If you’re anything like me, you believe the holidays are a very special time of year. It’s a time to take stock of my blessings, both personal and professional. It’s a time to reminisce and reflect, to indulge in good food and make new memories, and to show my appreciation for friends and family. And I’m not just talking about my immediate family, but my corporate family – the 135 employee-owners who work alongside me. The ones who helped me build my business from a humble start-up in my garage to $65MM and nineteen straight years of double-digit growth (and counting!).

CEOs get pulled in a lot of different directions and deal with a lot of stress throughout the year. Believe me, I know all too well! But whether you’re a two-person operation working out of your garage, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, one thing you as the leader should never forget to do is reward your employees. This is especially true around the holidays. And I don’t just mean a ham and a sticky note scribbled with the person’s name on it. Nor am I insinuating a large bonus check. I’m talking about something creative. Something meaningful.

Because we’re a company that is constantly and openly KEEPING SCORE, the visibility of those who excel in each department is closely monitored by everyone. I’m proud to say we do a pretty good job at PFSbrands in showing our employee-owners our appreciation in meaningful ways. The A-players receive recognition in weekly departmental or monthly company-wide meetings we call huddles. And just like a baseball or football team, we identify our MVPs and we publicly thank them with a few words and a round of applause. How much does that cost us? Zero!

For MVP of the quarter, we have a specific award the team member can proudly display and flaunt on their desk. For reaching particular professional or personal goals, such as maintaining a fitness regimen consistently, the winner might receive public recognition and a $20 Amazon gift card. Again, a symbolic token more than anything else, but a meaningful one.

And on a grander scale, for one of our employee-owners who recently reached his 15th anniversary of dedicated service, we took twelve minutes out of our monthly huddle to recognize him with a video compilation of the years gone by and gave him the option of a $1,500 bonus check, or two weeks paid vacation so he could spend time with his family. He chose the latter.

So this holiday season if you really want to reward your employees, get creative. Recognize them publicly. Create quarterly, monthly or even weeks awards they can pass around. Or if you are thinking of something monetary, put up an even better option of paid time with family.

By taking care of your employees first, you can be sure they will take care of your customers.

Happy Holidays!