By Vanessa Merit Nornberg
I don’t throw an opulent holiday party, but I go out of my way to let my employees know how much I appreciate their work.
With Thanksgiving in full swing, and the rest of the winter holidays around the corner, most business owners, especially those whose businesses are built on consumer products, are focused on one thing: meeting customers’ needs.
At Metal Mafia, I not only work hard in the ramp up to the holidays to help my customers be seasonally successful in every way possible, but also place emphasis on one of the most important aspects of corporate culture: how I treat the holidays. (It’s different than other companies.)
Metal Mafia is still a small company with limited resources so I don’t throw opulent holiday parties. Instead, one day in mid-December, I set up one long banquet table using worktables, cover them with bright table cloths, and order take out from the restaurant everyone loves to get lunch at. Then the whole team takes an hour during which we stop working and eat together. I find my staff members appreciate that I hold the holiday lunch during office hours because it shows I respect their personal time and place their needs at the center of the business mission.
Most employees bring in treats from their own family meals, and if they choose to do so, the company reimburses expenses for any supplies they needed. I also use the points the company accumulates during the year on shipping and credit card purchases to give a sizeable gift card to each team member to help make the holiday season merrier.
That’s just the beginning. Although Metal Mafia is a wholesaler of body and costume jewelry, by way of Metal Mafia’s customers, the company is also in the retail industry. Most other retail companies are not only open, but also working longer-than-normal hours during the holiday season, with many even requiring staff to work on Thanksgiving and Christimas itself. Despite the industry norm, I have always closed the company from Christmas Eve until the day after New Year’s to guarantee that every member of our staff can spend time with his family, enjoy the holidays, or just recharge batteries. The week off is a paid vacation that all our employees receive in addition to their standard two weeks off.
I begin communicating to customers about the holiday closing as early as September–not just so they can plan ahead and get what they need before we close, but also so they understand how much I value my incredible employees and the contributions they make throughout the year. I believe my staff is Metal Mafia’s greatest asset, and as a result, should be valued in every way possible.
Every so often, a customer will remark that it would be better if Metal Mafia were open during the holidays, or suggests we could rotate the staff to remain available during this busy time, but when I explain that I consider this time to be the most precious gift I can give my employees in return for all the great things they do for customers throughout the year, that person always seems to understand. The fact that I am so openly committed to my staff impresses clients and strengthens their conviction that they are buying from a great company. Not just a company interested in the bottom line, but one that cares about doing what is right.
In 2004, Vanessa opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009. @vanessanornberg
Share your holiday festivities in the comments. What does your community association do?