Michael Sherman, CEO of Sherman Assembly Systems, believes in improving the lives of his workers both in and outside of work.
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Michael Sherman is no fan of check-cashing establishments. "They charge usury rates," declares the founder and CEO of Sherman Assembly Systems (#95), in San Antonio. And, of course, people who have recently cashed checks are catnip to muggers. "One of our employees was robbed, and it got us thinking, 'Why don't they have bank accounts?" says Sherman. "And it dawned on us that some of these people didn't know about having bank accounts."
The workers in question are generally unskilled laborers who do hand assembly and other tasks for Sherman's company, a contract manufacturer of electronic cable assemblies. Many are former welfare recipients who were channeled to the company through Goodwill Industries, which tutors them in job skills -- such as managing their duties -- but not necessarily in life skills such as managing their money. So several years ago a concerned Sherman approached his own bank about setting up special checking accounts with reduced minimum balances for his employees. Bank reps visit the manufacturer periodically to "hold their hands through the application process," says Sherman.
But financial education isn't the only thing that Sherman's employees lack. About half of the workers don't have a high school diploma. To improve the situation, Sherman has arranged for a local Catholic college to supply a Web-based GED program to all interested staffers. The software will run on a pair of dedicated computers in the company's conference room. "We're not a very big company, and our profits aren't very deep," says Sherman. "But we do what we can to make their lives better."
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan