I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m still bristling with frustration over some of the corporate greed that came to light not so long ago: those companies that threw lavish parties on Caribbean islands or continued to fly around the country in their private jets just weeks after receiving billions in bailout money from the government. Granted, justice continues to prevail in some instances: the Securities and Exchange Commission has accused Goldman Sachs of knowingly defrauding investors in the subprime-mortgage meltdown, and GM has announced it’s ready to repay its bailout money by the end of June 2010. This news appeases me some, but I still question, “Are there any honest people at the top?” Well, it turns out some CEOs out there really are looking out for the average Janes and Joes. Here are just a few who manage to make a buck and still treat their employees with the respect they deserve.
Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco
Above all else, Sinegal places great importance on not putting himself on a pedestal above the people who work for him. He revealed his strategy to ABC News in August 2006, including his routine of visiting up to a dozen stores a day and wearing a name badge that does not identify him as the CEO of Costco. Instead, his badge just reads: “Jim.” Sinegal told reporters, “We have said from the beginning, ‘We’re going to be a place that’s on a first-name basis with everyone.’” In addition, he rewards his employees with a generous wage—the average hourly rate is $17 an hour—and more than 90 percent of his workers enjoy health care benefits.
Bob Moore, Founder of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods
On his eighty-first birthday, this CEO decided to surprise his employees with a special gift.The Oregonian reported in February that Bob Moore, the founder of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, had announced the Employee Stock Ownership Plan, a “retirement plan in which the company contributes its stock to the plan to be held in trust for the benefit of its employees.” After just three years of employment with the company, an individual is fully vested in the plan. While Moore will not divulge exactly how much the company is worth, John Wagner, the company’s chief financial officer, stated, “Eventual payouts could be substantial.”
Tim Wuest, President of Badger Mining Corporation
The fifth-largest industrial sand company in the United States understands that it’s not unusual for CEOs to offer employees a personal stake. However, Wuest takes it a step further: at Badger, employees are welcome to attend all quarterly meetings and are encouraged to ask questions. They also receive a robust benefits package that includes 20 percent profit sharing, a 401(k) with up to 6 percent matching, 100 percent coverage on health care premiums, $350 toward a tobacco-cessation plan, and $200 toward hiring a personal financial planner. Perhaps most notable, though, is the fact that Badger Mining refers to its employees not as employees at all, but rather as “associates.” (Likewise, bosses are known as “coaches.”)
In Fortune Small Business in June 2009, Wuest admitted that after the company restructured in the mid-1980s, it was apparent that it had become very “top heavy” and needed to shift its focus back to its employees. Wuest said, “We recognized that if we wanted to retain very good associates, we had to provide above-average wages and benefits. We wanted to give people a sense of ownership so that they were a part of the success or failure of the company.”
Mickey McManus, CEO and President of Maya Design
This creative consulting firm understands how difficult it can be for a parent to return to the workforce after having a child. To retain the good people it has, the firm allows parents to bring their newborn babies to the office. McManus explained to Fortune Small Business in June 2009, “Babies at work, four-week vacations, continuing education—it’s important to strike a good balance between work and life.” The firm also gives parents-to-be a six-week, fully paid maternity or paternity leave.
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