“We who are in responsible positions need to take a far more vested approach with the people who are working for us,” says Andrew Green, owner and CEO of Ft. Lauderdale-based based multimedia manufacturing company, Green Solutions. The 18-year-old company designs and manufactures printed materials and discs for the educational, religious, fitness, direct response, music and independent film industries, and also provides kitting and fulfillment services.
Andrew carried out his convictions by raising his employees’ wages by 35 to 50 percent.
The seemingly rash decision actually followed a lot of thought, debate and discussion about the role of business in causing and addressing social issues.
“Over the past year it’s been really bothering me,” he says. “The overreach of CEOs, Boards of Directors and executives of companies who are creating hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits and bonuses for themselves — it’s just over-the-top wealth that they don’t even know what to do with. Meanwhile, there are people in their companies who are struggling.
“I’m thinking about all of this income inequality and talking about it with my friends on Facebook, and battling about what can be done about it, what’s the government’s job in all this—or what shouldn’t it be—and then I saw that article about Gravity Payments.”
Andrew had read about Dan Price, CEO of the credit card processing company, who took a 90 percent pay cut to raise the minimum salary at the Seattle-based firm from $50,000 to $75,000 a year. Andrew says, “I looked at that and went, ‘Wow, what a huge thing to do.’”
Inspired by the bold move, and after talking it over with his wife and crunching the numbers, Andrew decided to follow suit.
Some of the employees shed tears when they received the news. One had been living with her daughter and son-in-law because she couldn’t afford the high cost of South Florida housing. The raise gave her greater independence. Each employee has since confessed they had been living hand-to-mouth, but now they can finally save and get ahead.
The raises mean bringing in 12.5 percent less profit, and pushing back some personal purchases, but he feels it was called for. To explain his rationale, Andrew says, “Look at the overall breakdown of a company: You have a CEO, you have your executives and your managers, and you have your workers. We all just have a job in our companies.
“I’m the key sales guy in my company. I’m the guy that goes out there and gets the business. It’s my job to do that.
“My operations person, it’s her job to make sure that every aspect of that job is put in properly and goes through our factories properly. It’s a very important job.
“Our guy in the back, he has to make sure in his particular job that he’s doing the right thing in every single part of it because if there is any breakdown it doesn’t matter how good I am as a CEO, if the job goes in and he doesn’t do the right thing, then the company will fail.
“So I started looking at it and wondered, ‘How is it that I’m paid so much more than everybody? What makes it so correct in our society that my job is so much more important—or a CEOs job is so much more important to a company that a CEO should make 200 to 300 times more?’ There isn’t any reason for that.
“I’m not saying to take away the incentive of a CEO to do a great job, to go out there and provide as much profit to the company as they can, but at a certain point is it the company or is it themselves? They can’t even spend the money they have. They end up playing with the money and putting it in offshore accounts and hiding it from taxes. It’s irresponsible. It’s inhumane.”
Though he admits “inhumane” seems a harsh accusation, Andrew illustrates:
“It’s inhumane if you’re sitting there and you have people in your company making $35,000 a year and Human Resources is telling them, ‘You’re not due for a raise for another year or two and you should be happy you have this job.’ And then the CEO goes out there and steps in his Maserati or whatever car, because he says, ‘Look, we have to show a level of success in the company or our clients won’t work with us.’ Then it becomes a status thing because success breeds success. Successful people only want to do business with other successful people. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of our business models and our structure. And I get it. But where does the 80-foot yacht come into play?”
In alignment with Conscious Capitalism’s Stakeholder Orientation, which looks at all of a company’s stakeholders, Andrew believes redirecting corporate profits from exorbitant executive pay to employee wages has a wider economic impact. “Funnel it through your company and through your employees,” he says, “because they’ll actually buy and live locally. It’s actually better for the economy to do it that way.”
“I’m not looking for the government to do this for me, or for us,” Andrew says. “I want other CEOs to step up. I think it’s beyond time.”