When Bombas co-founders David Heath and Randy Goldberg first worked together, at another startup, they got a lesson in how not to run a company. As employees, they always felt there was a lack of transparency.
Policies, procedures, and organizational structure were
not explained to them. The financials were a mystery. The
health care plan was so unhealthy that Heath had to use
vacation time to have surgery after he broke his leg.
When they decided to start a business together, “Randy
and I said, ‘We will never make people feel that way,’;” says
Heath. “We will make people feel welcomed, included,
supported—loved—as part of whatever it is we do.” Today,
their company, a maker of high-end socks, has grown to 80
employees. Last year, revenue passed $100 million. Bombas is
a mission-driven company that gives away a pair of socks to
someone in need for every pair it sells. Last year, it donated
10 million pairs of socks. It has extended the giveaway to a
T-shirt line. Bombas has been profitable since its third year.
Even more telling: Since its founding, only three people
have left the company, an extremely low rate. And none to
a competitor, or to any startup. The co-founders have made
leaving di;cult from the beginning, o;ering unlimited
vacation, unlimited remote work, and unlimited sick time—
feel free to break your leg.
They’ve also gotten creative, devising a “situational fund”
to help employees meet additional or unexpected needs.
Heath knows, for example, that some of his sta; are supporting other family members. If one of those sta;ers got a week
o;, the last thing that person would do is spend a few thousand dollars on a vacation. So Bombas would give them the
money to go away for a week.
Another example: emergencies. In December 2017, after
an apartment fire ruined many of designer Katie Peaslee’s
belongings, Bombas gave her enough money to get back on
her feet. “I was overwhelmed with how supportive a gesture
it really was,” says Peaslee. “At a time like that, you really feel
the support Bombas provides.” Another employee, new to
the customer service team, had recently joined Bombas after
“battling some personal issues,” says Heath. The employee
hadn’t saved much money when a beloved aunt died. When
word reached Heath that the employee couldn’t a;ord a last-minute plane ticket to attend the funeral, Bombas paid. “There
is no reason that person should miss a funeral because of
$700,” says Heath.
These expenses are not a huge outlay for the company—$10,000 to $20,000 a year—but this generosity is meaningful, and Heath’s view is that his firm and his investors can
a;ord it. “For a company with millions a year in revenue,
you’re never going to miss those dollars, but to the employee,
it means a tremendous amount,” he says.
Beyond these gestures is a robust benefits package: a gener-
ous 401(k) match and fully paid health insurance. Better yet,
That five-day retreat cost $300,000. Heath has heard the
argument that he should use the retreat money to give every-
one bonuses instead. He couldn’t disagree more—and the
company does award bonuses. “It’s about the laughs, the
bonds, and the relationships that form,” he says. “Of every-
thing we do, the retreat has by far the best ROI.”
KIMBERLY WEISUL isan Inc. editor-at-large.