Does all this sound too expensive? Very small businesses can indeed find that conventional benefits are out of reach--but that doesn't mean nothing can be done. "Good benefits don't have to cost you, at least not very much. There are plenty of things employees will really appreciate but that will cost you only a few dollars," says Neikrug. For instance, "Buy employees memberships for [a discount store] such as Sam's Club or Costco. They only cost $20 to $25 apiece, but people love them. Any time a business does something for its employees that they cannot easily do for themselves, the employees appreciate the gesture."
Another example of creativity, says Neikrug, is when he noticed one client company had lots of young parents on the payroll and asked if many used day care. Learning that was so, he approached a nearby day-care center and negotiated a discounted group rate. "This did not cost the employer a dime, but the employees saved money," he says. "Thinking like this can really help small business give employees what they value--and do it at little or no cost."