Everybody likes to have a hot product, but booming sales can mean long hours and much stress for employees. Most chief executive officers figure they have no choice but to keep up the pressure until the crunch is over. James Balkcom, CEO of Techsonic Industries Inc., tried something different: he closed the plant, gave his workers a four-day weekend, and sent each of them off with a crisp $100 bill.

At the time, the company was flooded with orders for its new nautical depth finder, and the backlog just wouldn't shrink, despite double shifts, 15-hour workdays, and six-day workweeks. Balkcom began to worry about fatigue among his 250 employees, many of whom were working mothers. "We decided to give them some family time and some money," he says. "We were so far behind that the lost production time didn't really matter." And when the workers returned the following Monday, he treated them to a catered lunch.

Was it worth the expense? "It really fired people up," says Balkcom. The firm soon plowed through the order backlog, which proved to be one-and-a-half times the previous year's sales.