Owners Annette and John Greco host an annual appreciation party for the employees of Greco Remodelers (Big50 2003) in Manassas, Va. The couple books a restaurant for the luncheon and invites employees and their spouses or significant others. They usually schedule the party for January, after the holidays, when everyone's personal lives are less hectic.

“We send out written invitations and ask them to R.S.V.P.,” Annette says. “It's not just limited to employees — we also invite special subcontractors,” John says.

They hand out bonuses at the party, along with handwritten notes to all employees thanking them for their contribution to the company's success. Last year, the office manager came up with the idea to attach the bonus envelope to a card shaped like a puzzle piece. “The puzzle piece signified that each of us is one piece in the entire puzzle. Each is needed to make the whole,” Annette says.

In past years, the Grecos have presented awards — either certificates for excellence or cash awards — to employees for extraordinary performance and have given salespeople awards for highest sales volume.

John says that inviting significant others to these events creates a more social atmosphere where work does not dominate the conversation. He and Annette give gifts or “goody bags” to the guests of the employees. “For women, there will be things like a photo frame, fragrance, candles, and bubble bath,” Annette says. “Men will have a Lowe's gift card or something more masculine.” The Grecos also host a summer event such as a picnic or a boat cruise at which children are welcome. They budget $500 for each event and include a line item for them in the annual budget. The purpose of the parties is to let employees know that they are appreciated, and they allow Annette and John to get to know them better on a personal level. Annette says that finding a venue with good food and drink is the only requirement. “It does not take much hands-on work once it starts,” she says.