Michael Klein

Michael Kaiser, owner of Kaiser Building Co., in Cranbury, N.J., is serious about retaining good staff. To that end, he puts his money where it gives him the most dividends: good pay and good benefits for his eight employees — six in the field and two in the office. “A good way to retain people is to pay them well,” says Kaiser, whose full-service remodeling company has been in business since 1995. “The second is to offer a substantial benefits package.”

Kaiser Building Co.’s benefits package includes:

  • Vacation: New employees start off with six paid holidays and five paid personal days. After a year on the job, employees accrue a week of paid vacation time. After three years, they gain a second week of vacation. “Paid time off is a good way to keep good employees,” says Kaiser, whose company’s annual business has ranged from just under $1 million up to $1.6 million.
  • Retirement: Kaiser Building Co. offers staff a SIMPLE-IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) and matches employee contributions.
  • Health benefits: The company offers a number of plans for its employees to choose from and pays each employee an identical subsidy. “Their out-of-pocket expense for health insurance is about $20 a week,” Kaiser says. “Our plan kind of sets us apart from a lot of people in the building business. But we’re trying to lure people who are more family-oriented, more stable, and who don’t want to switch jobs a lot.” And it works — Kaiser’s newest crew member has been with the company six years.


But there’s one benefit that has really scored big with Kaiser’s field crew: a tool allowance. “About seven or eight years ago I saw that we were spending upwards of $20,000 on tools and equipment, which meant that equipment wasn’t being taken care of or was left behind on jobs or just donated to the customer,” Kaiser says. “At one of our monthly staff meetings we came up with a plan where everyone would get a tool allowance. That alone knocked about $12,000 off the bottom line.”

Crew members typically get about $520 per year to spend on tools and equipment. The amount is based on hours worked; for every hour an employee works, Kaiser sets aside 25 cents. Employees receive a quarterly update on the amount available. Crew members make a purchase, turn in a receipt, and are reimbursed. “When a guy buys a saw and it’s his saw, then it gets put in his truck and he’ll take care of it,” Kaiser says. “When it’s your tool, it’s treated a little differently.”

—Kathleen Stanley is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.