BrainTrust Query: To Party or Not
By David Zahn, Managing Partner, Zahn Consulting, LLC
Through a special arrangement,
presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Getting
Personal About Business, the blog of Zahn
This time of the year is when many companies wrestle with how
to acknowledge the season and how to show their appreciation for both their
employees and their customers or clients. The issue of how to behave will be
addressed in numerous articles, TV stories, blogs and the like, but whether
to hold a party or not, and who to invite to the party, and what kind of party
to hold continues to perplex executives confronting the issue.
One company walking
that line between showing sincere appreciation for employees and customers
during this holiday party season without overdoing it is Cohen and Wolf PC.
Unlike some other companies — that have recently had to reconsider their approach
to parties given the economy or other factors — they have always had a low-key
approach to internal parties during the holidays.
Dan Nagel, a principal in
the firm’s Real Estate and Common Interest Group, and a member
of the firm’s Marketing Committee shares that "the firm has always
held three holiday parties. One has always been a staff only party (no spouses)
held at a local restaurant where a grab bag of nominal value gifts is exchanged.
A second is a black tie party for attorneys, senior staff and their spouses.
Third, a potluck and hor d’voures tasting get together for attorneys and
staff in our office." Mr. Nagel differentiates their approach from some
other companies by pointing out: "There is no lavish 400 person ball
and there are no 3rd parties included."
Cohen and Wolf is very attuned
to the appearance of holding lavish parties inappropriately while clients or
others in the community may be struggling.
Like many companies, the law firm
does thank clients with various gifts of appreciation throughout the year,
but very keenly avoids trying to solicit business through gift-giving. Many
are chosen specifically based on that client and relationship, "We
have season tickets to many of the local teams, but as often as not, those
tickets go unused because there is no attempt to force attorneys to use tickets
with clients that would have no interest. Rather, a meal at a vegan or kosher
restaurant for a client with dietary restrictions is much more appreciated.
Toward the end of the year to express our appreciation, we provide significant
clients with memory/USB devices, water bottles, wine sets with corkscrews,
and other gifts that are both functional and able to serve as thank-yous to
Discussion Questions: What should guide company decisions around holding holiday
parties for staff or clients? How, if at all, do you thank clients at the close
of the year? How important are parties in supporting company morale?