Like many businesses, Champion Awards Inc., a Memphis screen printer, took its growth for granted until the recession struck. The office staff took its amenities for granted, too -- until the boss struck. "When you're fat and happy and don't pay attention," chief executive Susan Bowen discovered, "it's amazing what office people spend money on." The company's perks no longer include company perks. "If they want coffee, let them buy it," Bowen asserts. Further Champion Awards constraints:
* Memos, photocopies, and computer printouts must now be executed on paper whose flip side has been previously written or printed on.
* An office worker is not allowed to hoard more than a week's worth of supplies. After that decree was issued, enough surplus was returned to last a year.
* Purchase orders must be approved by the CEO, who turns few down, since there simply aren't as many as before. Scrutiny from above, Bowen found, curbs free spending.
Bowen isn't alone in her zealous recessionary reaction. Here's how others have budgeted for the recession:
John Katzman, president of Princeton Review Inc., a test-preparation service, reduced shipping charges by $400 a month after receiving a letter from Federal Express citing his business as one of its favored customers.
After a yearlong slump at LectroMagnetics, a Los Angeles manufacturer of radiation-shielding systems, president Richard Nichols ruled that "nothing is untouchable in this company." Nothing was: he terminated half his 80-employee force. Nichols next slashed two company cars, three company car phones, and four company service-station credit cards. Other hits:
* Charitable contributions, pared "almost to zero."
* The company softball team: no jackets or hats for a year.
* The catered Christmas party changed to potluck.
* Several telephone lines disconnected at a savings of about $150 a month.
Not everyone sliced office comforts this time around. Cleveland's Original Copy Centers Inc. increased its employee perks. "If we had allowed the exterior economic environment to affect our internal environment, we would have had to cope with negativity on both fronts," rationalizes president Nancy Vetrone. Fresh perks include
* In-house massages.
* Two treadmills. Why a pair? So employees can build better relationships with coworkers even while exercising.
* A redecorating project. "Redoing surroundings can pick up spirits," Vetrone says. And it can be done economically: enthusiastic employees volunteered to paint their areas after work. -- Researched by Teri Lammers