The Self-employed Employer

By: David Leonhardt

It's that time of year again, when all Canadians rush to their mailboxes, their corner stores or their neighbor's houses to read the latest edition of Maclean's Magazine.

For those who don't know it, Maclean's is the Canadian equivalent of Time or Newsweek, and the time of year is the annual Top 100 Employers report – the employers who issue more than just a paycheck (although right now a paycheck would be quite a treat!)

Being the frugal shopper that I am, I shunned the mailbox and the corner store – no loss, we don't have a corner store in this hamlet – and headed right over to my neighbor's log cabin high up on the summit of Mount Okabingbong.

"OK, Happy Guy, what now?" came his usual warm greeting. "No, wait. Let me guess. It's the Maclean's 100 Top Employers edition, right?"

"Right."

"And you want to check if your employer is on the list this year, right?" he continued.

"Right."

"And you'll be disappointed that your employer didn't make it on the list, again, right?" he asked.

"Right. Oh..."

"Happy Guy, you are a self-employed hermit. You don't have an employer," Mountain Neighbor said.

"Yes I do. Me. I am my employer, and a mighty good one at that."

"What makes you think you would be good enough to qualify?" he asked.

"It says right here that they want employers who don't just to woo the best employees, but work to keep them."

"If I were you, I would just fire all your employees," Mountain Neighbor remarked.

I ignored the sarcasm.

"Look at what makes these guys a top employer. They have an on-site fitness facility. Well, I exercise on-site, too."

"So you do," he agreed.

"And this employer offers a profit-sharing plan. Well, I do that."

"But don't you have to make a profit first to have a profit-sharing plan?" Mountain Neighbor asked.

"Pish, posh. The plan is in place. All I need now are profits to share."

"Pish, posh?" he asked.

"Look, this employer offers on-site daycare."

"So it does," he noted.

"I offer onsite daycare...with a monitor so that I can hear my children cry and I can leave my desk to find out for myself exactly how it feels to have pickle juice spilled all over me in the middle of a workday."

"That certainly is a benefit few companies would think to offer," Mountain Neighbor agreed.

"When you work in your pajamas, spills are easy to manage. Let's see Amex or Procter & Gamble match that!"

"I suspect you've outflanked them on fashion," Mountain Neighbor admitted.

"This one has opportunities in England, Japan and South Africa. Well I work in Australia, England, Florida, Minnesota, New York, California and all over the place."

"You mean, you optimize websites from all over the place," he pointed out.

"Look at this employer. They have an on-site all-you-can-eat cafeteria and a rooftop patio."

"So?" Mountain Neighbor asked.

"Well, I have a 24-hour cafeteria that makes everything to order, and I sometimes even have a wife spoil me with apple Betty. Yum."

"I guess you missed out on the rooftop patio," he observed.

"Oooh...do you think that's why I didn't make the list this year?"

"Actually, most of these employers offer four weeks vacation, or more, and many of them offer all sorts of other leaves and paid sabbaticals. You don't give yourself more than three weeks a year," he pointed out.

"Yes, I suppose that could be a problem."

"Slave driver," he admonished.

"So do you think that if I take more vacations and build a rooftop patio, I should be able to hang on to my best employees?"

"I don't know..." Mountain Neighbor shrugged. "But if you can't do it, nobody can."

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