Taking Care of the Team

Scott Francis
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On Business Insider a few weeks ago:
Soaring healthcare costs are causing Microsoft to scale back its generous employee healthcare program. The company told its employees today that they would have to start paying for some of their healthcare benefits in 2013, TechFlash reports. Microsoft is one of the few companies that covered 100% of its employees’ healthcare.
We can understand why Microsoft changed their coverage policy – health insurance costs are going up much faster than underlying health care costs, and Microsoft has traditionally had some of the richest health benefits in the industry.  Sadly, we’re seeing this story repeated all over.  At many companies, including the ones I’ve worked for, employee benefits never approached the level of Microsoft’s benefit package.  At BP3 we don’t claim to live up to Microsoft’s high standard employee benefits either – but as a small business we review our benefits package every year, and we take it really seriously to provide good benefits for our employees.  This starts with running a conservative, healthy business that makes such benefits affordable.  And our core values are to take care of our team. In our first year, we added health insurance – and as the employer, we pay the whole premium for our team members’ families.  In the current US system, we think this is the employer’s responsibility.  But we also leverage HSA accounts – so that employees are aware how much health services really cost.  It is the best balance between coverage and market forces that we can find in the market today.  We’ve been able to maintain this benefit, despite the increasing costs, because our business is healthy.  We also got a modest office to work from, so that we could take conference calls in peace and quiet and get together for team meetings. Our second year, we added a 401k program, along with employer matching funds.  This was a commitment we made to our earliest team members- that we would get it sorted out by the end of our second year so that we could all save for retirement.  BP3 is the first company I’ve ever worked for that contributed matching funds to my 401k.  Its hard to believe that most companies in high-tech (and other industries) don’t match contributions, when it is such an obviously smart move for both employer and employee. Our third year, we moved into a nicer office – still modest, but more professional.  It makes for a very nice home base. This year, we’re adding group life and group disability coverage to our benefits (paid by BP3), because we’re finally big enough that we can get rated and get policies for this.  Our team members often travel – it is important to protect them, and their families, from unlikely but unfortunate circumstances.  (I remember vividly in my first winter as a traveling consultant for my first employer, one of our sales reps at that company died when his plane went down in icy weather.  It was shocking to the whole company, and we all pitched in for an education fund for his children.  Memories like this still shape the way we look at taking care of our people. ) I don’t know what we’ll do to improve our benefits next year.  But I know we’ll keep reviewing benefits; we’ll look for opportunities to get more cost-effective benefits, but also to get materially better benefits for our team.  I commend Microsoft for their progressive view on these benefits – but I fail to understand why so many startups and small companies take such a short-sighted view toward these essential safeguards. In any business I can think of, you need people.  And the people are what differentiate your business, from every other business in your space.  Any advantage you have, that isn’t rooted in your people, is temporary and ephemeral.  Take care of your team.  Take care of your people.

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