Who says business can't be fun? At OOP!, a specialty gift store in Providence, R.I., with annual revenues of $1 million, owners Jennifer Neuguth and David Riordan maintain a lighthearted atmosphere in their store by regularly orchestrating offbeat workplace celebrations. Thanks to a book called Chase's Calendar of Events (published annually by NTC Contemporary Publishing Group), OOP! has celebrated everything from National Hug Month to country singer Willie Nelson's birthday. (On that day, the staff wore bandannas.) Riordan says the celebrations attract customers to the store and keep employees happy.

With the right attitude, even staff meetings can become celebrations. At Childress Buick-Kia, a car dealership in Phoenix with 105 employees and 1998 revenues of $35 million, president Rusty Childress holds a company meeting once a month. He has shifted the original focus, so that in addition to information about the state of the dealership, the meetings also address employees' need for recognition. At each meeting, any employee who has recently been recognized by customers or colleagues for good service is given a chance to spin a large wheel, reminiscent of the roulette wheels on TV game shows, to select a prize.

A typical monthly meeting generally includes about 10 minutes of quick updates from the company's five departments, followed by about half an hour during which 20 to 30 employees spin the wheel.

The prizes they win aren't fancy. "We tend to go to Price Club and get the kind of food people like," Childress explains. While the event is playful, it also underscores a serious business message: the importance of good service.