Originally created 12/18/97

Party time for businesses



Look closely at that holiday party invitation you just got from a business or organization: It could be your ticket to a networking feast.

The holiday office party has a far-reaching reputation for revelry, but businesses also have parties for clients and potential clients for network and marketing purposes.

One example is the party thrown Wednesday to announce the Drugs Don't Work 1997 Business of the Year and Participant of the Year. The program is part of the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce.

Tammie Flowers, coordinator of the program, said about 70 businesses were invited to the event, the second one in the two years of the program. The program discourages drug use by employees and allows participating businesses to receive discounts on their workers compensation insurance.

"The purpose of these meetings is to market, organize and network and bring in more Drugs Don't Work businesses," Ms. Flowers said.

She said the event went over well last year, so the DDW committee decided to hold it again, this time expanding the list to include media representatives.

She said about 10 percent of her annual budget goes toward the event, which provides food and beverages and allows drug testing and employee assistance groups as well as the chamber to display marketing material.

"It's a great marketing tool," Ms. Flowers said.

Culpepper Reporting Service Inc. didn't have to market its annual holiday party; requests by clients led the company to bring it back this month after a rest last year.

"Many of our clients called back and said we really miss that," said Steve Garrison, business manager. "It was almost a command performance."

He said the event, which drew about 200 people, is more of a chance to network than a chance for the company to promote itself.

"It's an opportunity for those of common interest to hobnob, trade stories and that sort of thing," Mr. Garrison said.

Culpepper, which provides certified court reporting services, probably spends less than 1 percent of its annual budget on the event, Mr. Garrison said.

"We get the satisfaction of thanking the clients who have supported us throughout the year," he said, clients such as judges, attorneys and legal secretaries.

The CVB promotes tourism that can require at least one night's stay in the Augusta area.}

Wheeler Securities provided a holiday drop-in last week at its office to fellowship with friends and clients, said president Barry Wheeler.

"It's just something we do every year," Mr. Wheeler said. "A lot of people came by and said hello."

Mr. Wheeler said the food, invitations and work put into organizing the gathering cost upward of $1,000 and drew about 300 people. But it was worth it, he said.

"That shows me that they're thinking about us and we're thinking about them," he said.