It’s not easy being a small-business owner. Half of all businesses don’t last five years, and just one out of three makes it 10 years. I’m happy to say that 2019 will be my 20th year owning Rainbow Bicycle.

Rainbow Bicycle has been in business in Lewiston-Auburn for over 30 years.We have seen a lot of changes since the 1980s, when the shop first started selling bikes. Back then we did everything on paper — no computers. Sales tickets and repairs were all written by hand, and the prices were quite a bit different from today. We have survived all these years because our customers keep coming back year after year. This is thanks to all the great employees we have had over the years.

We have been able to attract, foster and retain those employees because we value them. That’s why we pay them a living wage and advocated for raising the minimum wage. It’s also why we allow our employees to take paid time off to recover from an illness or to take care of a sick family member.

We don’t just do it because it’s the right thing to do; it’s also a smart business decision.

Studies show that allowing employees to earn paid sick days can reduce turnover by around 50 percent. Turnover is something that I can’t afford. It takes about six months to train an employee, and it requires taking other employees off their job to do the training. We lose productivity, not to mention the extra time spent recruiting. My employees have years of highly specialized training and experience working on bikes, and if one of them leaves, it takes years for a replacement to reach their level of expertise.

I hear lots of opinions about what is needed to attract workers to our state and to our businesses. Why not consider a policy that has been statistically proven to help small-business owners retain workers? State Sen. Rebecca Millett has introduced legislation that would allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours that they work, up to a maximum of five days per year. Every single day’s pay is crucial to most workers. This would allow them to stay home and recover, as opposed to coming in sick and infecting fellow workers and customers.

Allowing workers to earn paid sick days means that I have a healthier, more productive business. When employees work when they are sick, they are less productive and spread their illness to their co-workers and to their customers. That ends up costing me more than a sick day. Studies show that employees coming to work sick cost the U.S. economy $218 billion per year, more than all forms of absenteeism combined.

All these benefits greatly outweigh the small amount that it costs to offer earned paid sick days. In states that guarantee earned paid sick days, workers treat paid sick time as a form of insurance, to be saved and used when it is truly needed. On average, workers at small businesses with access to paid sick time use 2.2 days per year. Happy, healthy employees go to work every day.

Local independent small businesses like mine are like small families. We have close connections to our communities and our customers. The relationship that owners and employees have is a two-way street. Any time I can give a benefit to my employees, I always get back increased productivity, more loyalty and better customer interactions.

Main Street businesses like mine are central to downtown Lewiston and cities and towns all over Maine. That’s why many Maine small-business owners like myself want our employees to be able to recover from an illness or take care of a sick family member.

John Grenier is the founder and owner of Rainbow Bicycles in Lewiston. He is a member of the Maine Small Business Coalition, a group of over 5,000 small-business owners that promote responsible economic development, healthy businesses, and investment in community.


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.