The founder of SAS explains how to be progressive on a budget.
QMy company is tiny compared with SAS. Are there still things I can do to create a progressive culture?
founder and CEO
To be honest, when I founded SAS in 1976, I didn't have a grand vision of the business value an employee-friendly workplace could provide. I simply wanted to create a company where I would want to work. Over the years, I've learned how employee loyalty leads to customer loyalty, increased innovation, and higher-quality software.
Anyone, even a business owner just starting out, can implement progressive programs that are not very expensive. In our early days, for example, we started with a racquetball court and a sand volleyball court. Today, SAS is known for its extensive fitness facilities, including a 77,000-square-foot health and fitness center and playing fields for soccer and softball. Flexible work hours are another low-cost option that can have a big impact on your employees' work-family balance.
When developing your programs, make sure the perks benefit a significant number of employees. That's common sense. Next, determine whether the benefits justify the cost. We were one of the first companies to offer on-site daycare, which most people considered generous. When we first offered it, we were concerned about employee retention. We decided that the cost of providing daycare would be counterbalanced by savings on recruitment and training.
Finally, make sure the program is a cultural fit. SAS has an egalitarian culture, and implementing a benefit that helps only a specific set of employees would fly in the face of that. When people ask me how to duplicate our culture, I tell them they can't. Companies borrow ideas from SAS, just as we borrow from others. You need to think about what makes sense for your company.
James Goodnight is the founder and CEO of SAS, a business-analytics software company based in Cary, North Carolina.
Coming Up: Roger Staubach
Need tips on fostering teamwork? Ask Roger Staubach, former Dallas Cowboy and CEO of the Staubach Co., a real estate advisory firm, by e-mailing email@example.com. Then look for his answer in August.