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The Joint-Venture Holiday Party

To manage costs, some small businesses are pooling their resources and hosting joint holiday parties.

In flusher times, employers could pull out all the stops for an office holiday party, giving their employees a well-deserved chance to unwind. But in the current economic climate, some businesses can't afford a party, and others simply don't feel much like celebrating. One way to keep the spiked eggnog flowing more affordably is to hold a joint party.

Jersey Street Furniture Rental, a Clifton, New Jersey-based company that provides event planning and furniture rentals, has had a lot of success this year in packaging joint seasonal shindigs for its clients. Founder Steve Novich has booked about 15 such joint parties this year compared to 20 regular single-company holiday celebrations. 'Packaging the caterer with the decor guy and the deejay makes it simple, a one-stop-shop that's not going to break the bank,' says Novich.

In addition to the frugality of the move, joint parties also dispel some of the abundant economic gloom. In the past year, Vicinity Media Group has had two layoffs and numerous pay cuts. This year, they are scaling back and holding a joint holiday party. But why throw a party at all? 'I think we survived the tough part,' says David Black, the group's publisher. 'The fact that we survived it and that [the staff] put in triple effort for sometimes less money, I think it will be a good relief to dance or hear music and have this environment.'

The company's holiday parties used to be held in the private rooms of upscale restaurants. 'Basically we would do something along the lines of a six-course dinner with some really good wine,' Black says. By booking the party through Jersey Street Furniture Rental, he's saving 25 percent of the $3,000 he's paid to wine and dine his staff of 25 in the past.

Novich calls the parties, 'a way to show your employees you love them cause there's a lot less of that going on' these days, but they also provide networking opportunities. Since more than one company attends a joint party, the price is lower per head—if a party reaches 300 people the price per head drops from $100 to $70. Black is working on encouraging related companies such as a writer's guild that Vicinity works with to go in on the festivities.

Joint parties can also catalyze the event industry that saw business slow down last year. Novich says revenue is down about 6 percent this year, but last year, the economic climate was so dire that the company had clients walking away from $5,000 and $10,000 deposits. 'We had a lot of people who just said this is not the [right] environment and we're not going to do it,' Novich says.

Fortunately the events business is pretty recession-proof because its bread and butter is milestone events like weddings and bar mitzvahs that people plan for well in advance.

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