By Rachel Beider, CEO of Massage Williamsburg and Massage Greenpoint, Wellness Business Consultant.

As small business owners, we know firsthand how important employee performance is to our success, and this rings even more true for those of us in the service-based industry. Our employees have a direct and often intimate relationship with our customers, and we succeed when they're performing at their best.

Low retention rates can also lead to a decline in client loyalty and added costs associated with recruitment and training to deal with high turnover rates. It can also have a significant impact on overall company morale. Keep in mind that just because your employees aren't walking out the door, it doesn't mean they're fully engaged. According to a Gallup study detailed in Harvard Business Review, disengaged workers have higher absentee rates, report more accidents and errors, and experience lower productivity.

Keeping employees happy is vital to keeping them on board and operating at their optimal level, and one easy way to do that is by showing them gratitude and appreciation. Research proves that employee health and satisfaction have direct impacts on profits and productivity. Burned out or unsatisfied employees can have a negative impact on a business and we're seeing large companies like Microsoft and Zappos focus resources on employee happiness.

Small business owners face their own challenges in this field: We may not have the available resources to dole out enticing bonuses, large raises or expensive perks. I utilize a few easy practices to make sure my employees feel secure in their position, and my favorite method costs no money and virtually no time: gratitude letters.

Acknowledge a Job Well Done

On occasion and out of the blue (this is important), I will send an email to an employee thanking them for something I've noticed them doing that feels particularly helpful. It can be as small as acknowledging that they handled a tricky situation well, or more obvious, like a project completion. I want my employees to feel appreciated, and recognizing them for their work is a crucial first step.

Too often, I feel employers praise people for going above and beyond, or provide feedback when things are going poorly. But I find it highly beneficial to let employees know that you see them when they're hitting their marks and doing a good job. I make sure to include specific details and examples of how they assisted in a challenging situation or excelled at a particular task. I will especially mention how grateful their peers are and pass on any compliments. An added benefit of this consistent communication shows itself if the time comes when you have to have a conversation with an employee about a negative performance. I find that they are less defensive when you have a history of positive communication.

In my experience, employees are not one-dimensional. They're typically not in it only for the money and choose to stay with companies that have positive, respectful and balanced work environments. So while small operations may not be able to offer the highest pay options, focusing on employee happiness and appreciation can help set your business apart and make it more attractive to the experts in your field.

Rachel Beider is CEO of Massage Williamsburg and Massage Greenpoint, Wellness Business Consultant.