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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Holiday gifts for employees vital for small-businesses owners

By Joyce M. Rosenberg
Associated Press

NEW YORK — Gifts to employees at holiday time can be one of the most difficult issues for a small business owners. If you've never given to employees, should you? Can the company afford them this year? And what do you give?

Small business owners who do give to their employees say they want their workers to know how much they're appreciated — that they are the companies' biggest assets.

"They do the work. They pay the bills. They are the conduit between your company and your happy clients. They can make or break you," said Kevin Grangier, president of CarryOn Communication, a West Hollywood, Calif., public relations firm.

In difficult economic times, many companies might be tempted to eliminate gifts or bonuses, but owners say that is a bad business decision.

Employee gifts aren't expendable even if money is tight, according to Jeanne Achille, who gives bonuses to the 15 people at The Devon Group, her Shrewsbury, N.J.-based public relations and marketing firm.

"We have to do it. It's how we retain top talent, how we differentiate ourselves in terms of being an employer of choice versus all of the other agencies they could go to work for," Achille said. "It really speaks to a commitment from a corporate culture standpoint."

Choosing gifts can be dicey. If you're not careful about individual employees' likes and dislikes, you could end up disappointing them — and not feel very good about it yourself.

Suzanne Stout, who along with her husband owns Moving Man Inc., a New York-based moving company, solves that problem by giving most of her 24 workers SuperCertificates, gift certificates redeemable at a variety of traditional and online stores. She's no longer giving cash because that carries a stigma for some people, or seems cold and impersonal.

Moreover, she said, "cash is never enough, no matter what you give."

Some companies try to be creative, but also aim to please.

At Cyber-NY Interactive, a Web development and marketing firm in Manhattan, the 12 employees get checks and some small favors, but they also get a larger gift that's related in some way to the firm's business, said managing partner Mike Brown.

Two years ago, when the company wanted to move into the personal digital assistant market, everyone got a Palm or Hand Spring PDA. Last year, as Cyber-NY starting working in DVDs, everyone got a DVD player.

"It's important to know what they like ... but also create a team building experience," Brown said. The staff also gets taken out to dinner.

At DKB and Partners Inc., a Morristown, N.J., marketing firm, president John Manos has several ways to show his appreciation to his 65 employees. First, they get gift certificates for turkeys from local supermarkets.

Manos said the message he wants to convey with this gift is that, "we're all very busy and constantly on the move, but it's time for people to take note and give thanks and spend time with their families."

"We want to thank them for all they give to the company."

There will also be bonuses this year, and a catered breakfast, but no holiday party — employees will instead receive certificates so they can take their families out to dinner.

At CarryOn, the West Hollywood firm, the 30 employees go on an annual retreat to places like Cancun or Palm Springs. Grangier, the president, said it's not a working trip — "The only rule is you can't talk about work," he said — but bonuses are handed out.