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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.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Do women business owners bring more perks to the workplace thanmen? Maybe not, but the perks they offer employees often have adecidedly feminine touch.

Hillary Kelbick, 49, president of MKP CommunicationsInc., a $5 million marketing and consulting firm based in NewYork City, offers perks that have become common in today'scompanies, including flexible work schedules and telecommuting.Less typical is her policy that staff can bring their youngchildren to work when day care is an immediate issue. Kelbick alsoencourages staff to purchase new outfits and expense them forimportant client meetings. "This has worked wonders over theyears in helping my [employees] feel better about themselves andtherefore represent MKP in the best possible light."

Teri Rogers, 49, president of TakeTwo, LLC, a film and video productioncompany in Kansas City, Missouri, focuses benefits on balance."We have a 'family first' policy, which meanswe'll adjust work schedules to accommodate an employee'sfamily obligations or give them time off to take their kids to thedoctor or dentist," says Rogers of her $5 million-pluscompany. She also hires massage therapists, caters lunches andcreates themed after-hours events to show employees herappreciation.

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

"The great challenge [with perks] is to create anorganizational culture that effectively balances what the businessmust do to thrive with the individual needs of the employees,"says Aya Fubara Eneli, author of Live Your Abundant Life. "Happy andsupported employees tend to be more productive and loyalemployees." Fubara Eneli cautions that business owners andemployees should be wary of one-size-fits-all solutions and insteadcarefully come up with strategies that promote family andindividual growth without jeopardizing the company's primarymission.

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

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

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

Perks work. "They have always enabled me to compete withother companies [that] might be larger, more established and havemore credibility--on the surface--than my company," explainsKelbick. "They've given me an advantage in successfullyhiring the right people."

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

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

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