Putting the ideas into practice

Philosophically, LYG is a movement.
Tangibly, it’s a success story, a book, and a shirt.

One of the best ways to understand a movement is to read about the successful implementation of its ideas, and a great way to spread the message is to advertise it by wearing a conversation-starter about the movement itself.

When you put on an LYG shirt, you’re provoking a conversation—about what limiting your greed means, why it matters to you, and why it matters to our world. Your LYG shirt helps spread the word that we can put principles above money and have everybody win.

You may not be a business owner, but that’s okay; anyone can be a messenger for a movement whose time has come.

Read about the guiding principles behind a successful business that strives to make the world a better place in Limit Your Greed.

Think about what you can do individually, what your employers can do company-wide, what we can all do as a community. Together, we can all make a difference.

Let’s talk.

What does "limit your greed" mean?

Maximizing the bottom line should not be the primary goal. Greed drives us to acquire as much as we can, as fast as we can. Most people in the world, including us, want to make money. We don’t expect that to change—we want people to be successful! But we also want people to choose to limit what they make so that others can do well.

Success can and should exist alongside thoughtfulness, decency, and compassion. A company can’t put its employees first if its owners are focused on making the largest possible profit for themselves. We encourage the people who own and run companies to choose to put limits on their greed, so that everyone on their staff can thrive.

No one should give up on their goals of becoming wealthy. We just want them to choose to accept limits, to choose to become less wealthy, so that others can do well, too.

But companies should still make a profit, right?

Absolutely. We’re pro-business, and we recognize that every business must make a profit to survive and grow. LYG is a business, and we certainly plan to make a profit. If you’re a business owner, an entrepreneur, or just a hard worker, there’s nothing wrong with making a good living. We want you to succeed!

We just don’t believe that maximizing profit—or shareholder value—should be the end-all, be-all philosophy of business, or even its primary driver. Your people should be more important. Your principles should be more important. Your customers should be more important. If business owners, executives, CEOs, and the people in power commit to limiting their greed by taking home less, keeping their teams together, holding true to their principles, and doing great work for their clients, we believe their companies will be better off in the long run.

When you say "nobody wins unless everybody wins," are you saying that everyone in a company should make the same salary?

No, not at all. Different employees will have different skills or levels of experience, and they will bring different values to their companies. What we mean, instead, is that the most high-ranking employees should never win at the expense of the lowest-paid employees. If a CEO gets an enormous end-of-year bonus and large portions of the staff get nothing—or, worse, get laid off—there’s something seriously wrong. If the gap between the highest-paid employees and the lowest is outrageous, we believe the company should consider ways to lessen that gap and put new limits in place. Yes, the best-performing and most valuable employees should make the most, but all should win together.

One way (certainly not the only way) to put this principle into action is by offering a fair, transparent profit-sharing system that applies to every single staff member. This system might offer profit sharing based on a percentage of each employee’s salary, or it may be a set amount. It might occur once a year, twice, or more. The details are up to you. But if you set a rule that no one gets a cut of the profits unless everyone does, you’re on the right track.

You could also make this change by instituting a pay multiplier at your company. You could set a hard limit for how much your highest-paid employee can make, based on how much the lowest-paid employee makes. For example, say you agreed that no one should make more than 25 times what your lowest-paid employee makes, which is $30,000 a year. Even if your salary as CEO maxes out that multiplier, you still walk away with $750,000 annually. The key here is that you pick the multiplier that works for you—there is no magic number that’s right for every company. At the end of the day, no matter the exact multiplier, you’re limiting your greed and benefitting others.

What do you mean by "you get more than you give"?

By limiting your greed, you will be investing money in others that you could have kept for yourself. We know that’s a very hard choice to make. But when you limit your greed, even if only a little bit, your employees will have more of a vested interest in your company, and they’ll work harder. Your principles will help you clarify more parts of your business practice, sometimes in unexpected ways. And although you might not make quite as much money, you will have created a business that improves the lives of your employees and helps make the world a better place. Those are incredibly valuable returns on your investment.

Is this a partisan statement?

We firmly believe that LYG is a non-partisan issue, a movement for everyone regardless of political party. That’s because LYG isn’t about government regulations, laws, or subsidies. We’re not making negative judgments about capitalism or large businesses. Instead, LYG envisions a world where individuals change the rules they follow when they start new businesses, or change the way they run their businesses from within—because it’s the right thing to do, not because anyone else made them. We’re asking you to make a change, but we don’t know your business, so we can’t say exactly what that change will be. Ultimately, it’s all up to you.

How could business owners implement the LYG philosophy?

Practically, how you choose to limit your greed is up to you. We know that we don’t understand every industry, and we know that every company is different. LYG isn’t a set of rules or requirements—instead, we hope to inspire you to think differently about how you run your business.

