Founded in 2006 by Thomas Harman, Balsam Brands designs and sells holiday and home décor directly to customers. Their flagship brand, Balsam Hill, is the world’s leading retailer of high-end artificial Christmas trees. Since 2006 they’ve grown to encompass four offices across the globe: their headquarters in Redwood City, and locations in Boise, Manila and Dublin.
For a company with a heavy focus on Christmas, you might imagine stockings hanging from desks and Christmas lights strung throughout the office all year long. According to Anne Olow, Manager of People, Talent and Culture, that’s more or less what you’ll find at the Balsam Brands offices. While December is a festive (and busy) time of year for the company, the Balsam Brands team still finds time to have fun and connect with one another and the local community. Anne Olow shares how Balsam Brands spreads joy year-round and how team members embrace the busy holiday season.
In-season perks for the busy time
The Balsam Brands merchandising team is based out of the company’s headquarters in Redwood City. Because of this, Olow says, “We have a lot of Christmas trees, ornaments, and decorations from various holidays around. Christmas is one of our major earnings times so it's really crazy around the office.” During the busy time of year, Balsam Brands offers unique perks to spice things up and make team members’ lives a bit easier.
One of their most popular programs during the Christmas season is daily coffee tabs, set up with local vendors near the office. Balsam Brands doesn’t keep a coffee maker in the office, because they want to encourage team members to get out and take a break. These coffee breaks also help them stay connected to customers and support local businesses. Another favorite tradition is visits from a local masseuse, who comes both to the Redwood City headquarters and also Balsam Brands’ distribution center and retail location in Burlingame. They also offer crafts in the office, and team members can bring their gifts into the office and utilize the company’s free gift wrapping station. Catered meals are also provided on occasion during the busy season.
Olow says, “We do these things to make it fun to come into the office. We recognize that people are working really hard this time of year when most folks are spending time with their families. It’s a sacrifice they're making for the company and it's something we appreciate.”
While the Christmas season is one of Balsam Brand’s biggest revenue periods, some teams are busier than others at that time. Olow says, “We try to be cognizant that different teams are going to hit their busy periods at different times of year. While we do some perks in season, we remember that people can get stretched any time.” To mitigate the pressure of the Christmas season, they host their company-wide holiday party in July. The Christmas in July week is also marked with the annual White Elephant Gift Exchange, and the other perks enjoyed during the December peak period such as of coffee tabs at local coffee shops and on-site massages.
A commitment to volunteering
Many companies invest in volunteering during the holidays, but for Balsam Brands it’s a year-round commitment. They’ve partnered with Negrense Volunteers for Change, a nonprofit organization based in the Philippines that helps fight hunger and poverty. Last year they offered matching donations for team members and raised over $17,000. They also helped Negrense Volunteers for Change with their web presence and establishing their nonprofit status in the US. Olow says, “This past spring a group of our Filipino team members worked with the organization to give them consulting advice about pay per click, search engine optimization and other online marketing initiatives that we have expertise in.”
The Redwood City team also volunteers with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House at Stanford and a local habitat restoration project with Grassroots Ecology. The Boise office team members organize their own volunteer days, and have worked with the Boise Rescue Mission, Idaho Food Bank, and the Idaho Botanical Gardens. Each office location has its own volunteering focus, with support from the People team. Olow says, “We try to make sure that the different offices do similar things at similar times of the year, but we also don't try to make it exactly the same for everybody.”
When the holidays are your brand
While the holiday season may provide the bulk of Balsam Brands’ sales, they are an e-commerce retailer first and foremost. Olow says, “When it comes down to it, we're an e-commerce retailer, and we happen to sell holiday products, but that's not the main focus of what's driving our culture or what's driving our people.” Balsam Brands’ traditions are secular and their values emphasize inclusion across their offices.