Dan Price – The CEO with Soul

Gravity Payments isn’t an enormous global powerhouse of the financial world. It doesn’t employ a mind-boggling number of people. It hasn’t created a product or service that will change the face of business in general. So how did the names “Gravity Payments” and “Dan Price” become business buzzwords? Those names are on lips around the world because this is a story about Soul. 

As we know from the FOAMSHIP approach, the souls aboard our organizational ships provide the collective human energy that shapes its atmosphere and environment. Positive energy within a business creates a thriving environment, whilst negative energy results in a toxic environment. There are far too many tales of organizations that mistreat, undervalue, and underappreciate their most vital asset – their people; but what about those who are getting it right?

In early 2004, Lucas and Dan Price began a credit card processing and financial services company that they named Gravity Payments. With over 15,000 clients across the USA by mid-2008, the Price’s organizational ship had become the largest credit card processor in Washington. Although an example of a successful business in traditional terms, this is not what makes this company stand out. Dan Price appears to be a man who supports the concept of soul within business – a concept deemed by many traditionalists to be an idealistic fantasy. But in 2013 the CEO of Gravity Payments set sail on a brave voyage.

Dan Price was on a journey to demonstrate that he is a captain with soul, who understands the importance of each and every one of the human souls on board his ship; and to put his money where his mouth is. 2013 saw Dan Price implementing a 20% pay increase for all his employees who earned less than $100,000, in an effort to address the situation caused by the lapse of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. It was also around this time that Gravity Payments introduced unlimited paid time off to all employees, another controversial decision being made by many soul-centric organizations in recent years. But Price and his soulful ship didn’t stop there.

In 2015, Price announced the bold course that he’d plotted for his organizational ship. Over the next three years, Gravity Payments would increase the salaries of all employees to a minimum of $70,000 per year. In order to provide a large percentage of the financial fuel required for this very significant voyage, Price reduced his own salary from $1 million per year to the same $70,000 pay cheque as his crew. Although two long-standing crew members jumped ship because of this change, the overall result was fundamentally positive when considering that it led to a 91% employee retention rate (as opposed to the industry average of 68%), the customer retention rate grew from 91% to 95%, and profits doubled. This quite simply shows that captains can take care of the souls aboard their ships, without sacrificing the financial fuel required to power those ships.

When Gravity Payments acquired ChargeItPro in 2019, Dan Price once more let his own soul shine through. At the time of the acquisition, the majority of the souls on board were earning less than $40,000 annually and each of these crew members was given an immediate increase of $10,000 per year. Furthermore, Price again implemented his now-tested approach by announcing that his new acquisition’s minimum salary would be increased each year until it also reaches $70,000, which is expected to be by 2024.

All along this particular journey,  Price has encountered criticism of his skills as a business captain, and many supposed experts insisted that the voyage was a doomed one. The facts, however, speak far louder than the naysayers. In 2014 Gravity Payments processed $3.4 billion in payments. By 2018 this figure had increased to $10.2 billion. And in early 2020, the ship was earning more than $4 million per month – that’s a lot of fuel. Although the Gravity Payments ship was hit with a 55% reduction in card processing fees during the stormy weather that accompanied the global pandemic brought on by COVID-19, the carefully crafted vessel was kept afloat by the very same souls that had been nurtured by their captain. The crew members themselves suggested voluntary temporary salary decreases to remain on board and help their ship to reach calmer waters, and it worked.

As of 2021, Dan Price can proudly state that his ship has made it this far without suffering any layoffs and that all salaries for his devoted crew  have been restored to their pre-pandemic amounts. Not only this, but all crew members have been reimbursed for what they lost due to their voluntary salary cuts, and increases have now resumed as well. In statements made on Twitter in April 2021, 6 years after it began, Dan Price revealed the following current results of his voyage to making life better for all the souls on board his organizational ship:

  • Revenue has tripled
  • Headcount has grown by 70%
  • Customer base has doubled
  • Number of babies born to staff members increased tenfold
  • 70% of employees paid down debt
  • Number of homes bought by employees increased tenfold
  • 401(k) contributions grew 155%
  • Staff turnover decreased by roughly 50%
  • Employee engagement at work increased to 76% (double national average)
  • Customer attrition dropped to 25% below the national average
  • Highest salary is 4 times the lowest salary (reduced from 33 times)

At the beginning of this particular journey, Price was quoted as saying:

“I’m sick of being part of the problem, I want to be part of the solution. Previously, I was making a million dollars a year and people working for me were making $30,000 a year and that’s wrong, I was feeding into the problem.”

Today it appears that Dan Price’s dedication to nourishing the souls  on board his ship is paying off in a wide range of ways that benefit everyone involved, and should inspire other captains to consider following this enlightened example.