The CEO of Boxed Wholesale – a venture-backed company that raised $100 million in 2016 – recently shared why he offers generous fringe benefits to the company’s over 200 employees and pays for his workers’ weddings and their kids’ tuition.
Speaking to CNBC, Chieh Huang said, “After leading my first company, I realized that it doesn’t matter how powerful or big an organization is. If all of its people walked out one day, that organization is worth zero the next day.
That was a huge epiphany for me, and it made me realize that I’m only as good as the people I lead.”
Huang practiced corporate law at Proskauer Rose before getting into business by launching gaming start-up Astro Ape prior to Boxed. Boxed is an online bulk goods retailer which has been termed ‘Costco for millennials’. Instead of customers having to shop in a warehouse, however, Boxed allows customers to shop via a phone or computer app without having to pay a membership fee to join.
Since its launch in 2013, Boxed has experienced strong growth, achieving $100 million in sales in 2016. Huang began paying tuition for his workers’ kids after he found out that only about two of the 20 or so workers at Boxed’s Atlanta fulfillment center had their own cars to get to work. “The most obvious answer was to get everyone a car,” Huang remembered, “but I wanted something that was going to be more long-lasting and really empower upward mobility. In my life, that was my education.”
The idea to pay for workers’ weddings came about after Huang visited Boxed’s New Jersey fulfillment center and found an employee working a second job to pay for both his mother’s medical bills and his own wedding. When he realized he wouldn’t be able to save up fast enough to do both, he broke down crying and went home early from work.
About the incident, Huang said, “This is a very stoic guy. So when I found out he had left, I called him that night and he told me what happened. He was working seven days a week, so I wasn’t going to say to him ‘work harder.’ We stepped in, and we paid for the wedding.”
Today, reimbursing any full-time employee for their wedding expenses up to $20,000 is company policy.
Huang won’t say how much he has spent on tuition or weddings; and while most probably admire his generosity, he is quick to point out that he’s not running a charity. “Every company has to decide what they want to focus on, and for us it’s paying for these life-altering events for our employees,” Huang says. “It’s not the cheapest program, but then, we don’t look like a typical start-up.
“We’re frugal, and we use our money to fund what we think are really impactful and meaningful things.”
What Huang has done at Boxed may not work for other companies, but it can’t be denied that it has certainly helped Huang attract and keep talent. Fewer than 10 full-time employees have voluntarily left the company since it started.
Danita White for TechFunnel.com