Better wages strengthen community and, for a small business, the bottom line

  • Article by: DANNY SCHWARTZMAN
  • Updated: February 27, 2014 - 7:01 PM

We’ve adjusted and thrived with higher pay rates; other small businesses will, too.

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In both Congress and the Minnesota Legislature, efforts are in motion to raise the minimum wage. As a small-business owner and community member, I am in strong support of these efforts.

Too often, we hear arguments that businesses can’t deal with added costs. Since opening Common Roots Cafe in 2007, we have been paying all employees significantly more than the minimum wage, with every employee starting at more than $11 per hour. We also pay benefits that include paid time off and health insurance. I believe anyone who puts in a hard day’s work should earn a wage that covers basic expenses.

In the past seven years, we’ve had to figure out how to manage high labor costs. But a big part of surviving as a small business is figuring out how to deal with costs. Providing a decent wage for employees shouldn’t be an optional part of running a business. It should be required.

If all businesses paid a higher wage, we’d be competing on a more-level playing field. While some businesses would certainly run into challenges, they would have to adapt. That’s what small businesses do. We are constantly dealing with increasing costs and changes to the business environment.

Over time, other businesses will see what I have seen — that paying people more yields more for the bottom line. It’s easier to recruit and retain people. Happier employees are more likely to provide better customer service. Lower turnover means dramatically lower training costs and better employee performance.

But above all else, paying a higher minimum wage is the right thing to do. I want our community and our country to be places where no one works 40 hours a week but cannot support themselves and their families.

In 2008, our first full year in business, we employed the equivalent of 14.9 full-time staff. Since then, we have steadily grown our restaurant business, and we also launched Common Roots Catering. Last year, we opened a 5,000-square-foot catering kitchen and office to handle continued growth. In 2013, we employed the equivalent of 50.5 full-time staff.

Paying people a decent wage hasn’t been holding us back. It has been central to our growth.


Danny Schwartzman, of Minneapolis, is owner of Common Roots Cafe and Common Roots Catering.

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