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Is Now The Time To Celebrate?

For the last couple of years, the economy has certainly been hard on everyone. To combat the devastating effects of a declining market, companies have often had to cut-back, make hard decisions and in some cases make sacrifices. While doing research for The MHEDA Journal’s annual “Anniversary Scrapbook” that appeared in the Fourth Quarter 2010 issue, we spoke to multiple distributors’ who were celebrating their anniversaries with parties or company-wide events.

Some distributors, however, refused to hold such celebrations because they weren’t sure what kind of message it sends in today’s environment. One who was celebrating his 25th year in business said,

“In the climate of today, although we’re profitable and we’re making money, for me to have a neat party where everybody comes out and celebrates is an unneeded thing in this economy. It’s not on the same level, but it’s similar to the General Motors executives flying to Capitol Hill on private, individual Learjets. It’s not appropriate or proper. Twenty-five years is a neat thing, but so are years 26 and 27. If we had unending optimism in the economy, then I guess it would make perfect sense to do something, but in today’s time and age you have to hold back and do things that are proper, as opposed to what you’d emotionally like to do. It comes down to needs vs. wants, I suppose, and a grandiose party is just not a need right now.”

This sparks an interesting debate. Is it inappropriate for a business to hold a celebration during a time where unemployment is so high and staff morale so low? And, celebratory atmosphere aside, can a company that has cut benefits and laid off workers, justify the additional expenses that a party incurs?

There are, of course, two sides to every story. Many companies reported seeing an uptick in business in 2010 with growth over 2009. Most of these companies remain optimistic that they can carry this momentum into 2011 and start to see business return to the heights that it was before the recession. As the market climate improves, companies may find it more easily justified to spend some extra money and hold a celebration. In an October 4 webinar for MHEDA titled “Economic Trends: 2011 and Beyond,” Dr. Jeff Dietrich, an economist with the Institute for Trend Research, laid out his predictions for positive growth in the U.S. economy for the next three years. He also predicted that the material handling industry would grow by 6.9% in 2010 with no expectation for a double-dip recession. In other words, the recovery is happening now and it should continue, not revert back to 2009.

There is also the fact that these are not simply parties for the sake of having a party. Anniversaries are major milestones and can be used as promotional tools to drive business for the entire year. Businesses routinely use milestone anniversaries as marketing tools in advertising campaigns and brochures. Having an anniversary gives you something that your competitors don’t have that year, and so give an advantage with competing advertisements for 12 whole months. Years 26 and 27 are great, but in a society so infatuated with round numbers, 25 may be perceived as more important, even if it isn’t.

The right answer here is that there is no right answer. Both sides of the fence raise interesting points and concerns. What do you think? Are anniversary parties an unnecessary extravagance in a time when companies are tightening their belts? Are they much-needed morale boosters celebrating a major milestone that promotes a company and rewards its employees? What alternatives are there to parties and celebrations to mark the anniversary?

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