A guest column by Joshua Ledbetter, founder and CEO of Ledbetter Inc. in Broomfield, Colorado, as told to Inc.'s Paul Keegan.
Last spring, I was on Facebook when someone shared the news about Dan Price raising his employees' salary to $70,000 by cutting his own pay. As I read more about him, I learned we have a similar vision of how businesses should be run.
You see, I was born deaf with one hundred percent hearing loss in both of my ears. When I graduated in 2012 from University of Northern Colorado with a degree in sport and exercise science, I applied for several jobs but kept getting rejections. That's when I realized I was being discriminated against. At one of my last job interviews, they did not even provide a sign-language interpreter.
So I decided to give up the job search and start up a company that provides equal opportunity for everyone. At Ledbetter Inc., we provide online training and nutrition services for people looking to change their body, mind, and soul. Our motto is "Living Every Day Better." I was determined to prove that you can overcome any obstacle. It has been a very humbling experience, but we have been able to build a remote business using text messages, emails, Skype, and Evernote to build our digital workspace.
After reading about Dan, I began following him on Instagram and became inspired to take a leap of faith. In August, I took a hard look at our company's finances. My salary was $5,740 per month. I decided to take an 82% salary cut to $1,034 per month. That allowed me to bring our single part-time employee full-time and raise our two other employees' salaries by 125%. Without each of them, we wouldn't be where we are today.
It was a scary thought at first, but knowing that Dan had done it gave me confidence. I had to check my personal finances and make sure that my wife Julie and I can stick to a budget. Fortunately, we don't have much debt and can live mostly on Julie's income as an executive in the fitness apparel industry (she is also co-owner of Ledbetter Inc.).
I have not told my employees about my salary cut because I wanted to keep the focus on them. Since then, the efficiency of our teamwork has skyrocketed. By showing that I will invest in them, they are willing to invest back. With revenues of $35,000 to $50,000 per month, we have 10.5% profit margins and expect that to increase to 27% in the coming months.
This process has taught me about who I am. Money is no longer my driving force. Now I am focused on establishing a company that thrives on a "People Over Profit" mentality. Each day, I am filled with passion and determination to chase my goals for this company with our amazing team leaders beside me. We will continue reinvesting profits back into the company to keep growing and working toward our mission: to teach people how to live, love, and learn better every day.
Several friends have asked me when I will raise my salary back up again. I don't know. But it will be a slow process because I don't believe there should be a large gap in pay between the owners and our employees. After all, we are all on the same team.