There's a company located down south that gives away a free bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey to its 400 employees on the last Friday of every single month. The company? Uh...Jack Daniels. "No one misses that day of work!" Jeff Norman, Master Taster at the distillery said recently in this Total Wine interview. Yeah, I bet that's right.
Giving away a monthly free bottle of booze to employees may raise an eyebrow or two in these days of political correctness. But the executives at the company, which was founded in 1871 and maintains its reputation as one of the top bourbon makers in the world, are proud of their product and proud of their employees. And so...why not give them this perk.
Jack Daniels isn't the only company that shares its product with its people. Many retailers give steep discounts to its workers. Restaurants offer up complimentary dishes - and a glass or two - to the wait and kitchen staff. Airlines and hotels allow their employees (and their families) complimentary flights and rooms. Starbucks employees get to take home a pound of coffee beans each week or a box of other company products.
It's not just a perk, it's also about getting your people to be passionate about your products and how can they be passionate unless they're getting a chance to consume them? If you're not giving away free stuff to your staff, then you're missing out on the opportunity to not only affordably reward them but to make them evangelists for your company and products.
But what if your products aren't so attractive to your people? Most of the companies in this country make and do boring stuff. My company sells technology services. My clients distribute pipes, manufacture machine parts, pave roads, lay tiles, put up drywall, resell scrap materials, assemble boilers and repair farm equipment. It's all necessary, vital stuff that keeps the economy going. But it's boring. Let's just say that offering employees a free pallet of corrugated containers or a box of newly made machine parts isn't exactly the same as a bottle of Jack Daniels. So what do to?
Find other free stuff to give to your employees. Here are five interesting ideas I've seen work:
Gift Cards. Go to CardCash and buy up a bunch of discounted gift cards. At CardCash, people sell their unwanted gift cards for less than face value and then the site offers those same cards back to the public at a higher price. That way you can snap up deals at major retailers and restaurants and accumulate cards to give away to your people.
A Timeshare. I've owned a timeshare in Hawaii for more than 10 years. I've never been there. But almost every year I exchange it for a week somewhere more attractive - like Vegas or Orlando - and then give it away. Some years I've offered it to customers, other years to charities and a few times to employees. The recipient has to pay their own plane fare, but who wouldn't want a week away at Disney?
Credit Card Points. A few clients of mine standardize their business and personal purchases all on one credit card account. They buy as much as they can through these cards, pay them off every month and then rack up the points. One good card is Citibank Thank You where your accumulated points can then be exchanged for travel, gift, food and other vouchers that you can then give away to your employees.
Maid Service. Quite a few companies, particularly in areas like Silicon Valley where finding good people is challenging, offer a free maid service. There is something very sweet about coming home after a long day at work to your spic and span residence - and you didn't even have to pay for it.
Oil Change and Inspection. Find a local mechanic and arrange for a bi-monthly visit to change the oil and perform inspections on your employees' cars. It's amazing how by just doing the basic tune-ups a car can operate more reliably and longer. Not only will your employees benefit from the free service but you'll squeeze out more hours of work time from them and - depending on the deal you do with the mechanic - he or she may find more services to offer.
It's not just your customers who like free stuff. It's your people too. And in these days of low unemployment it's more important now than ever to find ways to keep your people happy and motivated. Jack Daniels certainly has the right idea...and the perfect product to do that. I'm not saying you should be giving your employees free whiskey. Well, considering how stressful things are, it may not be such a bad idea.