How Gravity Payments has avoided a single layoff during COVID-19 crisis

SEATTLE — Five years ago, Gravity Payments made national headlines when its CEO, Dan Price, slashed his own salary to ensure his employees received at least $70,000 a year. This time it’s his employees making voluntary cuts to ensure that no one is laid off.

Price told KIRO 7 News that in March he approached his workers with a blunt assessment: More than half of their business had dropped off the books, practically overnight. As restaurants, stores and various businesses closed their doors, the credit card processing business was looking at its own massive coronavirus pandemic fallout.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, and I don’t have a solution for you,” Price remembers telling the workers at a meeting.

That’s when staff members volunteered to take temporary pay cuts to avoid a single layoff. Price, and his chief operating officer were among 10 who agreed to be paid $0. In total, 98 percent of employees agreed to some form of pay cut. Price is quick to point out that while cuts averaged 30 percent, that each person’s story is different – meaning those who cut smaller amounts were “in it” the same amount in a real-world sense.

Fast forward to April and the team is innovating. In fact, despite losing money to keep the doors open, Price said they’re bringing more businesses into their credit card processing system than ever before. They’re working with small businesses to find ways to incorporate online payments for to-go orders.

“It was no question,” said Jess Moore, one of the employees who was among those who took a pay cut. “We want to make sure everyone stays employed. The only way we can help more clients (is) if we’re all here and in it together.”

Despite the camaraderie, they’re seeing firsthand the difficulties that come with the coronavirus pandemic.

Both Price and Moore quickly skip past their own actions and shift the focus of questions toward the small businesses with which they interact. Price noted that his workers are hearing tragic stories that are almost too much to bear. In some instance, workers have heard multiple horror stories of layoffs and shutdown businesses within the span of an hour or two.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Price. “They didn’t do anything wrong and yet they are suffering the worst of the consequences. Those small business owners, when they have to take someone’s job away, or close a business, they take it personally.”

He knows, because that’s the same threat he was looking at when his credit card payment processing business's customers lost their accounts.

In fact, Gravity Payments has had to turn away prospective workers who have been applying for jobs since the economy was turned on its head. However, while it had to institute a hiring freeze, the company launched a program for out-of-work and furloughed employees. It offers $200 for new business contacts that Gravity Payments can work with. Details can be found, here.