A Waukegan-based bearing manufacturer says, "the business has always been about family." The cliche ranks right up there with "people are our most important asset" — true, if at all, until the company is sold to the money men who arrive to start whacking jobs.
But this family sells its business and then dispenses $6.6 million in bonuses to 230 employees — and average of nearly $30,000.
"I know people who work for corporate America are not going to get treated like that. And most of the family-owned businesses are not going to treat you like that," said Dave Tiderman, who received $35,000. "This is something that just really doesn't happen."
It does happen, although often without fanfare, and when it happen, it seldom comes as a total shock, because the owners likely recognized the role of employees in creating the wealth all along. Although the numbers may be outsized, the payout is consistent with values that guided the business. Some of the most fiscally conservative owners may prove to be the most generous, because they set the needs of the business above their own.
Finding values-driven entrepreneurs isn't so unusual. For many, their business was never about financial rewards, but about fulfilling a creative impulse, combined with a competitive drive to win. They wanted to make something, but money was an after thought.
I've known men who became lost millionaires after selling their businesses because it meant relinquishing their sense of purpose, as well as owners who lost big money and barely blinked because they still had something to prove.
Unfortunately, it's more difficult to run a values-based business when there are shareholders whose goals are typically financially focused. It becomes even harder when the new buyers are paying off the debt from the acquisition. And it's impossible when the only value involved is greed.