Meet Dan. Dan is successful businessman in Van Nuys, California who got his start making one of a kind wind chimes out of recycled surf boards. What started out as a little venture in creativity became a six figure revenue stream and many locations up and down the California coast. At last count, Dan had 24 stores and 750 long-time loyal employees, annual company luncheons, a first rate gym free for all employees, and some of the best health care in the state.
A few hundred miles east lived a man named Harry. Harry was a Wall Street prodigy who made enough money to retire by his mid-30s. After giving up his lucrative career as a venture capitalist, he relocated to Omaha, Nebraska and opened up his own tractor dealership. People love their tractors in Nebraska, and pretty soon Harry was bigger than Nebraska itself and became the new tractor baron of the Midwest. Harry’s 36 dealerships were dotted all over the Great Plains and, at the peak of his powers, he employed some 925 folks. Unlike Dan, Harry’s staff was rife with employee turnover due to a multitude of employee health-related issues.
What was Dan’s secret to success on such a happy work force? Dan liked to look big picture and read studies on health and exercise in the workplace. Dan was an analytics genius, and one day while playing golf with his regional manager Jeff Spicoli and a couple of interns, Dan came up with a master plan to keep his company profitable and viable in the future—offering incentives for various health and fitness related activities. Dan wanted to make this enjoyable for all involved and starting running various contests to promote his vision.
Harry was missing more time at the office on a daily basis, opting instead to spend more and more time hunting wild game in the Serengeti. Harry was all about the mighty dollar and didn’t mind spending it on himself. Third world countries offered better health care, and incentives for health and fitness were blasphemy in Harry’s world. Harry would occasionally spring for doughnuts and by the end of Harry’s dynasty those were considered “diet-approved” because things had gotten so bad.
Dan, on the other hand, had a monthly walking competition for his employees. Anyone that participated got $25.00 added to their health fund account and the winner would get $50.00. Tina, the Monterrey store manager, actually paid for her young son’s braces thanks to these little contests. Every six months, Dan would hold his own “The Biggest Loser” challenge over the course of three months and even provide fruits and vegetables as snacks at all his locations. To keep employee morale at an all-time high, it wasn’t about who lost the most weight, it was who lost the biggest percentage of pounds. Legend has it Jean, the clerk at the Rosemont location, lost 14% of her body weight one year and her prize was an IPad mini and a $100 gift card at an area produce stand.
The end of Harry’s reign as the Midwest tractor magnate was sealed when his district sales manager at the Lincoln store succumbed to a heart attack. Jimmy Fry had been with Harry since day one and his 20-year lunch routine of corn dogs with a funnel cake chaser had finally caught up with him. Jake in sales had read about Dan’s wind chime enterprise in a business publication and suggested to Harry that maybe he ought to look into some of these ideas. Harry the curmudgeon couldn’t be reached by phone since he was in the Galapagos Island obtaining his own personal Bird of Prey, and Jake instead left the company and took the few remaining “healthy” employees and is now currently using the same tactics he learned from Dan. Jake is now the largest Midwest farm equipment tire dealer and runs similar promotions! Harry came back from his last vacation to learn that his company was in shambles and sold it to a venture capitalist (the financial “circle of life”) He then took a job as a cashier at a local bakery just so he could have health insurance!
Disclaimer: All of this previous story is a figment of my imagination, any resemblance to anybody is a pure coincidence!
That being said Sodexo is looking to drive the conversation to improving health and fitness in the workplace. I’m lucky I based Dan’s business model on my own employer that runs similar contests constantly. Healthy employees are productive employees! If you are walking, hitting the gym, training for a marathon it doesn’t matter stay active! Sedentary lifestyles are not only boring, they are unhealthy! Put down the potato chips and grab a cup of fruit instead!
If more corporations and big businesses would follow this model, the world would be a better place. Incentives for losing weight cost minimal dollars on the company’s bottom line in return overweight Kelly gets healthier and still pulls a miracle out of thin air for her boss when he needs a report from two years ago. Fortune 500 CEO, make it fun and don’t treat Rhonda the administrative clerk like some nobody. If she wins the most steps walked promotion, congratulate her and feature her in the next company newsletter!
Thankfully, I work for a company that sees the benefits of healthy employees and offers the incentive to keep us healthy. Maybe Mr. Big Business will take Dan’s approach on how to run a company eventually, and we can all end up replacing fried mushrooms as a snack with raspberries instead!
Thank you to Sodexo for sponsoring this post. The thoughts and opinions are based on my own life experiences.