Ever since I started my company, VerticalResponse, we've done something to celebrate the holidays. For us, the end of the year is our busiest time. Our employees are running hard, making sure our customers' email marketing campaigns get out the door because for many small businesses, this is their busiest season of year as well.
And every year, our company grows in size, so it becomes more expensive to organize special events and celebrations. But I think they're important and should be built into every business model from the start, especially if your company is growing. Your employees are your most important assets, and they need to feel appreciated.
Our first holiday celebration was a dinner with 10 of us at a nice, quiet restaurant in San Francisco. I vowed never to do that again. Although it was delicious, it was far from a crazy, fun celebration marking the first year of our hard work. Now, we throw "epic" parties, to the point where people remember party each year and where we had it.
Here's our recipe for success:
- Have it at a nightclub. People who have families probably don't spend a lot of time "clubbing," so this is a great night out for those who don't get out, on us. Side benefit? We make sure the venue that hosts our party is a local small business.
- Make sure there's good food. We want everyone to be talking about the quality of the food the next day, so we bring in a local caterer. This, too, supports local businesses.
- Put on great music. We want people to relax, have fun and get on the dance floor.
- Have it on a Friday. Even though it's more expensive to reserve a venue for a Friday, we want our employees to have the precious weekend before the holidays to do what they need to do with their families.
- Make it a real night out. Our parties start at 6 p.m. and the open bar is usually until 11 p.m.
- Encourage a "plus 1." People love meeting everyone's significant others or friends and they let loose, which is great to see. Our employees spend most of their day with their peers, so it's important for their significant others to know who they work with.
- Take pictures. We try to get everyone in a photo so that they have great memories of the night.
- Pay for their ride home. If anyone is tired or has had one too many, we provide cab fare to get them home safely.
On top of the celebration, we also ask employees who have donated the most hours to our volunteer programs to choose a charity of their choice for the company to donate to, in their names. So it's not all about debauchery; we give back as much as we can!
Sure, a celebration is an expense that doesn't show up in immediate revenue. But the benefits come in the form of happy employees, and happy employees give us happy customers in the end.
Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, which provides a full suite of self-service online marketing solutions for small businesses and non-profits including email marketing, event marketing, online surveys, social media and direct mail. She's also the CEB (Chief Executive Blogger) of the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog for Small Businesses.