Dan Price founded his credit card processing company, Gravity Payments, after seeing small-business owners being overcharged and underserved by their existing vendors. Today, over 13,000 businesses across the country trust Gravity to save them millions in fees and hours in frustration by making it easy to accept credit card payments.
Dan’s recent decision to raise Gravity’s minimum salary to $70,000 captured headlines around the world. His 40-year-goal is to be a speck in a revolution where business is about purpose, not profit.
It’s been over six months since you announced your plan to move minimum salaries to $70,000. How’s it going?
I think it’s still too early to tell if it will be a financial success. Ultimately, the impact on society and inspiring change in the way business is done will be the true judge of our success.
What’s your definition of success?
We define it differently than most. Our mission as a company is to make credit card processing fair for businesses. Independent businesses and entrepreneurs give their blood, sweat, and tears to make our lives better, but often they make less than their employees and take a tremendous risk. Credit card processing is one more area where they’re sometimes exploited. We want to prevent this.
With our wage initiative, our goal wasn’t financial, it was human. We want the people who are giving blood, sweat, and tears to help these businesses have enough to live a normal life. In that way, it’s been incredibly successful.
In addition to the individual success, many people are rooting for this to be a financial success as well. For us, that would be the icing on the cake. I would say our chances (from a gambler's standpoint) are close to zero, but we’re also more determined than ever to make this work. I’m proud to announce that we’ve invited Harvard researchers into our company to provide a third-party perspective on the economic and human impact of the decision.
Describe what the scene was like when you announced this to your staff?
When I initially told everyone, there was a moment of stunned silence. Some people were looking around at each other, a few jaws had dropped, and then someone asked me to repeat myself. Then the team started clapping, cheering, and giving each other high fives. It was an emotional moment. I heard things like, “Now I can start a family,” “Now I can move out of my parents’ house,” “Now I can live down the street from the office instead of having an hour commute.” It’s the best money I’ve ever spent.
In addition to much positive press, you received a fair amount of criticism. Was this surprising and what did you learn from it?
There were a few critics who came out after the $70K minimum wage decision, but funnily enough, I think those critics are half right. However, what they’re doing is appealing to the part of human nature we’re moving away from. They make valid points that touch on some of my major concerns with this decision and what they say holds much merit. I don’t care as much about the criticism as I care about making sure we’re listening to them and finding ways to overcome the challenges they bring up. An idea is only so good. As a team, we need to go out there and execute and prove this type of model works.
Are you a socialist, a moralist, or just an entrepreneur trying to pursue corporate social responsibility in a challenging business world?
I have a 40-year goal to fundamentally change the way business is done where it’s more about purpose and people, and not profit. I want to create a world where values-based companies suck up all the oxygen and take over the economy. I don’t mind if existing companies convert, but I want to send the ones that don’t out of business.
As leaders, we need to do the best we can for everybody around us. If we do that, I think as a society and as business leaders, we’ll get farther faster. At the end of the day, live the best life you possibly can while staying true to your values and helping others. With that, we’ll always find new and innovative ways to do good for those we lead and do business with.
When I’m 70, I want to say I was part of completely reshaping the economy at a moment when it stopped being about making the most money possible and became about purpose, service, and making a difference
How has this affected your company in the marketplace?
As CEO, part of my job is to look out for what will benefit the company in the long-run. In the past, doing what is best for our clients has helped the company greatly. Investing in the team has and will enable them to continue to ensure client success by putting them in a position to be a strategic decision maker.
We’re also investing in our clients by continuing to push the boundaries and significantly reduce the costs and headaches independent businesses incur from accepting credit cards. By taking care of others, in return they’ll take care of you.
What advice would you give other business owners contemplating a move to a local living wage?
I would tell other CEOs to figure out what’s the right thing for their business. That can mean something different to different people, but I don’t think it’s necessarily right for everyone to copy what I did. You need to do what you feel in your heart is right to better the lives of those you work with.
It seems you’re pulling purpose and values into the workplace with you. What was the impetus for this?
There are so many issues in the world, and everyone is waiting around for a solution. For me, I saw income inequality become a growing problem in my backyard of Seattle. So much so that a $15 minimum wage had to be enforced by the government. I saw that as a sign of failure that we did not self-govern and didn’t self-regulate.
As a leader, I knew I needed to take a bold action instead of waiting around for someone else to do something I had full power to do myself. It was my hope when making this decision that other business leaders would recognize you can pay a living wage and still manage to thrive.
I made this decision because it’s always been my conviction to put Gravity’s clients’ needs ahead of our own. It’s my honest belief that imposing a $70k minimum wage will not only impact my team’s quality of life but in turn will improve the success of our clients.
I also did this for my team at Gravity who sacrifices so much to make our clients’ lives easier. My team has achieved incredible results based on our mission to stand up for the little guy and treat them better, and more fairly than others in our industry. This has resulted in incredible success for our clients.
Change is hard—do you have any tricks you’d like to share for making it easier?
If you’re looking to create a huge change in your organization, it’s incredibly important to make sure you’re doing it at the right pace. If this change is going to be transformational, you should go and have one-on-one conversations with every team member in your company and get their feedback before making that big decision. Change should be collaborative, and everyone in the organization should be involved.
The most important thing to remember is that chaos is a constant and we should look to embrace it rather than run from it.
If you could change one thing in the world right now, what would it be?
We would all live forever and yet have harmony with nature, the earth, and each other.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I always wish I could communicate better, and it’s something I actively try to get better at every day. However, as opposed to having regrets about it, I instead try to think about what I’d like to do better and then commit to myself that I’m going to improve.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
I eat a lot of protein like eggs and avocado, but I always make sure to have a large portion of broccoli every morning.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading a book by a close friend and colleague of mine, Emery Wager, called How to Name a Generation. It’s a phenomenal story about a high school student who, after joining the Marines, struggles to find his place among his peers who are living in a much different reality. With polarizing experiences, the main character tries to straddle his two worlds and carve out a place for himself among his generation.
I’m also rereading a book called The Complete Leader. You can read it front to back, but every chapter is a quick 10-minute lesson on whatever challenge you’re facing that day. I’m a little biased because it was written by my dad, Ron Price, who is one of the most influential people in my life.
How should people connect with you on social media?
I’m happy to connect with anyone on all my social media channels. My team and I are always looking for more ways to be accessible, so feel free to follow Gravity and me at the following: