I needed him to be able to drive my truck.
At any given time, I normally have about $10,000 on loan to employees. I personally feel it's not just the cost of doing business, but it's the least I can do for people who have dedicated themselves to doing a good job at my company. Call it a perk. A very valuable perk. But one that has had lots of positive benefits -- and very few negative ones. What do you think?
Jay Goltz is the author of The Street Smart Entrepreneur. You can buy his book here.