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Show Highlights

Recognizing that your employees rock is one of the most valuable traits an employer can have, but only as long as said employer is able to properly acknowledge that appreciation.

Graham and Ashkahn share their take on rewarding employees for their hard work and how to make it count when you want to give them a gift. The duo has no shortage of examples of how they’ve shown their appreciation at Float On, and this episode is dense with examples of nice gifts and rewards to provide staff, from the practical to the symbolic.

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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Ashkahn: All right.

Graham: Hey everyone.

Ashkahn: Hi.

Graham: I am Graham.

Ashkahn: And I am Ashkahn.

Graham: And before we get too far into this podcast, we have something that we wanna tell you.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: It’s not gonna last for much longer, so enjoy it while you can.

Ashkahn: Yeah. We only got a fewers left here.

Graham: Yeah, just a handful. And we go into the details about winding down the podcast in an earlier episode. It’s a special announcement-

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: … if you look on-

Ashkahn: Wherever.

Graham: … wherever you found us-

Ashkahn: Just look.

Graham: … in the first place, yeah.

Ashkahn: Look on your desk right now-

Graham: Ask one of the friends.

Ashkahn: There it is.

Graham: Yeah. They’ll know where it is.

Ashkahn: Yeah, so we’ve been doing this for a year and are finishing up right at the 365th episode.

Graham: Which has been amazing, what a fun year, man.

Ashkahn: It has been. It’s been wild.

Graham: Yeah.

Ashkahn: But fun news. For the very last episode, we’re doing a live broadcast where you can call in, ask us your questions. We won’t even have a chance, like we do here, to edit things out when we say things that are really dumb.

Graham: Yeah or offensive.

Ashkahn: It’s probably gonna be bad for us but-

Graham: Yeah, if you want to blackmail us in the future this is a great thing to tune into and record.

Ashkahn: It’s November 29th. It’s from 3:00 to 5:00 Pacific Time, P.M., in case, don’t get up that early in the morning.

Graham: Yeah, PT P.M.

Ashkahn: And yeah, I mean it’s gonna be awesome.

Graham: The 29th is a Thursday by the way, so it’s on a Thursday.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: So, if any Thursday wanders and you haven’t listened to us yet-

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: … get very nervous.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: Yeah. Last Thursday of the month. Yeah.

Ashkahn: Yeah, nice.

Graham: Cool.

Ashkahn: Cool. What are we supposed to do on this thing again?

Graham: Answer questions. Which I got one, I got a question here. “Hi!!” There’s two exclamation points there. “Hope it’s not too late for a question before the big finale.”

Ashkahn: Nah.

Graham: It’s totally not, you made it in.

Ashkahn: You made it, good work.

Graham: Good lesson to all the rest of you out here too, yeah, just send in your questions because it’s still not too but soon …

Ashkahn: It will be too late.

Graham: “We had a two float center plus sauna and massage. We’re close to being able to take the leap and expand.”

Ashkahn: Nice.

Graham: Congratulations.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: “Can’t come soon enough. Until then, we have a very small crew works so hard and are essential to our business. What are some benefits, gifts, fun things you’ve offered your employees as a thank you to them?” That’s a fun question.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: Money. I mean on a regular basis, right?

Ashkahn: Yes.

Graham: We give them for their time.

Ashkahn: They really seem to like that one.

Graham: And they should feel good about it.

Ashkahn: Yeah. So, there’s other perks that come with working for us.

Graham: Bonuses.

Ashkahn: I think a lot have bonuses of money.

Graham: Unexpected money.

Ashkahn: Monetary bonuses.

Graham: Yeah.

Ashkahn: The uuuuuuhhhhhhh…. I mean that-

Graham: We really don’t like our staff.

Ashkahn: This is a tough one.

Graham: Yeah. You’re supposed to appreciate people.

Ashkahn: Yeah. I usually throw the end of my sandwiches out into the lobby for them to eat. I mean-

Graham: And they’re all over it too.

Ashkahn: Yeah. They’re hungry.

Graham: A little bit of kindness and otherwise cruel Float On goes a long way.

Ashkahn: No. So, a lot of float centers let their employees float for free, of course. That’s a huge awesome perk of working in a float center. You probably are already doing that, but in case you’re not.

Graham: So, yeah. And I thought … So, we talked about … I think we have a different episode where we talk about perks, and employment, and stuff like that. If we do, we’ll put it in the show notes. And if not, we’ll put a separate little tiny mini-interview of two questions with us in the show notes that explains it. But what about for one-offs? If we’re coming up on holidays or we’re doing something especially cool, we want to give our employees a gift.

Ashkahn: Yeah. Well, parties are fun.

Graham: Parties are really fun.

