Cleaning Business Holiday Party

In these tough economic times, everyone is looking to cut expenses any way they can. Hosting an employee Christmas party can get expensive if you aren’t careful. Several years ago, a colleague of mine in the residential cleaning business confided about how frustrated she was with her employee Christmas parties. She would spend several thousand dollars each year securing a lovely banquet hall with a full sit down dinner, music, and elegant décor, only to hear employees complain that they didn’t want to go. If they did commit to coming, many just never showed up. She was tired of wasting so much money that she was considering making the event “mandatory”! I helped her see that she had it all backwards. Her employees complained that they’d much rather have the money than the banquet. This banquet was for her, not her employees. It was a demonstration of her own success and did not reflect her staff’s wishes or style. She needed to come up with another plan. That was a long time ago and I don’t know how she resolved it or if she followed any of my advice. But if you are hosting an employee party that no one wants to attend you may need to re-think the format of your program. It doesn’t have to cost mint to do it well. In fact, we’ve hosted our banquet for years for under $1,000 for 40 to 50 attendees. We use a restaurant with a nice candle light atmosphere, cloth napkins, and a buffet dinner. We encourage our employees to dress up or come as casual as they like to insure everyone is comfortable. Some come in formals, others come in jeans. We make sure they feel accepted in whatever attire they choose.

We’ve had great success year after year with our Annual Employee Awards Banquet. We hold it at Christmas time in order to “kill two birds with one stone”. We’ve held our employee “Awards Banquet” every year for the past 17 years. Our employees love it and talk about it all year long. If you start this tradition, I encourage you to keep your expenses to a minimum so you can afford to do it year after year even as you double and triple in size. You can watch my YouTube video from last year’s event: holiday party

I’ll have another one up soon, as our banquet is this coming Tuesday night, December 9, 2008! Here are a few things we’ve done that you might consider:

1. We usually have a “Santa” who pulls funny gag gifts out of his big black bag and hands them out with a funny dialogue to various employees regarding the things that happened through out the year (“Santa heard you found a dead snake under a pillow in the Smith’s home this Spring, we’ll I brought you a bottle of snake oil to carry in your cleaning caddy…..” for example). Come up with half a dozen funny things and gifts to give out. Never a “put down though” (like a watch for someone who is always late), make sure the gag gifts don’t hurt feelings or make people laugh at someone else’s expense. Santa makes them come up to him in front of everyone while he presents them with the gift.
2. If someone on your staff sings, writes poems, or plays a musical instrument (well), include them. We always do. It’s a nice touch to see their other side!
3. We include an “optional gift exchange” for those who want to participate.
4. The HIGHLIGHT of our banquet is the “DOOR PRIZE TABLE”. We fill a table with about $300 worth of goodies (ranging from $10 to $50), things like lovely wine glasses, pretty place settings, Christmas wreath, lovely wall hangings, inexpensive DVD player, mp3 player, tools, decanters, platters, just all kinds of pretty things for the home, etc. Each employee gets a door prize ticket when they arrive, and we call numbers throughout the evening all the way to the end. The first winner gets first pick on the table! and so on until the last ticket is called. They LOVE this. About 15 people will win. Odds of winning are good, and they love it!
5. Since this is our Christmas party and Awards Banquet, we hand out our 3-year watches, 5-year watches, 6-year pearls, 10- year trophies, and “Cleaning Tech of the Year” award, as well as other recognition milestones.

Believe it or not, we actually charge for this event. We make the charge very low, but I believe people don’t value what costs them nothing. People will be more likely to no-show an event they didn’t pay for. We charge $4.50 per person for a dinner than would cost them $15 to $20 if they ate there on their own. We allow them to bring one adult guest only (no kids under 17). We only serve tea & coffee, but there is a cash bar if they choose to purchase an alcoholic drink. This keeps expenses low and limits our liability. By the way, we barter this entire event! Only the tip to the wait staff is paid in cash.

Employees want to be recognized and appreciated. This entire evening is centered around them, for them. We try to reflect their tastes, their styles, their wishes. It’s not a time for us to show off our style! I hope this helps you throw a successful and meaningful employee holiday banquet or party!

A little clip of last year’s holiday party:

(pictured: Olga, Cleaning Tech of the Year – 2007)

Debbie Sardone
Maid service Business Consulting