"A few years back, our staffers had no idea of how much it costs to run our business," admits Kevin Jamieson, vice president of Royal Maid Service, in Palm Harbor, Fla. "For example, we had an annual advertising budget of about $10,000. One employee guessed it was $350. Most didn't realize that I receive a salary. They figured whatever was left over, I shoved in a bag and took home!"

So Jamieson started showing employees how expenses are distributed. First step: ask them to guess what the company spends on items such as workers' comp, insurance, and vehicle maintenance. The closest guess wins $10 inlottery tickets -- an award suggested by staffers. More recently, Jamieson asked them to estimate his own salary, with the winner receiving not only lotterytickets but a manicure from the VP himself. "I produced my W-2. It was eye-opening."

Why teach expenses first? "Our maids don't yet have much opportunity to affect the company's spending patterns. In time, they will. But for now, the simple knowledge of where the money goes is the quickest, most direct way I know to defuse the us-vs.-them syndrome. It's been a good first stepin showing that we all sink or swim together."

Copyright 1998 Open-Book Management Inc.