Ashkahn: We like to host parties. And so-

Graham: And I guess you can invite your staff too. Getting back to the question. Yeah.

Ashkahn: One of the things about a float center is that there’s not a lot of time or almost no time where everyone gets to be together. Right? People are working this shift, and that shift, and maybe have some overlap, and some people see certain people more than others. So, actually having a group outing or whether it’s in the day and you go out and do something fun, or at night we’ve done one night camping trips, we’ve done karaoke, we’ve done other things.

Graham: Just other going out somewhere.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: Bars or something and hanging out.

Ashkahn: So, stuff like that is really fun because you all just get to hang out together, and when we do this we go as far as-

Graham: Indoor skydiving outings?

Ashkahn: Mm-hmm. We go as far as actually shutting our shop down or especially if we have a party at night we’ll block off the early floats the next day, so no one has to get up at 6:00 AM and go open the shop, which kind of sucks. So, we’re taking a little bit of a hit in terms of lost appointments, which is hopefully you’re kind of scooting people around, and maybe we’re not losing too much revenue from it when it’s a small thing like that. But it’s a really great way to have fun, and have everyone feel rewarded and kick back a little bit.

Graham: Yeah. And there’s something nice about shutting down your shop and being willing to do that. I think it sends kind of a nice message to the staff, and we’re open 24 hours a day, so if we didn’t shut down some hours then just someone wouldn’t be able to come. Like if we don’t shut down our shop then someone has to be there running it because there are people floating at all hours of the day.

Ashkahn: Yeah. And it’s kind of nice. It’s one of the nice things about being a float center is that you can close for small periods of time like that without disrupting your customers as much. Like if you were like a convenience store or some other retail shop or something like that, people might show up and be like, “What the heck? Why aren’t they open right now?” But you just don’t take appointments, so-

Graham: Yeah. Appointment based is-

Ashkahn: It’s a little nicer. You have the ability to do that. A little easier than other businesses.

Graham: It’s nice for that. And I’m not sure if it’s just that Ashkahn and I specifically are much more activity based people than we are thing based people. We’d rather do something than own something.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: And so, I think our rewards for our staff members and our team at Float On have always kind of from that as well. Providing cool experiences, and getting everyone out in a group. We’ve said it before, but we also run a very isolated business. Usually, we only see one or two other people who work around the same time as you if you’re in float center. So, the chance to actually go out with your entire team, and hang out, and yeah go camping or hiking or sing karaoke or party or whatever it is is really satisfying, and I think, yeah that, at least for us, that over, say getting everyone some kind of $50 gift or getting everyone a separate gift card to go out to pizza. I’d rather just take everyone out in a big group rather than separate kind of presents.

Ashkahn: Mm-hmm. For sure. And I mean another thing that we’ve done is taking people out to a nice meal.

Graham: Yeah.

Ashkahn: That’s a really fun one because generally the people working in float centers including us are not really the people who are very commonly going out to fancy restaurants. And so, having everyone go out to a restaurant that is in a kind of a class of expense that is a little outside of what they do on their normal life feels really fun, it feels really special. And at the end of the day if you go to a really nice restaurant you may be paying, I don’t know, like $40 a person, something like that?

Graham: Yeah. $50, $55. It can get up there, but I mean still it’s I think I was going to finish your sentence.

Ashkahn: Do it. Do it.

Graham: You might as well. It’s still so much … The value that they get out of that experience, if you were to give someone a $150 bonus they wouldn’t feel as good about it as being able to go to a restaurant and order whatever they want.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: Just order the most expensive thing, you get-

Ashkahn: Get fancy cocktails.

Graham: And yeah, fancy cocktails, and it will still cost you less money than just getting that out as money.

Ashkahn: And again, it’s another one of those things where now everyone has a cool memory and a nice experience that they’ve shared with everyone too.

Graham: Yeah.

Ashkahn: High fives? I mean we get lots of-

Graham: I’ll let you tell the story because you did the bulk of the work, but there is the … When we left our managers in charge of the shop.

Ashkahn: Oh yeah.

Graham: That’s one of the physical presents that we actually gave. Ashkahn was like 90% of the labor that went into this.

Ashkahn: I mean yeah. Sometimes symbolic gestures are nice as long as they’re not lame. They can be lame, but when we first got our shop to the place where we were like, “Okay. We’re really going to get some managers in charge, and take ourselves out of the day-to-day operations.” I spent like three months or so with the two people who were going to become our managers, and we figured out all sorts of protocol, and systems, and functions for our shop to work, and it was a cool experience. And at the end of it when we kind of had this day where we were like, “Okay. I feel like we have things set up now.” I took them out for a nice dinner, and I gave them both these golden hydrometers.

