Caring for employees = caring for your business : ColoradoBiz Magazine

Think outside the box about benefits

John Le Bel

When you run a business, you get used to many things – and one thing I am used to is knowing that once I solve, finish or resolve a project or problem, another one will arise.

Part of what we do is guessing and anticipating our next adversity or challenge. I think most of us believe that our city, state and national economy has made leaps and bounds beyond the challenging years of 2009-2012. But while we worked through those tough years, new ones are always on the horizon. And if a business couldn’t find intelligent solutions back then – well, they probably aren’t around today, attempting to solve the latest challenges.

As the economy turned, we set our eyes toward two important critical elements: growth, and helping our employees and corporate stores hire and retain our best employees. These were new challenges, but important ones – and ones that we were lucky to face over 18 months ago. And yes, we did solve the problem and continue to solve other problems that have affected our business. But in the end, this led us to better understanding a huge correlation between growth and employment/hiring.

Anecdotally, I don’t think I get a call once a week from people asking me, “How are you hiring and retaining good employees?” If it hasn’t made the top of your list, I bet it’s rapidly moving up – and it should be.

It may appear that the needs of hourly employees and salaried employees seem miles apart, but they may be much closer than you think. All employees want benefits. It’s a tough place to be in if you’ve never offered them. Bigger employers with greater economies of scale can certainly offer more in the way of benefits like health care. It’s a tough conversation to have with yourself, but how much does it cost your business to manage the continuous revolving door of employee hiring and training? We are starting to believe that hiring a team of stable, happy, easily manageable employees is our ultimate goal. Maybe to some this goal is unattainable or unworthy. But I think it’s the key to our success today, tomorrow and onward. Our growth depends on it.

So, we start with the basics:

1) Provide some little perks, such as lunch or coffee for the staff. This may seem inconsequential, but for a student who is rushing downtown to class and with the advent of a $4.00 latte, it actually means a lot. We should all understand that a latte can cost up to 30 minutes of minimum-wage work. 

2) Let your employees know that their personal lives are important to you. We often let new hires know that going to a concert or spending time with their families is important to us as an employer. We want you to know that we will work extra hard to get you the night or day off you need.

3) Promote from within so employees see that this isn’t just another dead-end job. It’s important to show employees that from the current position, you can actually receive new skills and a higher level of pay.

4) Lastly, think outside the box. For example, our business can have a hard time retaining delivery drivers. It’s a competitive world for those types of employees and although our business has many advantages that we can offer a perspective hire, we also have our limitations. As an employee of one of our franchised or corporate stores, you must have delivery drivers approved for insurance purposes to deliver our pizzas to customers—which precludes anyone below the age of 18. Just that element alone decreases our perspective pool.

So we asked ourselves, what is the most important part about being a delivery driver? We concluded that delivery drivers want to make the most money they can in the shortest amount of time, and also keep wear and tear off their cars. We knew we were competitive on wages but had to admit that that yes, there could be some wear and tear.

So we are now in a trial phase of offering drivers incentives to keep their cars maintained, such as quarterly oil changes and yearly tune-ups. We have certainly seen an uptick in applications, and look forward to long-term results.

We are now researching different ways to help us stay ahead of the game, and as hiring gets more competitive and difficult, we want to be prepared to go that extra mile. We need to be competitive and be thought of as a place where perspective employees want to go, because this ultimately leads us to growth. We know employees are a key element our growth plans, and we want them to understand how much we value them for it.

A New York native, John Le Bel graduated from the University of Colorado-Denver with a political science degree. After a career in politics and as a lobbyist, he returned to Denver in the 1990s and joined pollster Floyd Ciruli of Ciruli & Associates. Le Bel discovered Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta at the original 16th Street Mall location at the same time, and enamored with the business, he became one of the first Anthony’s franchisees. He now serves as president of Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta International, which has 25 Front Range locations. Contact him at: or 720.932.1800.