BY STEVEN GORDON, LEMONADE DAY NATIONAL PRESIDENT
Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” This statement holds true for so many successful entrepreneurs who take risks to achieve their dreams. Kennedy’s inspirational quote can also be considered uplifting through the challenging times that many leaders face. And right now, it’s a pretty difficult time for executives who are implementing business continuity plans to “stretch the runway”, if you wish. Companies are closing, employees are losing their jobs and there are no signs to indicate how long this will last. COVID-19 is testing our nation, our economy, our elected officials and business leaders, and our people.
I’m particularly inspired by company leaders who are deploying the same ingenuity they used to start their business, to keep their businesses viable. I’m reading about CEOs and members of the executive team forgoing a percentage, or all, of their salary to help keep the company afloat and put the money into the hands of the employees who contribute to the company’s profits. The list is growing with the likes of executives from large corporations such as Delta, United, Southwest and JetBlue; Marriott and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts; GE, Disney, Comcast and Columbia Sportswear.
But what about the entrepreneurial founders and small business owners? Is the decision as easy for them? Here are some great examples of entrepreneurs who are implementing cost-savings measures.
First, I’m pleased to highlight a great friend of Lemonade Day, Todd Graves. I’ve talked about Todd many times before. He started Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers from scratch in 1996 and he and his Caniacs have been great supporters of Lemonade Day. Todd, himself, was a successful owner of a lemonade stand as a child.
With sales down 25% since March, Todd’s priorities shifted to keeping his team safe and employee base intact. The restaurant industry lost 417,000 employees in March alone and the National Restaurant Association forecasts that the industry could lose 5 to 7 million jobs in the next three months. Todd, and his co-CEO AJ Kumaran, both agreed to forgo their salaries during the crisis to help their employees. The company has also drawn down its credit lines.
Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green have pledged to donate their salaries through June to support drivers during the coronavirus crisis.
Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) and founder of Shake Shack, donated his entire compensation to seed a relief fund for his workers. The other members of the exec team are taking meaningful pay cuts and 100% of all USHG gift card sales will go to the fund.
Airbnb’s co-founders, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk, have forfeited their salaries for 2020. CEO, Brian Chesky, has also given up his salary for the remainder of the year and other executives are taking significant pay cuts to avoid layoffs.
I salute these entrepreneurs and business owners. When choosing to start up their business, they dared to fail and achieved greatly. In the face of a crisis, they are unwavering in their commitment to their business and their employees and will no doubt, fly high when this crisis is over.
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For more information about Lemonade Day, please visit lemonadeday.org.
Since 2007, the Lemonade Day program has been teaching leadership and business skills by encouraging children to launch a lemonade business in their community. The organization inspires young people with a desire to learn business skills and financial literacy to set up their lemonade stand where they can apply customer service skills, collaborate with business owners and investors and experience real-world business owner challenges.
Lemonade Day has expanded to over 84 licensed markets in the United States (including six U.S. military bases), Canada, Bermuda and South Africa. More than one million children and thousands of adult mentors have participated in Lemonade Day since 2007. Adults can register a child to participate in Lemonade Day and give them a taste of the sweet success that comes with owning their own business. For more information, visit lemonadeday.org.