Deck the Halls . . . it is Time to Prepare for Holiday Parties!

Every year we look forward with anticipation to the holidays. The excitement is building, and our thoughts now turn to what we must do to celebrate our employees and our customers during the holiday season. You are not alone if you are planning a holiday celebration for your business. A recent survey by outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, Inc. revealed that 80% of companies polled are hosting holiday parties for their employees.

Where to begin and what to do to make the season special becomes the important question. The primary objective of the holiday party must be to show employees how much you care and appreciate all of their efforts and hard work throughout the year. Making a decision now is advisable, as time is passing quickly for making the necessary preparations.

It is important to consider the following steps:

• Put in place a team or point-person at your company in place to coordinate all the necessary planning. Consider using a professional party-planner.

• Select a date and time. Most companies have their parties during the second or third week of December. Possibilities include lunch, dinner and/or dessert buffet.

• Develop a budget for the event.

• Decide the guest list. Inviting spouses and significant others adds to the social ambiance of the party and gives them more familiarity with your business.

• Select a venue and caterer. It could be your place of business, a restaurant, hotel, country club, or private home.

• Send out invitations, usually done a month in advance. Emails, fliers and printed invitations all are fine. Choose one that suits the tone of the event.

• It is nice to offer onsite child-care for families to allow full participation in the celebration.

• Decide on appropriate entertainment. You may want to consider engaging a pianist, disc jockey or magician.

• You may plan to give a cash bonus or other special gift to each employee during the party, either publicly or privately.

• It is important to consider your own role in the event. Will you say “a few words” or be the one to distribute gifts? This is an excellent time to offer a positive message about your company’s successes during the last year. Holiday parties are a good opportunity to recognize your staff and how much you appreciate their diligent work and contributions this past year.

Kimberly Glass, Event Specialist @ Enterprise Events Group in San Rafael, California, offers these tips: “It’s important to take into account if the venue has a food-and-beverage minimum. In my experience, I have planned events in which the group size and time duration were not going to meet that minimum, and as a result the company had to pay the difference out of pocket.” Glass continues, “For cost savings, always have the venue check with you before they refresh food and beverage items. As an example, if there is a half-gallon of coffee already left over that you know will not be utilized, you obviously direct not to replenish.” Glass adds, “There are pros and cons regarding a host or no-host bar. With a no-host or cash bar, the guests pay for all drinks. There are three types of hosted bars: consumption, hourly-hosted and drink tickets. With a consumption bar, the company pays for every drink that is poured. With an hourly-hosted bar, the client pays a per-person fee by the hour. With drink tickets, the company pays for one drink per ticket and then the bar reverts to cash. It’s always important to define tipping policy (jar out or tips not accepted). A lot of people no longer carry cash, so it’s imperative to let your guests know if credit cards are accepted.” Glass also suggests, “Depending on the age group of your employees, it’s fun to add a photo booth or snapchat filter if your budget allows.”

Everyone has a favorite venue and some create a real feeling of nostalgia annually. Tuchman Advisory Group (T.A.G.) member Peter Bergmann, President @ Bergmann Cleaners, summed it up beautifully when he said, “We have a very nice Christmas Party at The Irish Restaurant & Bar every year for our employees and their immediate family.” Familiarity and repetition can give your staff something to look forward to each year for the holidays.”

T.A.G. member Lee Makepeace, Vice President @ Medlin-Davis Cleaners, offers this: “We have a lunch at Thanksgiving and again at Christmas. We have used several different approaches. Sometimes we have it catered, sometimes it has been potluck, and on occasion everyone brings their favorite appetizers or desserts for all to enjoy. In addition, at Christmas we take all of our managers out to a nice dinner. One other fun thing we do is our employees arrange a Secret Santa with each other. It may not sound exciting, but it works for us and creates a festive holiday spirit for one and all!”

Keith Houston, Vice President @ Crest Cleaners, and T.A.G. member relates, “We have a company picnic for all employees and their families with children under the age of eighteen. We hold our holiday picnic in and around a favorite local restaurant along the river. The party begins on the deck where several appetizers are served. Dinner includes, fish (grilled or fried), shrimp poppers, gator tail, chicken strips, beans, slaw, dessert, soda and tea. As an added attraction, everyone is treated to free airboat rides.”

One of the most enjoyable possibilities is to plan a separate event for children and families. Children love seeing Santa Claus, so make sure you have invited Santa to join the party! In advance, ask your employees to submit their children’s names and ages so appropriate gifts with their names on them can be under the tree at the party for Santa Claus to distribute. Some companies choose to forego the traditional holiday party and buy tickets for a holiday performance at a local theater for their staff to attend as a group.

Community outreach is an important part of the holiday season. Kyle Nesbit, VP Business Development @ MW Cleaners and T.A.G. member, offers the following about the importance of reaching out to the community during the holiday season. “MW Cleaners starts its MW Cares Toy Drive for Angels on November 1st. Customers pick up ‘angels’ with toy suggestions according to age and gender at any of the 38 Houston-area MW Cleaners. The staff of MW Cleaners adopts 100 angels as a team. The new and unwrapped gifts are collected at the Houston stores and delivered to the Salvation Army’s Secret-Santa Warehouse. MW Cleaners employees cook for the volunteers at Salvation Army on the day we deliver all the gifts and typically have the Salvation Army Choir sing for the event as well. We institute a fully integrated marketing campaign behind this drive, including: email, CSR buttons, hang tags, in-store posters, press release, blog post on MW website, email newsletter posts, header changes on MW website, Facebook, Google and Twitter.”

Mike Nesbit, President @ MW Cleaners and DLI National Board President, added, “The Salvation Army is one of the oldest charitable organizations in our country. They offer so many programs to help those less fortunate and have a strong commitment to our communities. As the ‘neighborhood drycleaner,’ we depend on the support of our local communities. We believe that means we have a corporate responsibility to give back to the people in those areas, whether they are our customers or not.”

In closing, SurePayroll Company in a recent article suggested that “It’s important to keep in mind that — legally speaking — an office party may be construed as a work-related event. Therefore, the sexual-harassment rules that apply during the workweek continue to apply at the party, even if it is not held on company property. Also, do yourself a favor and spring for a cab if an employee appears to be too impaired to drive him or herself home safely.”

Let the excitement of planning for the holiday season inspire you to celebrate your employees and have fun!

About Ellen Tuchman Rothmann

Ellen Rothmann has 30 years of experience in sales and marketing and utilizes these skills to support and facilitate seminars for Tuchman Advisory Group (TAG). Prior to her role with TAG, she was VP of Operations for Richard Wolffer’s Auctions that specialized in sports and entertainment memorabilia. As an Account Manager for K101 – a San Francisco Bay Area radio station – she worked with small businesses to build unique and profitable advertising and promotional campaigns for her clients. Growing up in the dry cleaning business, Ellen worked in numerous capacities at Tuchman Cleaners. She also held sales positions at Apparelmaster and Tuchman Cleaner’s Home Carpet and Drapery businesses. Rothmann earned her B.A. in Marketing from Indiana University. She lives in San Francisco with her husband John, they have two sons For more information contact Ellen Tuchman Rothmann, President, Tuchman Advisory Group. e-mail: ellenrothmann@yahoo.com