Provide Great Employee Benefits
In 22 years, Kim Rotunda has rarely run an employment ad. Of the 14 employees at Rotunda’s Collision Center, which spans 10,000 square feet in Essex Junction, Vt., nearly one-third have worked there more than 10 years. The rest of the staff—with the exception of one recent new hire—have worked there five or more years. “We have almost zero turnover,” says Rotunda, who co-owns the business with her husband, Joe.
One of the reasons for the impressively low turnover is the generous benefits that she and Joe provide, most notably covering 70 percent of healthcare costs. “Both of us have been on the other end of the spectrum,” Rotunda says. “We know the importance of benefits [and] how important health insurance is. It’s a benefit I won’t compromise.”
Not only does a great benefits package retain employees, it also helps attract other talented technicians looking for work. “They come to us and ask, ‘Are you guys hiring?’” Rotunda says. She and her husband don’t mind incurring the additional expense of such generous benefits: “It works well for us,” she says. “It makes for a happy workplace.”
HEALTH CARE THAT MATTERS
While Rotunda has been a longtime advocate of good health insurance, a recent experience confirmed her beliefs. “Four years ago, I watched my dad go through horrendous cancer,” she says. “From beginning to end, it was nine months. At that time, I realized how you just have to make sure you have insurance that is so good.” She explains that while her dad incurred more than $1 million in health care costs in that short time, most policies don’t exceed that limit. Rotunda’s CIGNA policy, however, provides unlimited coverage.
Despite her strong conviction, Rotunda admits that incurring the extra cost to provide good benefits can feel like a gamble. “You’re paying for something that you’re not really sure you need. But it’s been drilled into my head that it’s just something you have to have—that every employee has health insurance.”
Cory King, a partner with Fine, Boggs & Perkins LLP in southern Calif., who regularly advises businesses on employee matters, says providing good benefits is often worthwhile. “If the employee doesn’t have to worry about health care costs, they’re more likely to get the healthcare they need to stay healthy,” he says. The upside for you? “They’re at work more often and more productive.”
Providing good health care is also a way to attract top employees. “In today’s marketplace, if I’m going to hire the best talent, I’ve got to at least have a [competitive] baseline,” King says. “If I can’t afford to pay them huge dollars, this is a way I can do a little extra for them to get them to come work for me.” And better talent translates into better business. “If you’re offering the best benefits around and have healthier, cream-of-the-crop employees, you’re turning out better work and making more money in the long run,” he says.
—Kim Rotunda, co-owner, Rotunda’s Collision Center
Not only does Rotunda’s provide health care benefits, but employees are rewarded with additional perks to ensure they’re happy in their jobs. Despite the extra costs, it’s still feasible to run a profitable business. Here’s how Rotunda’s does it:
Almost unbeatable health care. Employees participating in the family health insurance plan at Rotunda’s have a $3,000 deductible. That sounds steep, but $2,000 is covered by the collision center. On Jan. 1 every year, each employee receives a healthcare debit card loaded with $2,000 to be used as needed for expenses such as co-pays on prescriptions and services not covered during a doctor’s visit or eye exams. All routine physician visits are covered in full, and Rotunda says the $1,000 deductible that employees are responsible for is typically applied only to non-routine visits, such as a trip to the emergency room. Employees on the family plan pay $300 per month, and Rotunda’s pays the rest of the $986 monthly premium. (Singles pay $116 per month, and the shop picks up the rest of the $356 premium.)
Generous Christmas bonuses and parties. Folks at the shop are rewarded with a bonus during the holidays, and they’re also invited to an elaborate Christmas party, usually at a ski resort. “All expenses are covered—the room, skiing, dinner, drinks—[and] they get a huge gift in their room,” Rotunda says, explaining that she typically puts together a holiday gift basket. Other holiday novelties have included sleigh rides and a casino night. “It’s always a surprise,” she says of the holiday parties. While they cost thousands of dollars, Rotunda refuses to let the cost worry her. “We talked about not doing it last year because business was slowing up, but I said I’d pay for [the party] out of pocket before stopping it.” For her, it’s not about the money. “I do it because employees appreciate it, and they deserve it. It’s just one night where we [all] get together. No one misses it.” She and Joe allocate some of the money from the human resources budget for the party; they pay for the rest out of their own pockets.
Time off. Employees at Rotunda’s receive one week of vacation during their first year. After two years, they receive two weeks; after eight years, three weeks. Additionally, each staff member is granted one personal day for each year of service. “Once you hit eight years, you get four weeks [off], because of the three-week vacation plus your personal days,” Rotunda says. “Most of our employees have been here for 10 years, so they get a month of vacation.” The collision center also observes seven holidays throughout the year, and bereavement days are available. Rotunda says employees usually take vacation during the summer months, which is when the shop is less busy, so it’s never been a problem to adjust workloads.
Savings for the future. Rotunda’s offers a SIMPLE IRA to employees, matching up to 3 percent of each employee’s contributions.
So with big-ticket benefits like these, how does Rotunda’s stay profitable? “Not everyone uses their [health care] debit card, so that’s a biggie,” she says. Those dollars are invested right back into the business. Rotunda also says that not everyone uses their vacation time, as some prefer to cash it in. This helps keep productivity and production up.
The Rotundas’ experience in real estate has also helped. “We have been in business since 1988, and since that time, we have been able to keep our overhead at a minimum,” she says. “For instance, building our own building and omitting a mortgage quicker than anticipated—a mortgage or a lease would be a big expense for another shop owner.” But she’s quick to point out that doesn’t mean the collision center is hitting huge numbers, despite the savings. “The important thing is to keep a happy employee,” she says. “A happy employee is a productive employee.”
WHEN MONEY’S NOT THE MEASURE
A strong sense of compassion drives Rotunda. Her bottom line is that money isn’t everything. These employees, Rotunda says, deserve great benefits. “They’re good people. I wouldn’t feel right if I knew someone was struggling and there was a way I could make it a little better for them. Joe and I view it as, ‘Let’s treat them as we would want to be treated.’”
Ensuring that employees are happy and have peace of mind about their health is important to Rotunda for business reasons, too: Happy employees are more productive employees, after all. “We’re not worrying about someone quitting, and we’re always able to keep a full production schedule,” she says. And that’s beneficial to everyone.