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The Perks of a Woman-Owned Business

Women use unique benefits to show employee appreciation--and help their employees find a balance between work and their families.

Do women business owners bring more perks to the workplace than men? Maybe not, but the perks they offer employees often have a decidedly feminine touch.

Hillary Kelbick, 49, president of MKP Communications Inc., a $5 million marketing and consulting firm based in New York City, offers perks that have become common in today's companies, including flexible work schedules and telecommuting. Less typical is her policy that staff can bring their young children to work when day care is an immediate issue. Kelbick also encourages staff to purchase new outfits and expense them for important client meetings. "This has worked wonders over the years in helping my [employees] feel better about themselves and therefore represent MKP in the best possible light."

Teri Rogers, 49, president of TakeTwo, LLC, a film and video production company in Kansas City, Missouri, focuses benefits on balance. "We have a 'family first' policy, which means we'll adjust work schedules to accommodate an employee's family obligations or give them time off to take their kids to the doctor or dentist," says Rogers of her $5 million-plus company. She also hires massage therapists, caters lunches and creates themed after-hours events to show employees her appreciation.

But the perks don't stop there. "We pay for parking and flu shots and provide breakfast and an afternoon snack daily," Rogers says. "We buy dinner for an employee and spouse or provide a day at the spa for special occasions or just to say thanks for working hard on a project."

"The great challenge [with perks] is to create an organizational culture that effectively balances what the business must do to thrive with the individual needs of the employees," says Aya Fubara Eneli, author of Live Your Abundant Life. "Happy and supported employees tend to be more productive and loyal employees." Fubara Eneli cautions that business owners and employees should be wary of one-size-fits-all solutions and instead carefully come up with strategies that promote family and individual growth without jeopardizing the company's primary mission.

Wellness lifestyle expert Terra Wellington says women business owners must consider two things before implementing perks: First, don't lose sight of the fact that you aren't your employees' mother. Second, remember that you are still running a business, first and foremost.

Says Wellington, "I have seen some women business owners who are naturally maternal focus so much on people's problems and social elements that they lose sight of necessary business management, including marketing, managing the bottom line, staying results-oriented and focusing on employee performance."

What should you spend for perks? Kelbick says she has refined the perks and processes so individuals' needs are fulfilled with minimal impact on the budget--about $50,000 per year.

Perks work. "They have always enabled me to compete with other companies [that] might be larger, more established and have more credibility--on the surface--than my company," explains Kelbick. "They've given me an advantage in successfully hiring the right people."

Rogers believes that while women employees are "programmed to want more than work in their lives," men are learning to want the same. "Men appreciate balance in their lives as much as women do. And who would turn down a good massage, anyway?"

Aliza Pilar Sherman is an author, freelance writer and speaker specializing in women's issues.

Aliza Sherman is a web pioneer, e-entrepreneur and author of eight books, including

PowerTools for Women in Business.

Her work can be found at mediaegg.com.

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