Four years ago, CEO Balaji Krishnamurthy devised a jaw-dropping inverted-bonus plan at Planar Systems that put himself dead last when it comes to receiving extra cash: his policy rewards rank-and-file employees first, before moving up the management chain. Since then, this maker of flat-panel displays, based in Beaverton, Ore., has been bombarded with questions from other CEOs about the bonus system, which, Krishnamurthy claims, is a better incentive for every employee to create shareholder value. "Those with a higher capacity to influence the results of the company must first ensure that those with a lower capacity are fully served before serving themselves," says Krishnamurthy, 51, a fast-talking native of Pilani, India. "Clearly, yours truly has the highest capacity to influence the results of my company."
Planar's CEO, ever mindful of spending shareholders' money, keeps costs down when traveling too. Says Sarah Teslik, former chief of the Council of Institutional Investors, who invited Krishnamurthy to address her members last year: "Unlike most CEOs, who come with entourages, fly in their own planes and, in general, act royal, we discovered--via the hotel's rooming list--that he had booked the cheapest single in the hotel, right beside the kitchen." --By Julie Rawe