BOISE, Idaho — Treasure Valley native and CEO of Gravity Payments Dan Price made big news five years ago in Seattle. In April of 2015, he announced that he was going to pay his entire staff a minimum wage of $70,000.
To help pay for that, he slashed his million-dollar salary to $70,000, as well. He says it was important to pay his employees a fair, livable wage for all their hard work, and to improve morale.
“It was five years ago, over five years ago, and it feels like just yesterday. I took a million-dollar pay cut so that all of my employees could make at least $70,000," Price told KTVB. “I really don't think I should have gotten as much praise or recognition for what I did. I think that really should be a normal thing. I think we should expect that from our businesses and from our employers.”
Gravity Payments serves small and medium-sized businesses. The company reduces the costs and the headaches of businesses accepting credit cards for payment. Gravity is also helping small businesses get into the world of e-commerce to compete with bigger companies.
Gravity Payments also has a location in Boise, with 54 employees. The starting salary in the Boise office is $50,000, and it only goes up from there. But now, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, business is down 50%.
Price says his employees in Boise came together in an unbelievable way to avoid job losses.
“I just laid it all out to everybody, I said we lost over half of our revenue. How are we going to avoid layoffs? They came back to me and said, why don't we see what every individual on the team can do in terms of working extra hours, and volunteering for a pay cut,” Price told us. “As CEO you are thinking everyone is going to think someone else is going to do it. I have a lot of confidence in my team, but we had never been put to a test this big.”
Price says he was blown away by what his employees volunteered to do to save jobs, and keep fees down.
“Sure enough, the employees came through in a way that I can still barely understand. On an anonymous individual basis, we had ten employees say that they wanted no pay at all. We had between two and three dozen employees step up and ask individually for more than a 50% pay cut. 98% of our employees asked to take a pay cut in total,” said Price in awe. “Because of that, we went from losing a million and a half dollars a month, to now we're losing only a half-million dollars a month.”
Price says the company would have been forced to lay off employees or raise fees charged to the company’s small businesses, or both. Now, they don’t have to. He says he is so thankful to his employees.
“I want to say I'm humbled. I appreciate you. I take this responsibility very seriously, I take it on a personal level to try to find some way to pay that forward back to you,” said Price.
The company is working to get back on track, by getting clients back on track, too. Price says it’s all about helping these businesses recover, and prepare for what’s to come. Gravity Payments is working to get clients the technology and the tools to take their businesses online, since social distancing isn’t going away anytime soon.
“That technology is what those small businesses need to be able to compete going forward. My hope, and this may be way overly optimistic, is that by installing software into those small businesses to help them deal with COVID 19, we can help them to more effectively compete with the Amazons of the world, and with all these other online alternatives in the long run,” said Price. “With the right technology, we can help our small businesses and help our economy and protect our health. They will be able to have a better shot of making it through this horrific storm.”
Gravity Payments' goal, like many other businesses, is to weather this COVID-19 storm without cutting jobs. The company wants to get the staff back up to full pay as soon as possible.
The state of Idaho is planning to open all retail Friday, so that should be a step in the right direction for Gravity Payments, and the thousands of small businesses the company serves here in Idaho.