Frontier -- Features
And We'll Even Throw In...
These lucky employees have discovered that there is such a thing as a free lunch--and pilot lessons, and college tuition,and pet care...Children's College TuitionOnstott Group
Helen Neal was prepared to foot the entire $23,000 tab for her daughter Heather's senior year of college. "This was our last year of tuition bills and my husband and I were thinking, `Thank God this is over," says Neal. Enter her employer, Onstott Group, a 15-person executive search firm
in Wellesley, Mass. This summer, Onstott announced that it would grant $5,000 a year to workers with kids in college to help pay for
tuition. The only criterion: The student must maintain a B average. "It was such a pleasant surprise," says Neal, Onstott's office manager, who has been with the company for more than a decade. "It was just beyond generous."
Managing Director Joseph E. Onstott says, "As a retained search firm, we know the power of perks. We also know that people work in companies because they want to." Onstott's aim was to both help his workers and instill positive ideals. "We looked for benefits that would be of real value to our employees," he says. So far, Heather Neal is the first recipient. By the year 2005, the company could be shelling out grants to as many as nine students. "Small companies used to be behind the curve on benefits," notes Onstott. "Now everyone is realizing that in today's competitive market, you have to fight to keep the best people."Free Beemers to DriveRevenue Systems
The parking lot of Revenue Systems Inc. (RSI), an Atlanta software developer, is often mistaken for a BMW dealership. That's because virtually every car in the company's lot is, well, a BMW. The company gives beemers to all its 60 full-time employees. That's right: gives. When employees are hired, they are required to sign up for a leased z3 roadster or 323 sedan. The cost to the worker is zilch; the company pays for the lease, insurance, and taxes. The reason for the largesse--which comes to $30,000 a month for the company? "In Atlanta, there are over 500 software developers," says RSI Chief Executive Bill Glover, who came up with the BMW idea. "It's hard for any company to stand out from the crowd." And attract the employees it needs.
Last year, Glover was paying a headhunting firm $50,000 a month to find new hires. Trouble was, the hunters were only turning up three workers a month when RSI needed five. "Every month, we were falling behind," says Glover. Then the savvy CEO introduced the BMW perk. Once the news hit the press last July, the company was flooded with resumes. Now no more headhunting costs. And lots of happy employees. Says Glover: "Our workers feel special, like they are members of an elite club." Plus, it costs less overall to lease the cars than to pay the headhunters. A benefit to all.Free FoodKron Chocolatier
Work is sweet for employees at Kron Chocolatier in Aventura, Fla. In addition to all the chocolate they can eat, workers are treated to a free lunch each day, a cake and a $25 gift certificate on their birthday, and a honeymoon cruise when they get married. Owners (and sisters) Nancy Kasky and Cobbie Danzansky (pictured) subscribe to the what-goes-around-comes-around theory of work and life: "If you are nice to people throughout your life, it all comes back to you," says Danzansky. And how. Turnover at the store is remarkably low. Some workers stay 10 years or more and even bring their children into the fold. Plus, business is brisk. The pair opened their first store in Miami Beach in 1982, later moving to Aventura. "We were just two housewives with no experience. Our husbands thought we would last only a year," the sisters recall. In 1986, they opened a second spot in Atlantic City. Now, the stores employ 30 people, who keep busy creating unique chocolate gifts for cruise lines, corporations, hotels, and casinos. It's a sweet confection for both owners and their workers.Pet Health CareAdams Haberdashery
When you're a small specialty retailer, it's tough to compete on perks. So what do you do? If you're Joe Savino, president of Adams Haberdashery, a high-end clothing store in New Providence, N.J., you offer novel benefits--like a pet-care program. "I can't offer stock options and pension plans," says Savino. "So I try to find benefits that are within my budget." Until recently, that meant bonuses and clothing discounts. This year, he added Pet Assure, a discount club for pet owners in Dover, N.J., which costs him just $59 a year for each enrolled employee (www.petassure.com). Members get 25% off vet bills and up to 50% discounts on certain pet supplies. "It's a terrific idea," says bookkeeper Adrienne Smozanek, who has three cats. Savino is just as pleased. "Employees tend to take benefits for granted. But this one was so unique they stopped to talk about it."Flying LessonsSullivan Higdon & Sink
Employees work smarter when they know their subject matter inside out. That's the thinking at Sullivan Higdon & Sink, a Wichita (Kan.) advertising agency that counts aviation giants Cessna Aircraft and Rockwell Collins as its main clients. So, two years ago, the firm began offering its employees flying lessons. Gratis. The $4,000 perk is available to all 90 employees, with preference given to those working on aviation projects. "This shows our clients we're not just communication people, we're airplane people," says CEO Joe Norris. Only three to four employees can enroll in the licensing program each year. So far, six employees have received their licenses. The program has been such a success that the company bought its own Cessna 172 and leased a Cessna 182. Now, the staff's pilots can fly to client meetings or check out a plane for a weekend spin. Rick Kaufman, a senior art director, says the experience has made him a better designer: "Now, I see the way pilots do." Says Norris: "This makes us an attractive place to work for airplane lovers. And that's who we want in our company."By Lesley Alderman