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EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Fun and Gains

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Once a quarter, Mark Firmani closes his company for the day and takes his 10 employees to the movies. But not becausebusiness is slow. Firmani, president of Firmani and Associates, a public relations firm in Seattle, says that the company,which has revenues of $1 million, has plenty of work. Just the same, four times a year the employees don their pagers,forward the phones to the voice mail system, and take in a matinee.

Firmani claims he shuts down for the day to stay competitive in the market for good employees. Seattle is, after all, Microsoftcountry, and the local economic boom has attracted some big-name public relations firms to the area. "There are agencieshere that can charge big bucks and pay well above the national scale," says Firmani. "So I try to give this place a moreenjoyable atmosphere."

To create that kind of atmosphere, Firmani uses more than just fun excursions. Other relatively inexpensive perks thatFirmani has found effective include a weekly lunch for the whole staff, a casual dress code, and daily supplies of juice, soda,and candy. His PR professionals usually wear jeans, sometimes sweats. In fact, all that Firmani requires is that employees bewithin an hour of wearing something presentable in case a client drops by. "I keep a suit here at the office," he says. "Not thatI wear it much."




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