Business

Celebrity CEO Dan Price tells Idaho firms: Have ‘larger purpose’

Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments in Seattle, apologized to his father, Boise business consultant Ron Price, about his hair and dress Wednesday at the Boise Centre. “I’ve got a great barber and tailor we’re going to visit,” Ron Price said.
Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments in Seattle, apologized to his father, Boise business consultant Ron Price, about his hair and dress Wednesday at the Boise Centre. “I’ve got a great barber and tailor we’re going to visit,” Ron Price said. doswald@idahostatesman.com

The Idaho Private 100 luncheon Wednesday at the Boise Centre was a celebration of money, as the Idaho Statesman recognized the state’s top-selling private companies for their sales successes. But the keynote speakers said business needs to be about more than just profit.

Dan Price, a Nampa native, was one of the speakers. Price gained national attention last year when he said he would raise the minimum pay at his Seattle company, Gravity Payments, to $70,000 a year. His company processes credit card payments, mostly for small businesses.

Price said treating employees and customers well should trump the bottom line. “Business should have some larger purpose, and you as an individual are more than a money-making, money-seeking robot,” he said.

The other speaker was Price’s father, Ron Price, a Boise business consultant and author of six business books, with two more scheduled for publication.

Ron Price spoke about the increasing influence of millennials. He displayed charts showing how the largest generation in history will overtake a more of the workforce — and management positions — in coming years.

“Get ready,” Ron Price said. “[Millenials] are going to be our bosses before too much longer.”

Ron Price led a Q-and-A with his son, who at 32 is an early millennial. He asked what compelled Dan Price to implement a pay-raise schedule setting a minimum of $50,000 after the announcement in 2015, $60,000 in 2016 and $70,000 in 2017.

Dan Price said he decided to raise wages after skipping work on a Wednesday to hike with a friend. His friend said her rent was increasing by $200 per month, making it impossible for her to make ends meet.

“That was the moment,” he said. “I decided on that hike — I promised her and to myself — that I was going to do something.”

Dan Price said millennials, who make up most of his 150 employees, are mislabeled as privileged, lazy and attention-seeking. He said the onus falls on him to demand challenging and rewarding work.

“Millennials are just accelerating and illuminating how weak our vision and our motivation is,” he said.

Dan Price, who invited The New York Times and NBC News to the big announcement, has frequented TV news programs and magazines ever since. A member of the audience asked why he publicized the wage announcement. Dan Price said he hoped the publicity would drum up business to pay for the raises.

However, the story gained traction — Dan Price said NBC News told him the announcement segment received more online clicks than any previous story — and he decided to serve as a spokesman for business with purpose.

“When I had this big stage, I felt a compulsion to be on that stage, to share that message,” he said.

The Idaho Private 100

Watch for a special advertising section in Sunday’s Statesman with stories about the Idaho Private 100, a list of 100 privately held Idaho companies ranked by revenue. Until this year, the list had 75 companies.

A turbulent year

Dan Price faced a lawsuit filed by Lucas Price, his brother and Gravity Payments co-founder, that was dismissed.

Price’s ex-wife also recorded a TedX Talk detailing alleged ongoing abuse by her ex-husband, though Price wasn’t named. The talk never aired, and Dan and Ron Price denied the allegations.

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