That said, here are some ideas that we’ve seen work:

  • Set a hard limit for how much your highest-paid employees can make as a multiplier of what your lowest-paid employees make.
  • Offer your employees the best benefits you can afford, even if it means taking home a smaller profit.
  • Abolish layoffs as a strategy to maximize profits, and exhaust every possibility to keep your team together in hard times. Yes, sometimes layoffs are unavoidable, but if you’re doing them only to boost profit, think again.
  • Establish transparent communication with your employees about your company’s finances.

Ultimately, choose to limit what you take so that others can share in the wealth. Decide what your principles will be, and stick to them. Turning your principles into action is the hardest part of changing the world, but we believe with careful thought and effort, anyone can do it.

What if a business can’t afford to implement these policies without going bankrupt?

That’s okay! LYG isn’t about adhering to a set of standards or checking requirements off a list. We hope business owners will consider choosing to change their policies or reevaluate their principles so that everyone on their team wins together.

If your business is just getting started, you might not be able to offer better benefits. If your company is barely breaking even, you probably don’t have any profits to share with your team. Or maybe you’re just a small company and you already take a low salary so that everyone can be better off. Maybe you run a larger company that already offers excellent benefits for its employees and participates in charity work for its community.

No matter your situation, we believe there is always room for conversation and consideration. No company is perfect; every company can be better. By keeping your principles at the forefront of your business and openly talking about what you stand for, you can ensure you’re ready to make a change when change is possible. Then, when offering more becomes a viable option, you can revisit your policies and grow your benefits. If you do that, you’re helping to change the world.

Why should business owners be penalized for making money?

They shouldn’t be! We want businesses to make money. We want business owners to do well. We’ve seen, though, that businesses can behave differently, make sure everyone in their companies win together, stick to their principles, treat their employees better, and still make a profit. We’re not asking you to change your lifestyle or give up your paycheck. We simply believe that by taking less so that others can benefit more, you can help make a better world.

Maybe a business owner has already implemented company policies that fit our philosophy, or maybe they think things are okay the way they are. Consider that even small changes can benefit your business and your staff dramatically. For instance, you could think about setting up a mechanism for your employees to offer comments and questions anonymously, so you get feedback on how your company is working. Or maybe there’s a benefit you already offer that you could make incrementally better than it is now. Every small step can boost your employees’ morale and help make the world a better place.

Not everyone owns a business, so how can everyone participate in LYG?

You don’t have to be a business owner to be a part of LYG—it’s a movement for everyone and anyone. That’s because business practices affect all of us. And anyone can have a conversation and help spread the message. By telling your friends, family, coworkers, or bosses about LYG, you’re planting the seed of an idea that can grow into something larger than yourself. You never know who will hear you and decide to make a change.

If you want to start small, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Share our posts and talk about the movement on social media. Wear your shirts and tell people what they mean. Every great change started as a small idea, and we need your help to spread this message.

That sounds good, but can it work in the real world?

Yes! We know it can, because some companies are already doing it. Our founders’ other company is a real-world case study of how business owners can limit their greed, share success with their entire staff, and still do well. They value their principles so much that they even put it in the company name: Principled Technologies (PT). You can read more about how PT is practicing the LYG philosophy here.

But there are also companies that have implemented similar practices without any ties to us or our founders. Whole Foods voluntarily caps executive pay at 19 times the average employees’ salary. Askinosie Chocolate shares profits with their employees and brings the entire company together to discuss their finances every other month—then takes these ideas further to include their suppliers in Ecuador, Tanzania, and the Philippines. They share profits with suppliers via their "A Stake In The Outcome" program, and they translate financial reports into multiple languages, so suppliers can understand how they’re supporting the company.

We’ve also seen more and more companies offering better employee benefits—you can find countless articles about which company treats its employees best. Whether it’s increasing paid parental leave, offering unlimited vacation policies, covering employees’ health care costs, or providing generous retirement plans, we’re encouraged by these trends and will keep pushing for more companies to implement the LYG philosophy throughout their business practices.

Okay, but talking to strangers is awkward...

No problem! If you’d rather not invite conversation in public, wear your shirt only where you feel safe talking—at gatherings with friends or other places where you already know the folks who will be there. Your conversations may be even more effective in provoking thought and change if you’re talking to someone you know. The same thing goes for social media: spreading these ideas online is a great way to get the word out. Join the movement and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

LYG Book

Companies must make profits to survive, but what if profit wasn't the main goal? What if maximizing shareholder value wasn't a goal at all? What if business leaders limited their compensation so that all employees could have more? In Limit Your Greed, Mark Van Name and Bill Catchings confront today's accepted business norms and present alternatives that work. Using their own company, Principled Technologies, as a case study, they make a compelling argument for a new approach to business: one in which everyone limits their greed.