By now you've read the stories about Dan Price, the founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, who made an audacious move earlier this year by deciding to pay all his employees a minimum wage of $70,000.
The move led to several accolades from the media: a $500,000 book deal, and some heated debates over income inequality, as well as questions about his motives < BBW link>. questions about his motives.
The move led to several accolades from the media: a $500,000 book deal, and some heated debates over income inequality. As the months wore on, the story of Price began to unravel-you can read the riveting account here in Bloomberg Businessweek and you can also read Inc's different take on the story here and here.
Earlier this year I met an entrepreneur who did almost the exact same thing-with very little publicity in return. He's Trevor Burgess, the CEO of C1 Bank, a community bank based in Florida. Named one of Ernst & Young's Entrepreneurs of the Year two years ago, Burgess is also known as being the first openly gay chief executive of a publicly-listed bank.
That fact means Burgess has always had a different view of hiring. As he noted in our interview for my podcast, Radiate, Burgess said: "I think the best thing about it is that I'm able to attract a really amazing workforce because there are too many places in corporate America where women, people of color, gays and lesbians, aren't given the opportunity to thrive. And by hiring from 100% percent of the population rather than the 30% of the population that are straight white men, we are able to attract some of the very best people to work."
He joked that he has plenty of "straight white men" in his office, "but we're open to hiring everybody and judge people based upon the value that they add."
There's more. Through the course of our conversation, Burgess described growing up poor after his parents divorced. He was raised by a single mother. That gave him another appreciation for the value of a dollar, which was a factor in his decision to boost the pay of all of his employees-the same move Price has been given so much press for.
"About a year and a half ago, I looked at the earnings of all of my employees and I saw that we had 26 people, a little over 10% of our employee base that were making less than $30,000 a year. Now, if you go on MIT's living wage calculator, you'll see that $30,000 is about what is considered the living wage in the state of Florida," he said. "I said, `You know what, this just isn't the right thing.' Then I looked and realized that all 26 people were women and I really thought about my mother and my childhood experience, so on April Fool's Day 2014, we became the first bank in the country to institute a living wage."
Burgess says the wage hike turned out to be a "really shrewd business move" because his bank tellers were making, in some cases, 50% more than the competition.
"As I'm trying to serve entrepreneurs, very sophisticated business owners, I need to have the very best, even on the frontlines. And so it's been a huge win for my business."
Within the last month, Burgess' bank was bought out by Bank of the Ozarks for a cool $402 million, netting him and his shareholders millions. Turns out when everyone makes more, everyone wins.
(If you like this article, you'll love my new podcast, Radiate, featuring interviews with CEOs, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. You can click on new episodes on iTunes, SoundCloud or on my website. www.betty-liu.com. Here is the RSS feed too. And please don't forget to REVIEW the podcast or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)