For some business owners, good culture is everything, and they will pay top dollar for it. Mitch Goldstone is one of those business owners. Goldstone, who is president and CEO of California-based photo scanning service ScanMyPhotos.com, has no qualms about going way over-the-top for his annual employee retreat in Las Vegas. The price tag is a whopping $65,000.
Goldstone’s grand design includes meeting his 17 employees at the airport with chauffeured Rolls Royce Ghost limousines. At the MGM Grand’s swanky Skylofts, employees receive nonstop attention from personal 24-hour butlers and mingle with celebrities. They eat at five-star restaurants, score front row seats to Cirque du Soleil and third row seats to Elton John, and cap it all off with a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon.
Employees as First Priority
Creating a culture of appreciation is one thing, but is this much appreciation really necessary? Goldstone thinks so. “Successful entrepreneurs understand that it is all about the employees; they are the fuel that powers a company's success. Employees have to be put first, even ahead of customers, so you can’t be cheap and send everyone to a local restaurant. No level of extravagance is too much to reward loyalty,” he said.
Apparently, it works. Goldstone claims that his organization has zero turnover and that ScanMyPhotos.com recently marked its 21st year in business. The Vegas retreat cleverly ties into the company’s mission, too. “Our business is to preserve millions of precious photo memories, and along the way, we want to create new ones for ourselves that we’ll remember forever,” said Goldstone.
Employee morale aside, Goldstone and his advisors recognize the public relations value inherent in pulling off the most spectacular employee retreat anyone’s heard of. All over the web, blogs are buzzing about ScanMyPhotos.com and prospective customers are flocking to the website. In all likelihood, these new customers will pay for the revenue lost when Goldstone suspended operations for the retreat.
I suppose my question is: What kind of message does this send to companies looking to improve their cultures and create more desirable places to work? Is culture about putting your employees in an elevator with A-listers, or is it about sending them handwritten birthday cards and ensuring they can pay the hospital bill if they get in a car accident? Is it about letting them live like gluttons for a weekend, or it is about making retirement contributions that will help feed them until they’re 90?
Goldstone is the first to admit that Vegas isn’t everything. ScanMyPhotos.com employees also receive benefits including free lunch and 100 percent health coverage. And perhaps what says the most about ScanMyPhotos.com’s culture is the fact that the employees are willing to spend all of this time together and seem to genuinely have a blast. I mean, hey, I’ve worked in cultures that couldn’t even make Vegas fun.
Here’s something else to consider: It sounds like the ScanMyPhotos.com culture has been a pretty nice one all along. But if your work environment is unsupportive or even hostile and morale is really suffering, a gesture like this may well seem empty and contrived and has the potential to turn off employees even more. If you really want to improve things, it’s simple: Listen and make gradual changes based on the feedback you receive.
For his part, Goldstone is now under pressure to keep the party going. “The Vegas retreat was the experience of a lifetime…until next year.”