Perk Power

The downside: You can't match the benefits offered by Fortune 500 companies. The upside: An exclusive Dun & Bradstreet survey reveals you may not have to. The bottom line: You still have to offer something.

In the movie "9 to 5," Lily Tomlin's character, Violet, says to her boss, "I am your employee, and as such, I expect to be treated with a little dignity and a little respect." But when her employer proves to be a "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot," he is hog-tied, poisoned and shot by Violet and her co-workers. Is a similar fate in store for you?

Results of a recent survey about small-business employee issues by international research-based business information provider Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) suggest that all may not be well in the world of employee benefits at entrepreneurial companies. According to the survey, few small firms provide health or retirement benefits, offer much paid time off, train employees in key skills, or have formal procedures for dealing with discrimination and other workplace issues.

Companies that don't offer any benefits are likely to find it hard to attract good employees, warns William F. Doescher, senior vice president with D&B in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Most job applicants today ask prospective employers if they provide paid vacations, retirement and health benefits, and opportunities to improve skills. "When the answer to those questions is no, qualified people are likely to walk away," says Doescher.

The problem is not that entrepreneurs are heartless, says Kyp Sirinakis, director of the Technology Resource Alliance, a small-business incubator at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Nor does she consider limited resources an adequate explanation. "To me, it's a lack of awareness," says Sirinakis. "A lot of small-business owners are so focused on the day-to-day running of their businesses that they don't take a step back to creatively use their managerial skills."

Not all entrepreneurs are so shortsighted, however. David DeLong, CFO and co-founder of 25-employee Dynamix Group Inc. in Roswell, Georgia, says training is a constant focus at his computer remarketing firm. While the company lacks a formal vacation policy and pays only a portion of health insurance premiums, DeLong says his employees are content because they receive bonuses they can apply to benefit programs or put to another use, and this provides maximum flexibility.

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This article was originally published in the July 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Perk Power.

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