American Fireglass CEO discusses the importance of treating employees right

In December of 2020, Matt Doll, CEO of American Fireglass, realized that the pandemic was taking a mental toll on his employees, so he decided to let them take the last two weeks of December as paid vacation.

And that’s just one of the many perks he offers his employees, in addition to essentially unlimited paid vacation time to salaried staff and bonuses, to name a few.

Matt Doll

In fact, just a few weeks ago, Doll gave out the largest amount of bonuses in company history. 

“It all goes back to the reason I started the business,” Doll explains. “I wanted to be able to spend more time with my family. And from day one I wanted to build a business that pays employees well, and I recognize that if it wasn’t for my team, I wouldn’t have a business. It feels good to be able to reward people that reward me. That really resonates with me.”

Doll is passionate about treating his employees right, and he’s even discussed it with business owners big and small—both inside and outside the industry—in a CEO and mentoring group he’s a part of

Casual News Now caught up with Doll to get his take on finding new employees, employee retention, and why businesses should look at their employees as investments in the company.

Casual News Now: What are you hearing, both in your mentoring group and throughout the industry, when it comes to finding employees and employee retention?

Matt Doll: A lot of business owners still have the mindset that it’s our responsibility to be the cheapest we can possibly be to get the most out of everyone we possibly can. And I think that’s what leads to people not wanting to work somewhere.

I truly believe that there is a “great resignation” happening now, people are leaving their jobs for better jobs. The retention at my company is amazing, the average person has worked here for 6 years. I believe companies that are having a difficult time hiring and retaining employees need to look deeper within themselves and deeper within the company, as well as what they’re doing to try to attract employees.

One thing that helps us that maintain the desire to be a part of the team is that we strive to be the number one outdoor fire glass and fire pit DIY company in the world. The striving for that goes a long way. People want to work for Nike, the companies they know are best and No 1. They want to have pride in what they do.

Even when you niche things down and your business could be the best at what they do, that mentality goes a long way. Growing up playing sports, I always had the “if you’re not first you’re last” mentality.  That culture of always winning, and celebrating the wins, and being the best at what we do—it’s infectious and it goes through the business.

CNN: Why do you feel it’s important to give out bonuses on a consistent basis?

MD: When I sat down and did bonuses this year, I realized that one bonus won’t be life-changing, but for some people, it’s two mortgage payments. It’s them being able to pay a medical bill or student loan debt or go on a family vacation. Being able to help people do that is really what drives me. That feeling and how genuine I am about that, it oozes through the company. Everyone else feels that. 

Even in our warehouse, which, a warehouse environment will have fairly high turnover, we have no lack of people literally in line to come work with us. Our crew has been here for a number of years and we hired a bunch more people recently. Imagine getting hired and three months later you get a 1,000 bonus? And everyone knows that if we don’t have a successful quarter, we don’t do bonuses, so they all want it to happen.

CNN: Do you see your employees and an investment in your company?

MD: Without a doubt. You make investments everywhere—equipment, marketing, but a line item that section has to be what you do for your employees. 

I just announced that going forward we’re going to schedule a time every year that we do a  summer break—probably over the July 4th weekend. Next year, the company will shut down for a whole week and we’ll have a summer break. The response to that was incredible.

And these things don’t cost much. When you look at the return you get—having the loyalty of people and them wanting to come to work—it’s worth it. When Covid first hit, we gave everyone the option (except warehouse staff) to work from home, and nobody wanted to!

That’s our culture and that leads to people wanting to stay here. All of those little things don’t affect the profitability of the company in the grand scheme of things. If you look at having to replace employees every year, the culture would be very different. And it doesn’t lead to a lot of success when you’re constantly replacing people and bringing new people in.

CNN: Do you have any advice for businesses struggling to find or retain employees?

MD: The best advice I can give is to invest in your employees over everything else you do. When they love what they do, it makes running the business easy, and everything falls in line. Always invest in employees first. 

I really believe that it’s a matter of looking at your culture and how it runs, and if you’re a company with a lot of turnover, dig deep into that and take your ego out of it and ask yourself why people don’t want to work for you. Most people don’t quit a business, they quit their leaders. A lot of leaders have too big of an ego to realize it’s them causing the problem. And it could be because of the culture, or the pay, or it could be because of lack of respect.

It’s not an overnight fix. It’s taken me a long time to get here, and I think we have the best culture now that we have ever had in our company’s history.

Also, business owners need to get it out of their heads that it’s other people’s fault that they have high turnover or can’t find employees. I can’t stand people blaming the government right now. The government is giving a generous amount of unemployment now, but I ask people all the time if they know anyone personally who’s choosing to stay home on unemployment and not work because they make more money, and no one ever says yes. 

It’s just something they’ve made up in their head as to why they can’t find good employees instead of moving their ego out of the way and realizing maybe it’s them that’s the reason no one wants to work for them.

Business owners don’t like to be told they have a big ego, but when you can learn to check that, that’s when you can become successful. When you check it and have empathy for other people, it makes you realize how important it is to take care of your people. I know people in our industry who have a really hard time with that.

This story first appeared on sister website Casual News Now.

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Alex Milstein

Alex Milstein is a contributor and social media coordinator for Home News Now and editor in chief of Casual News Now. He previously served as senior editor of both Casual Living and Designers Today. Prior to that, Alex covered technology for Furniture Today, with a focus on augmented reality, e-commerce, and 3D visualization.

View all posts by Alex Milstein →

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