So, I actually brought a hydrometer. I took them to a place in Portland that did custom gold leafing, and had actual gold put around the base of the hydrometer, and then had a custom display case made for it, and had our logo etched into the laser etched into the display case. So, now it’s just this really cool fireplace mantlepiece you have. It just feels like you actually have the baton of running our shop. This golden hydrometer.

Graham: Which is awesome. Yeah, one of my favorite weird things with no reason for us to do that we did, but it’s nice. Again, symbolic gestures, I think, make people feel appreciated, and make them feel the weight of perhaps now being fully in charge of-

Ashkahn: Right.

Graham: … Of something, and we kind of wanted that emotional engagement of what was going on. And yeah a golden hydrometer was the best way we thought of.

Ashkahn: Yeah. I mean it’s not like we thought of just something I could have bought, right? Obviously it had to take time and thought to put together.

Graham: Yeah.

Ashkahn: So, I think that kind of is maybe the difference between that and some lame award or something that you could just buy from trophy store.

Graham: Right. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Kind of like shutting down the shop. Like the gesture of the staff members know that the shop is not open. The staff members these places don’t just sell a golden hydrometer.

Ashkahn: Right.

Graham: Yeah. Going that extra mile and showing the staff you really care. Whatever it is. I think it’s always better than anything specific. Yeah. That hopefully that spawned some good ideas in your head. Anything else that you can think of for fun things that we’ve done or fun things that we’d want our bosses to do for us?

Ashkahn: I mean I have a really general one in a specific sub-section of it.

Graham: Money? Cash?

Ashkahn: The general one is … Yeah. There’s this thing called fungible money. You can use it to do anything.

Just generally running a business that’s a nice place to work I think is a big part of this. I think people are more willing to feel okay about not making as much money when they feel more gratified in their work, and we talk about that a lot, so I won’t get into the specifics of stuff like open finances, and autonomy, and all that sort of stuff. That makes it kind of a cool workplace.

Graham: As long as we’re on the topic.

Ashkahn: But the specific part of that is just ask your employees. Every once in a while I’ll make a post in our log book, like our helm system that everyone can see this just like, “Hey, what’s a thing … What’s annoying you right now that you have to do in the shop?” I’m like, “Let’s see if we can fix it.” Like, “Let’s toss a little money at getting rid of some inconveniences or just doing little rounds of that. Like, Hey, let me know what can be improved in here, and I bet we could find a solution to make all your lives easier, and make your jobs easier.”

Graham: Yeah, especially true I think for the person asking the question. Like they said they’re expanding coming up here.

Ashkahn: Right.

Graham: So, I mean expansion is a great time to get a ton of feedback from your staff, and actually take it into account, and make your next operation just even smoother because of it. I think that’s like immediate present, but a really great way to give something back in way that’s going to make their daily routine a lot easier.

Ashkahn: For sure. But sometimes when people are working in a shop because they don’t have the ability to buy things, I think they kind of get out of a mental place of realizing that purchasing things, tools can solve a problems. We’ve had this with robes in our shop, is the best example I have. For a long time we had all these robes, and after they got laundered we had to roll them in this really specific way. Like fold and roll them so they would actually fit into the cubby storage we have. And it was extremely labor intensive. And at some point I put this question for it. I’m like, “Hey, what’s going on?” Everyone is like, “Ah, I hate folding robes. It’s so annoying. It takes so much time.”

I’m like, “Why don’t we just buy a rack? We don’t have to fold robes. We can just put a clothing rack in the corner and just hang them on hangers.” And that was it. It cost like $100.

Graham: Yeah.

Ashkahn: We got a coat rack, we found a spot to put it, and they’re like boom, poof no more rolling robes up in this crazy thing. And it’s not like anyone thought we thought of that solution, and probably thought, “No, there’s no way they’d buy us a rack.”

Graham: Yeah.

Ashkahn: Just think when you’re doing your daily work it’s just not the-

Graham: Things feel fixed. Yeah.

Ashkahn: It’s not the state of mind that you’re in.

Graham: It’s the weird, yeah, squeaky hinge in your house that you haven’t fixed in a while or all the maintenance stuff is somehow there’s always something else more important to take care of. So, yeah I like it. Small presents in the form of easier time working their shift-

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: -Is also a good way to go.

Ashkahn: For sure.

Graham: All right. Yeah.

Ashkahn: And yeah. I mean money I guess really.

Graham: Cash money. If you have questions of your own.

Ashkahn: Yeah, you could just saunter on over to FloatTankSolutions.com/podcast.

Graham: And yeah you really just have a little bit of time to send them in. We’re down to our last few questions. So, if you do have-

Ashkahn: Yeah. So, don’t saunter. You better hurry on down.

Graham: Yeah. It’s the wrong word choice there. All right. We’ll talk to you soon everyone.

Ashkahn: Okay.

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