Morale also matters. Employees work better if they feel validated and appreciated. Larry Whitty, owner of Happy Joe’s Pizza and Ice Cream, a chain of 65 family restaurants in the Midwest, expects to continue his company’s tradition of bonuses and extra days off for managers, although his costs have also increased. “It’s something that’s routine and at this time, we’ll continue it,” he said. The same philosophy should apply to events or incentives for customers and clients. The end of the year is a time to build or reinforce your company’s relationships, and the money you spend on parties or gifts is likely to be recouped in the form of sales in the future. “Companies have to think about, not only the short-term impact of the holiday season on their business, but the longer-term impact that those decisions have on the position of their business in the marketplace,” said John Long, a senior executive in the retail strategy practice of Accenture, the consulting firm. Whitty’s belief in celebrating the holidays at his companies goes beyond employees and customers – Happy Joe’s will host 21 parties for children with special needs. The parties are free, and they’re not advertised, so Whitty doesn’t see it as a promotional event. Still, the good will the parties generate can help business in the future. For business owners still angsting over whether they can afford holidays, there are two approaches to making celebrations possible. One is to scale back. Wilson suggests that if you really can’t afford bonuses, at least give your employees gift cards and let them know you’re hoping to be more generous next year. Then, when you’re working on your 2005 budget, be sure you account for whatever amount or percentage you want to give. Parties, of course, can run the economic gamut. If you can’t afford a full-scale party, you can still have some kind of observance that won’t break the bank, even if it’s just ordering in some food and beverages (but try to set up some kind of separate area, so your staffers don’t have to party at their desks!). If you need ideas, talk to other business owners or look at some books on creative management. “There’s so many different ways at this time of year to take care of your employees,” Wilson said. You can also go over your other expenses again and see what else you can cut – it probably will help your business overall. Van Grack had his restaurant managers go back to their wholesalers and fight them on their price increases. It helped make this year’s party possible. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Don’t give in to that panic, advises Rob Wilson, president of Employco, a Chicago-based human resources firm. “Our recommendation is to try and find a way” to have the party or give those bonuses, he said. “Your employees are one of your most important, or maybe your most important asset,” Wilson said. Spending on bonuses and parties will help you in two critical areas: employee retention and morale. “In today’s employment arena, people expect bonuses,” Wilson said. “If you don’t give a bonus to some of your best people, a lot of people will ask themselves: Should I leave?” NEW YORK – With the costs of energy, supplies and raw materials rising, small-business owners are naturally looking at all parts of their companies for ways to save money, including holiday spending. But many owners, believing parties, gifts and bonuses are a long-term investment in employee and customer goodwill, won’t cancel the celebrations. “Parties do a lot for your employees in the long run,” said Mark Van Grack, owner of Hapa Sushi, a three-restaurant chain in Denver and Boulder, Colo., that has been contending with higher food costs, among other expenses. He sees parties as a way to motivate workers, and also to help them get to know each other – a step toward team-building. Van Grack also plans to give his managers their usual holiday bonuses. His company actually awards bonuses on a monthly basis – Van Grack believes the impact of a single bonus in December will be short-lived – because it is an important tool to motivate staffers. Many companies like Van Grack’s have already budgeted or made arrangements for parties, holidays and other methods of observing the holidays. The many others who do things at the last minute are probably the ones most likely to be worrying about what feels in late November or December like an added and perhaps unnecessary expense, particularly as much higher heating bills arrive.