Many presuppositions come to mind when you hear the headline, “Illinois Family Sells Company, Gives $6.6 Million in Bonuses to Employees.” But I ask you — no I challenge you — not to jump the gun, judge or fill your head with preconceived notions about the Spungens or why they decided to be so generous.
Laurence and Florence Spungen and their four children sold their PEER Bearing Company last fall and gave the money to employees as bonuses (some bonuses were six figures) based on years of service. Sure, many of the 230 employees needed the cash. Who wouldn’t during this time of economic turmoil (OK, maybe former financier “Bernie” Madoff, but I won’t go there), but that wasn’t the impetus for the generosity.
In a time when we are inundated with bad news about our economic landscape, corporate greed and bank bailouts, it was refreshing to meet such an authentically kind family with solid values — a shining example of corporate responsibility (listen up corporate America). A family who cares as much about their employees as they do their own family and treats them with dignity and respect — traits not often heard of in big corporations. When a Go Inspire Go viewer sent me an e-mail about the Spungen family from Waukegan, Ill., and told us about their generous deed, we were intrigued and wanted to know more about them. Who are they? Why would they give millions of dollars away during the economic downturn?
But it didn’t take me long before we found out why the Spungen family was so caring and sharing. What I didn’t expect (before even making any contact with the family) was that they’d be so down-to-earth, genuine and extremely compassionate. While taking a tour of the Spungens’ other business, PEER Chain, unlike owners of many other big companies, the Spungen family knew the names of every employee, how many children they have… and their stories.
When I asked the family my favorite question of all time — “WHY?” — the Spungens explained it was “just the right thing to do.” When the family decided to sell their ball bearing company, the family knew they wanted to give some money to the employees to thank them for their dedication and hard work. They just didn’t know how much.
After figuring out an equation based on years of service, the family got right to work on the big surprise. The family hand-signed every “Thank You” card. Printed on them were their names and years of service and a heart-felt message of gratitude. When the Spungens called a company-wide meeting to tell the workers about the sale, Eddie S., an accountant for more than 30 years with PEER, said “I thought we were going to get laid off… But I was excited to see the large sum of money and I was happy to see that I was being compensated for my loyalty.”
The family said, “Many people cried, other employees say the money helped save their home from foreclosure. Sure we all wanted to do it, but there we just didn’t know how much.”
Laurence Spungen, former PEER Bearing CEO, joked, “After we gave the bonuses, they had to check to see if I was still standing.”
Glenn Spungen, Vice President of Sales and Operations, said the workers were an integral part of their success, so they wanted to compensate their employees for their loyalty and “blood, sweat and tears the workers put into the company.”
Just have a conversation with the Spungens and you’ll realize that kindness and generosity is a huge part of the Spungen legacy. The family also created the Laurence and Florence Spungen Family Foundation, dedicated to cancer research and Jewish causes. Every year, the children and grandchildren are required to research and donate to a charity of their choice. Wow. If we could all plant the seed early, what a difference it would make in our community and our world.
“How much money do we really need?” said Debbi Spungen. “I want others (big businesses) to do the same, if they can.”
In such turbulent economic times, when all we hear about are corporate crooks and Wall Street woes, it was refreshing to meet a family who humbly built their empire (through lots of hard work, determination and passion) from the ground up and used their success, resources and talents to help their employees; the very people responsible for putting in the elbow grease, talents and time in the well-oiled multi-million dollar empire.
You may remember the Spungens from my last blog and video. When they heard about Jorge Munoz, a NYC school bus driver responsible for more than 70,000 meals, they wanted to help him. “We want to buy him a new refrigerator and stove,” the family said. They stuck to their word.
I recently hopped a flight to meet them in New York to deliver the stove to Jorge. It was amazing to see how this experience, through Go Inspire Go unfolded. Here you have two families, the Spungens and the Munozes. Both come from opposite ends of the financial spectrum, yet their values and characteristics so aligned; compassion, good will and philanthropy. So to the Spungen and the Munoz families — we salute you. Thank you for helping elevate humanity.
What YOU can do:
You don’t need a million dollars to make a positive impact on your community or on someone else’s life:
1.) Volunteer, it’s free, fun and a great way to meet people. Partner up with a friend or sign up a group of friends. I’ve volunteered at the San Francisco Food Bank and packed food with some friends — we had a fabulous food packin’ time. Try it!
2.) Got a special skill? Lend it to someone in need! When I was laid off from my TV reporting job in San Francisco, I thought, “What can I do, using my talents and resources to improve someone else’s life?” Little did I know, that in five short months, this question would turn into the vision of my inspirational website GoInspireGo.com
Check out my recent video of one school bus driver in Queens, NY, who makes $700 a week and has fed more than 70,000 people in his community! (He spends more than half of his paycheck weekly to do this.)
3.) Ask, ask, ask! It’s the little things that count most — especially during these tough economic times. Use family, friends and neighbors as a sounding board to see what they think you can do to help others. So many people I connect with say, “I wish I could do more, but I don’t have time or I don’t have anything to offer.” Get of the humility boat and ask folks in your circle, they may give you insight on how you can help. That’s how I got my website started!
4.) Let us know what you’re up to — and maybe we’ll feature you on our site. And if you still don’t think you can do anything, volunteer for Go Inspire Go.
You can find out more about Toan Lam at www.goinspirego.com. Click on the YouTube link and check out the stories his team created, and videos created by viewers.