If there was one icon of dotcom excess, it was the outrageous employee perks. Foosball tables in break rooms, cappuccino machines on every floor, new BMWs for just-hired marketing representatives-take your pick-it seemed as if every dotcom included an impressive, if sometimes quirky, array of frivolous-sounding perks as part of its offer to prospective workers. Interestingly, surviving dotcoms report having offered few of those delicious add-ons.
Closner says BabyUniverse employees never signed on to the Internet gravy train. "It comes down to what you prefer," he says. "Would you rather have those creature comforts and see 15 of your friends laid off, or buckle down and save money?"
Today, given that thousands of dotcom workers have lost their jobs, fantastic benefits are not as necessary. There are more employees available, and they're easier to hire, says Isolani. "The questions people ask are different now. A year ago, it was 'What is your exit strategy?' Now it's 'What are your long-term plans?'"
Experts warn, however, that remaining dotcoms should not overreact and expect employees to suddenly be happy working in Spartan environments for low pay. It's still a tight labor market overall, reminds Napier. Entrepreneurs may turn off the waterfalls in their office lobbies, but they shouldn't trim too many employee comforts. "In terms of saving expenses, some of that is penny-wise and pound-foolish," Napier says. "You want employees to stay." If a firm has issued key employees stock options that are now valueless, the company should consider repricing the options to make them more appealing, he says.
Perhaps it shouldn't be shocking that survivors tend to be located in modest quarters where the main attraction is low rent. Closner snorts at the suggestion BabyUniverse is putting on airs with its address. "We rent some excess space from a law firm," he says. Burlingame, even more economically, runs her company out of her brownstone apartment on New York's Upper West Side.