Growing up in rural Idaho, Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price remembers learning that one’s values are most sacred.
“My dad would ask me a question…He’d say, ‘How much money is your integrity worth?’ His point was there’s no amount of money that he would be willing to sell his integrity for. And that was ingrained in me at a very, very young age.”
Fast forward to today, the 30-year-old CEO is staying true to those principles. Just last week he announced he’d be taking a $930,000 pay cut to help afford raising the minimum wage at his Seattle-based credit card processing company to $70,000. This means that out of the 120 employees, 70 will be getting raises and 30 will see their incomes double.
When I first heard about Dan Price raising all his employees' pay, I was like, more power to him! It's a private company and he can do what he wants. Personally, at the time, I felt it was great idea. And here is someone willing to put his money where his mouth was.
But like all ideas, there are unfortunately unintended consequences. And boy, were they big.
But even as Dan adjusted to life as a rebel hero and basked in his newfound popularity among third graders and single women, he quickly learned that whether he liked it or not, he had waded waist deep into the minimum wage debate and he would soon discover a few very hard lessons about the unintended consequences of hiking the pay floor.
First, some employees felt it wasn’t fair to indiscriminately give everyone a raise. That is, some felt Gravity should at least pay lip service to the notion that there's a connection between higher pay and performance and because the new pay plan didn't seem to acknowledge that link, the company lost some workers.
Next, Gravity began to lose some of its long-standing customers and while the across-the-board pay raise won the company more than enough new business to make up the difference, the new accounts won’t be immediately accretive and in the meantime, Gravity has had to hire more people to service the new accounts and thanks to the new salary floor, all of those new employees will eventually have to be paid $70,000.
Finally, Dan is now being sued by his older brother and as it turns out, Maisey McMaster had not included a "provision for legal fees in case my brother sues us" line item in the new budget, which means that ultimately, Gravity may have a hard time staying in business.
If there's one lesson to learn in all this, it's l'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs. If there's another lessons to learn, it's make sure you own the company before doing any harebrained schemes!