Help us help small businesses. Become a small business champion. Learn more

Jim cares about his employees; he knows all of them by name. Business is booming, and he wants his team to share in the financial success. To accomplish this, he develops a profit-sharing program, giving employees a cut of the loot at the end of the year. When he announces the program, he gets a standing ovation. After the announcement, Jim sits back in his office, taking comfort in the fact that he’s done everything he can to align his team’s financial success with that of the company.

Jim and his team successfully launch several new products, but one day Jim realizes the low-hanging fruit has all been picked. The next product will take several years and a lot of money to develop. He calls a meeting to make a decision on whether or not to proceed. His executives line a long boardroom table. Jim brings the meeting to order and outlines the issue. He asks for ideas. A heated debate starts. Jim loves when his team has productive disagreements, but after a few minutes, he realizes the conversation is revolving only around profit. The company’s core values stare down at him from a plaque on the wall. Jim wonders if his team wants what’s best for the company, or if are they just thinking about their share of the profits?

The comfort Jim previously felt after assembling his team vanishes. He feels he is the only one who really cares about the company as a whole. He adjourns the meeting abruptly and without consensus. He returns to his office and shuts the door. Now he has to make the decision by himself … alone. For several minutes, he feels anger toward his executive team, but then he realizes this is all his fault. He created this tangled web of economic incentives using a handbook of business best practices. In doing so, he had the arrogance to think that he could foresee every situation. Clearly it is a fool who thinks he can predict the future, but this mistake snuck up on Jim camouflaged in magnanimity. He unintentionally distracted his team with the promise of cash.

By definition, incentives incentivize us to get to a certain, specific outcome. But the world is too complex to predict what problems we will face or what situations will arise. Creating economic incentives is a losing battle. We will always be one step behind the next unforeseen dilemma, and as a result, so will our incentive programs.

Despite what we are taught, economic incentives do more harm than good in most jobs. Monetary rewards distract from the powerful intrinsic motivators. Dan Pink calls pay a hygiene factor, meaning, like hygiene, it can only be a bad thing; it can never be good. Have you ever been complimented on your deodorant? With that in mind, a better strategy is to keep money off the minds of your employees. That way you can truly encourage every single one of your team members to think and act like the CEO. Under these conditions, the scene at the beginning of this article starts to look far different. If none of the executives are thinking about their pay, you can rest assured they are much more likely to be motivated by the intrinsic drive we humans have to be successful.

I would encourage you to be humble. Understand that you cannot predict the future, so don’t try to implement a system that assumes you can. Try and take pay off the table. The best way I have found to do this is just a simple base salary. It’s not perfect, and it’s not exciting. But that’s the point. There are no windfalls tied to certain events, however you have the flexibility to reward your team for thinking and acting like the CEO. If you can do it, so can your team. Just make sure you don’t get in their way.

[gravityform id="37" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_37' ><div id='gf_37' class='gform_anchor' tabindex='-1'></div><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_37' id='gform_37' action='/blog/dan-price-profit-sharing/#gf_37'> <div class='gform_body'><ul id='gform_fields_37' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id='field_37_1' class='gfield gf_left_half gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_37_1' >First Name<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_1' id='input_37_1' type='text' value='' class='medium' placeholder='First Name*' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_37_2' class='gfield gf_right_half gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_37_2' >Last Name<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_2' id='input_37_2' type='text' value='' class='medium' placeholder='Last Name*' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_37_3' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_37_3' >Email<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_3' id='input_37_3' type='email' value='' class='medium' placeholder='Email*' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id='field_37_9' class='gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_37_9' >Phone</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_phone'><input name='input_9' id='input_37_9' type='tel' value='' class='medium' placeholder='Phone Number' aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_37_4' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_37_4' >Business Name<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_37_4' type='text' value='' class='medium' placeholder='Business Name*' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_37_7' class='gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><input name='input_7' id='input_37_7' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Gravity Website' /></li><li id='field_37_8' class='gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><input name='input_8' id='input_37_8' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='' /></li><li id='field_37_13' class='gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><input name='input_13' id='input_37_13' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='' /></li><li id='field_37_12' class='gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><input name='input_12' id='input_37_12' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='' /></li><li id='field_37_11' class='gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><input name='input_11' id='input_37_11' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='' /></li><li id='field_37_10' class='gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><input name='input_10' id='input_37_10' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='' /></li><li id='field_37_14' class='gfield mixpanel-id field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_37_14' >Mixpanel ID</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_14' id='input_37_14' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_37_15' class='gfield gf-post-slug field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_37_15' >Post Slug (js)</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_15' id='input_37_15' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /></div></li> </ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_37' class='gform_button button' value='Submit' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_37"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_37")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_37")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_37"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_37"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_37")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_37")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_37"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_37").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_ajax' value='form_id=37&amp;title=&amp;description=&amp;tabindex=0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_37' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='37' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_37' value='WyJbXSIsIjFkZWJiYTQzOTc0NWE5NmY1ODc3NTgwMWVlMTJhNGM1Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_37' id='gform_target_page_number_37' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_37' id='gform_source_page_number_37' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> </form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_37' id='gform_ajax_frame_37' title='This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.'></iframe> <script type='text/javascript'>jQuery(document).ready(function($){gformInitSpinner( 37, 'https://gravitypayments.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.gif' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_37').on('load',function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_37');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_37').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! is_redirect && ! is_confirmation;var mt = parseInt(jQuery('html').css('margin-top'), 10) + parseInt(jQuery('body').css('margin-top'), 10) + 100;if(is_form){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_37').html(form_content.html());if(form_content.hasClass('gform_validation_error')){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_37').addClass('gform_validation_error');} else {jQuery('#gform_wrapper_37').removeClass('gform_validation_error');}setTimeout( function() { /* delay the scroll by 50 milliseconds to fix a bug in chrome */ jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gform_wrapper_37').offset().top - mt); }, 50 );if(window['gformInitDatepicker']) {gformInitDatepicker();}if(window['gformInitPriceFields']) {gformInitPriceFields();}var current_page = jQuery('#gform_source_page_number_37').val();gformInitSpinner( 37, 'https://gravitypayments.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.gif' );jQuery(document).trigger('gform_page_loaded', [37, current_page]);window['gf_submitting_37'] = false;}else if(!is_redirect){var confirmation_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('.GF_AJAX_POSTBACK').html();if(!confirmation_content){confirmation_content = contents;}setTimeout(function(){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_37').replaceWith(confirmation_content);jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gf_37').offset().top - mt);jQuery(document).trigger('gform_confirmation_loaded', [37]);window['gf_submitting_37'] = false;}, 50);}else{jQuery('#gform_37').append(contents);if(window['gformRedirect']) {gformRedirect();}}jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [37, current_page]);} );} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_render', function(event, formId, currentPage){if(formId == 37) {if(typeof Placeholders != 'undefined'){ Placeholders.enable(); }jQuery('#input_37_9').mask('(999) 999-9999').bind('keypress', function(e){if(e.which == 13){jQuery(this).blur();} } );} } );jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_conditional_logic', function(event, formId, fields, isInit){} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> jQuery(document).ready(function(){jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [37, 1]) } ); </script>