Have Dots & Have Nots

Problems With Going Online

Last spring, Roberta Johnson, 45, founder and co-owner of Sportsvision-bend, an 11-year-old retail sunglasses company in Bend, Oregon, needed a techie to update the company's Web site and streamline online ordering and shipping. She offered the full-time position to John Hoffman, 29, director of Web design at a nearby Web development firm.

But for Johnson, courting a techie was scary: "This was the first hire I've ever made that involved both my accountant and my lawyer-the accountant to tell me what it would take to afford this guy, and the lawyer to draw up the deal."

In the end, Hoffman's compensation package included a competitive salary, flextime, a signing bonus, a percentage of monthly gross sales and a percentage of ownership in Sportsvisionbend's dot-com division. Hoffman accepted and is matter-of-fact about what he earns. "Employers need to give [techies] compensation packages that value them," he says. Sales on the Web site have grown 119 percent since Hoffman started.

But conflict arose when Johnson asked her salespeople to tell customers they could shop online. Nontechies wondered who would get the commissions on sales through the Web site. After a tense staff meeting, Johnson dropped commissions completely and increased wages to compensate for the loss. "When the salespeople were on commission, they didn't want to talk about the dotcom. It was competitive," she says. "We're more of a team now."

Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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This article was originally published in the January 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Have Dots & Have Nots.

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