More Money in Tough Times

More Money in Tough Times


There are creative ways to make your package bigger without necessarily stretching the salary past the breaking point.

Bill got a 20 percent raise during a salary freeze. He was well-paid as a regional manager of an independent tax preparation firm. His strategic advertising, PR and branding earned the firm a 70 percent market share in the four metro areas serviced.

If you apply the same principles to your circumstances, it’s likely you make your own “salary surge.”

Bill’s Story

As an ordinary part of the job, Bill was putting in 10- to 12-hour days during tax season. The number of offices expanded to 13 satellites at season’s peak.

The previous two years, he took his tax-time lumps with everyone else. This year he wanted more money, but the company said it couldn’t afford to increase his salary. Instead of a raise, he negotiated time off commensurate with seasonal 72-hour work weeks.

Over the past year, Bill had carefully groomed two assistants so they could handle things previously reserved for Bill’s decision making. Freed from having to be on call every minute, he was able to negotiate comp time he could redeem when his workload permitted. He went from 72 hours at peak all the way down to 24 hours in lull time. This averaged to a 32-hour, four-day week overall, earning a 20 percent raise in his “per hour” pay.

While Bill’s specific circumstances may not apply to you, the career principles do. Tough times call for creative measures, and there are creative ways to add income without pushing a salary negotiation through personnel, or pushing your new employer past their salary limit.

Standard Perks

To begin with, there are non-salary perks: company car, other transportation expenses, health-club memberships, tax-prep assistance, tuition reimbursement, loans, flextime, association dues, personal laptop, and so on.

More creatively there are two other ways to raise your pay rate without adding salary: Time and Bonuses.


At the executive level, it’s easy to lose track of time boundaries. You’re not accustomed to counting hours, just results. While your rank-and-file subordinates are cashing in on time-and-a-half for overtime, you’re earning less and less per hour the more hours you put in. As an exec, employers won’t give a warm reception for a “punch-the-clock” mentality, but you can get some buy-in advocating “life/work balance.”

A simple way to cash in is to negotiate extra compensation via personal days; then there’s payment for unused vacation time. Many people don’t negotiate “comp time” for days they spend at or traveling to conventions, at trade shows or time after hours with customers. By paying attention to getting compensated for that time (either by money or more likely with paid time off) you can increase your dollars-per-hour income.


As a second source of income, try a little “gambling” on the job. I’m not advocating running a poker game in the cafeteria; I mean betting your boss or new employer that you will meet or exceed a target.

Construction deadlines, production deadlines, sales quotas, customer-satisfaction results, cleanliness awards, employee productivity measures, accident-free days, newsletter excellence award. These are just a few of the things bosses will pay for – especially things that pay for themselves in profits or savings.

These are called bonuses!

Bull’s Eye Bonuses

Here’s a special category of bonuses I call “BEBs”: Bull’s Eye Bonuses. Unlike a standard percent-of-salary end-of-year bonus, a BEB is a one-time prearranged payout for hitting the bull’s eye! This is reserved for a bull’s eye that creates either a special profit to the corporation or a valued feather in the boss’ cap.

Regardless of salary history, a BEB proposition goes something like this: “If I could make you a dollar that you’d never see without me, you wouldn’t begrudge me a dime, would you?”

A Bull’s Eye Bonus proposes to hit the bull’s eye and make or save a measured amount of money. Out of those profits or savings, you are given a one-time bonus. So the company doesn’t have to authorize a salary increase, and they’re able to pay you more without a net cost to them.

Jeff’s Example

Jeff, in finance, noticed that the 10-ounce jars of a soup base were overfilled by a half-ounce or more. Why? The FDA fines for underfilling a jar were substantial, so they added an extra half-ounce to be on the safe side. Armed with an idea, Jeff created a BEB.

He found digital scales that could replace the less accurate analog scales currently in use eliminating the need to overfill. The half-ounce savings per jar, over a year’s production of 1.75 million jars, came to 54,427 pounds of stock, valued at $10,000 in annual savings.

Doing the Math

Ten thousand dollars probably wouldn’t even hit the radar for a cost accountant in a large food processing company, but what’s peanuts to them is significant money to you. And if you figure that at a 5 percent profit margin it requires $200,000 of sales to generate $10,000 profits, that’s not chump change! Neither was the $5,000 bonus Jeff negotiated.


The key to making a BEB pay off is timing. If you ask after you’ve succeeded, top brass will say, “Hey, that’s part of your job.” If you askbefore you’ve brought home the bacon, they’re all eager to tell you to go out and win one for the Gipper and sure, they’ll be glad to give you a spiff.

Going Outside Normal Channels

A client of mine had a smart but difficult boss who had high turnover in his division. Management put the boss on notice: Clear it up. High turnover wreaked havoc on profitability, since the organization was constantly training new people and cleaning up messes from people who dropped the ball when they left in the middle of a project.

Because my client knew this mattered to the boss personally, not just as a company goal, my client was able to get a bonus for lowered turnover. She got to go to a seminar on employee retention and turned it into three days of work and four days of vacation. And all this occurred when the board had declared that the top raise would be 3 percent that year.

So, when looking to increase your compensation, consider taking extra value in terms of time and bonuses. Both can enrich you outside the parameters of a traditional raise.

Bonne chance!