Always Have Box Seat Tickets On HandAug 12, 2013
About 25 years ago, I worked for a manufacturing company in Portland, Oregon. The owner had box seats for the Portland Trailblazers basketball team. It didn't take me long to figure out that some of the employees there would literally throw down for a chance to get that week’s tickets. Of greater value was that they were willing to do some amazing work for the tickets, too. If you got that week’s tickets, your status on the floor was instantly elevated regardless of who you were. It is a perk that cannot be underestimated in its ability to not only motivate people, but also instill a culture that says, “We want to show you that your dedication and efforts mean a great deal to the company.”
Now, I’m not a big fan of favoritism and good old boy crowds, nor am I a fan of bribery or having to coerce people just to do their jobs. But I strongly believe in simple perks and kudos of a tangible kind. (My personal favorites are edibles.) I see these simple things as taking care of your people and showing them they matter and are recognized. Some will say, "But I pay them and that is enough," or, "It’s just not in the budget," or, "They will just take advantage of it." I say you should recognize it for what it is and build it into your budget. Not necessarily box seats, but if you can afford it, I highly recommend it.
The owner of the company I worked for also made certain that if a client was coming into town or was being courted, they were invited to the game. If they were a basketball fan, they were always eager to accept. We’re not talking about low revenue clients here. These clients were typically owners of multimillion dollar companies who needed a supplier for their piece parts. The point is, they could afford a couple of $35 to $50 tickets for the game if they wanted. This was not the case with the workers on the shop floor, some of who had choices like, "I can have gas to get to and from work this week, or I can take my kid to a game." So why did these company owners froth for the tickets, even though they could afford them on their own? And what power did these tickets have over them?
The simple answer is that no matter who you are, a kind offering of something you would not typically get for yourself or indulge in is always appreciated and coveted. We did not always get the contract because, after all, we were not the cheapest manufacturing company in town, but we always were given a chance to bid on every part these clients needed. And that, my friend, has immense value no matter what business you’re in. By the way, if you think box seats are too expensive, try instead to bird dog a couple of tickets now and then from someplace like Stubhub.com. It keeps the cost down, and the access and spontaneity are still there.
At the last two companies I ran (or helped run), we had regular barbecues or pizza nights. I paid for the event out of my own pocket and never turned in a receipt to the company. I wanted my people to know I truly cared about them, and it was never linked to a big project or any other thing. If you find a clean and easy way to institute a perk program like having box seats somewhere, you will be rewarded ten times over. And don’t forget that it should include client incentives, sales, and marketing. Have a giveaway of two tickets for the client who returns the most customer surveys, or the client referral program. The possibilities are endless, but be sure it’s fair and balanced.
The culture and compass of your company comes from the top; the people in your company see what you do and they mimic your actions even outside the company. If you show them not only that you appreciate them, but also that you’re not so focused on work and business that you fail to notice their efforts, it can go a long way. I believe the positive benefits far outweigh the negative (assuming you can find a valid one), and the cost is truly negligible in the scheme of things. Show your people you love them with box seats!
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