She sounds like a relationship seller. Some people are just naturals. I must have read 20-30 books about selling and I understand quite a lot about it, yet I'm still not better than a natural. When you have a natural seller that understands the psychological mechanisms (I know an ENTJ like that), they'll always find something they can sell in any reasonably free market. Even in the worst of circumstances, they'll come out best. If that was your wife's boutique you talked about closing, I hope you guys try something else. Lots of successful people strike out several times before they hit some homers. I have a giant list of strike outs. I also have a list of abandonments or things on hold because things that were working took me in a different direction. More profit = more devoted effort. (considering immediate needs and short/long term guesses.)
This particular person with the pay philosophy was in the construction sector, or maybe you'd call it renovation. His employees would have probably preferred a crack or meth party. lol. (which he did not provide, of course.) The business also hinged on his ability to sell his company's capabilities to large clients. (which he was real good at, apparently.)
I like your philosophy regarding treating employees as customers. It makes sense, especially in certain environments. They're "paying you" their labor, loyalty, time, etc.