BrainTrust Query: To Party or Not

Dec 10, 2010
David Zahn

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
Consulting, LLC.

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
our clients."

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?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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5 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: To Party or Not"

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Max Goldberg
10 years 4 months ago

With so many people still hurting in the bad economy, it’s important not to be pretentious when throwing an office party or in providing gifts to clients. The efforts of employees should be acknowledged, and camaraderie built through a office holiday party, but wouldn’t it be more productive to do this throughout the year, and not just in December?

Roger Saunders
10 years 4 months ago

Max has the right handle on this topic. Business is simple:

1. Show up on time
2. Do what you say you’ll do
3. Finish what you start
4. Say ‘Please and Thank You’

The holidays provide organizations with a an occasion for all associates to bond, reinforce shared beliefs and trust in each other, and let each other know their genuine appreciation and trust in each other.

Those are practices that should be plainly evident throughout the year. Sometimes it takes a holiday event, not necessarily in an extravagant manner, to give everyone an opportunity to reconnect with some very basic principles that tie us together.

There is a Dickens’ “Fezziwig” character in every organization. Bring them out, as they bring out the joy for just about everyone.

Ron Margulis
10 years 4 months ago

Being more or less a one-man shop, I’ve taken to throwing a party for my friends in the media. They are the ones I work with day-in and day-out to get my client’s messages to their audiences. As for holiday gifts to clients, I used to send them, but last year sent a contribution in their names to Food For All (, and will do the same thing this year.

David Zahn
10 years 4 months ago

I agree that the holidays are not the exclusive time to show appreciation to clients, colleagues, or suppliers. However, it has become the time when thoughts turn to gift-giving and parties and it formed a very interesting “give and take” when the article first appeared from readers/subscribers intent on voicing their perspectives on the appropriateness, targets, and size of parties, gifts, and the intention of the effort.

Thanks for sharing your insights and point of view about the topic. Always engaging to listen and learn from those on Have a happy holiday!

Christopher P. Ramey
10 years 4 months ago

Lest we not forget that we have much for which we should be grateful. The holidays are a time to demonstrate that gratitude. Having an annual holiday event shows compassion for employees, provides hope for the future and creates a team building event.

I’m not a fan of overblown parties; they died years ago. However, companies should demonstrate their wherewithal by continuing with their holiday party tradition.


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