No weekends? No late nights? Vacations that come with $5,000 in spending money? By the time you finish this article, you'll want a job at Motek.
Step inside a typical software company and you're almost certain to view a twenty-first-century sweatshop. Workers crammed into cubicles churn out a seemingly endless stream of computer code. Fueled by pizza, caffeine, and adrenaline, these high-tech laborers often toil into the late hours of the night. Forget vacations. In fact, anyone who requests a few days off is likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.
That's why the conversation taking place at Motek, a small software firm in Beverly Hills, seems so strange. Amanda Solari, the firm's marketing coordinator, is receiving a scolding from her boss, founder and CEO Ann S. Price, for taking only a three-week vacation in Italy, England, and France last year. Price recommends taking at least five weeks off. "I have had many talks with Amanda about why she isn't taking five weeks off," Price says. "It's impossible to function at maximum productivity without at least a month away."
Is this a PR stunt or the latest business-management gimmick? Hardly. Price offers her employees a $5,000-a-year travel benefit - for flights, tours, cruises, you name it - but only if they take at least a three-week paid vacation. She gives employees another two weeks off for paid holidays throughout the year and leases luxury automobiles for any employee who has worked at the company for at least 10 years. Then there's the fact that Price sends employees home at five p.m. sans laptop and locks the doors on the weekend.
Is this the best place to work in the entire world?
PRICE HAS MORPHED an innovative - some say revolutionary - approach to business with the most generous benefits package anyone could ever fathom. The result is a company that's changing the way employees, customers, and others think … and conduct business. "Our goal is to change the world and make it a better place," Price exhorts. "We don't want to be just another cottage industry."
Even more remarkable is the fact that the provider of warehouse automation software isn't going broke chasing down Utopia. Motek (which means "sweetheart" in Hebrew) boasts a client list that resembles a who's who of industry: General Electric, Southern Company, Borden, Heinz, Unocal, and ConAgra, to name just a few. More importantly, the 23-person firm is profitable and growing, with annual revenues between $5 million and $6 million. Says Price: "It's wrong to view the benefits as a cost; they're part of what makes us so incredibly productive and successful."
Motek's offices on San Vicente Boulevard are the perfect metaphor for a company that's the antithesis of Silicon Valley thinking and Beverly Hills flash. An unassuming white stucco facade with black metal staircases cradles the Motek nerve center. Inside, rows of desks line a cavernous room, and workers quietly tap away at their computers. Back in a far corner sits Price - visible and accessible to all.
This egalitarian view of the world isn't an accident. Price, who served in the Israeli army and later lived on a kibbutz, has extended the concept to the business world. With stints at a Jewish community center and General Electric Consulting, she has just enough business grounding to stay in orbit. Yet her ideas seem to defy gravity, and they have steadily evolved since she started Motek in 1989. "Ann takes the people-centered part of growing a company to the nth degree. It's part of her soul," says Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and a mentor for Price.
Concludes Price: "This isn't about being nice and pampering employees. It's about creating a business that produces maximum results and changes thinking."