Lead Forensics

A Holiday Party with a Lesson: Surprise and Delight Always Wins

December 17, 2019 Kevin Edmunds


When a Maryland real estate company handed out red envelopes to about 200 employees during the annual holiday party on December 7, no one really knew what was coming. Granted, they did know it was a special event compared to prior years—for the first time in company history, St. John Properties flew in all their out-of-state employees from eight different branches as well as their guests, covering their airfare and hotel costs for two nights.

But when those employees opened the red envelopes to see that they had received a total of $10 million in bonuses—an average of $50,000 each—let’s just say there were many jaws that had to be closed by hand, and many eyes that needed to be dried with tissues.

“When I opened the envelope, I was in total disbelief,” Stephanie Ridgway, an assistant project manager at the company, told CNN the day after the event. “I couldn’t believe I saw what I saw. I don’t even have words to properly describe how I felt; it was just amazing and incredible. I’m still in shock. It’s definitely life changing.”

St. John Properties President Lawrence Maykrantz said the company had reached a major goal of developing 20 million square feet in real estate, doubling its total over the course of 14 years. As a result, “we wanted to do something big to thank all our employees for helping us achieve our goal,” he said.

Each employee received money based on the amount of years they have worked at the company. The smallest amount, $100, was for an employee who was just hired and hadn’t even started at the company yet. The largest bonus was $270,000.

One of the overlooked aspects of the situation: The chief executive was as overwhelmed by emotion as the employees he gave the money to. “It was truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” Maykrantz said. “Everyone was all overwhelmed with emotions. They were screaming, crying, laughing, hugging each other. Then people were lining up to hug us and shake our hands, and they told us story after story of what they’re going to use their bonuses for. People are now debt-free; they’re paying off their credit cards, their mortgages, their tuition and student loans.”

Now, your firm probably won’t be doing this same type of thing during your next incentive program, but the sentiment that’s behind your reward-travel program is exactly the same as what Maykrantz described: “We are so proud of our employees. They are the foundation and the reason behind the success of our company. We wanted a big way to thank them, and I think we were successful in doing that.”

In a similar vein, it wouldn’t be hard at all for you and your executives to build in some surprise recognition and gifts during your next travel-reward event. In fact, we here at AIC Hotel Group can help provide unique high-end merchandise and once-in-a-lifetime experiences within our property’s destinations—the eastern and western coasts of Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Miami—to surprise and delight your attendees. In short, we can help you make your incentive participants feel just about as wonderful as those St. John Properties employees do on this Christmas.

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