Many years ago, one of our managers suggested that we have a “Bring Your Pet to Work” day”.  I thought about it briefly – very briefly.  While I think of myself as fairly creative when trying to make Genesis a great place to work, the thought of one employee’s pit bull (“Killer”) chasing someone else’s pet cat (“Fluffy”) for sport didn’t make sense to me, especially in our small office.  Not good for morale, let alone production.

Such is the challenge for the small business owner – to create an environment that is welcoming, affirming, and yes, even fun.  A few years back, when I asked a client business owner what “Job One” was for him, his answer was quick, clear and obviously a declaration he made before and was proud to make again:  “It’s my job to make our employees look forward to Monday morning.”  He got it.  Still, the challenge remains as to how to do it.

Last week, Fortune Magazine published the 100 Best Companies to Work For list for 2013.  While none of the companies could be classified as small or even mid-sized, all implemented creative strategies that earned them a spot on the list.  And in that list, there are some nuggets that a small business owner could consider.

Forbes Magazine’s Andy Serwer appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe last week to talk about this year’s list and many of the stories were compelling.  OK, while most of us can’t mirror what Google does with their “Googleplex” where they can play volleyball or take advantage of their seven acre gym facility, or create an organic food farm for the company cafeteria like SAS, some incentives may apply.

Serwer’s formula  is to start at a high level – pay well and have a great benefits plan – and then add to it each year.  For the small business owner, it might not take much.  For example, Burns and McDonnell ‘s (#18) managers serve hot bowls of chili to the employees on the company’s anniversary; (#19) allows its employees 48 hours per year (paid) to volunteer  and Bright Horizons Family Solutions (#90) of Watertown, Massachusetts awards two week paid sabbaticals to 25 high-performing center managers with 20 or more years of service.

One comment that made our collective ears pick up at Genesis was a comment made by a panelist when referring to former IBM Lou Gerstner when he said “The single most important hire you make is the head of your Human Resources Department.”  Of course, that hits close to home, it’s what we do  –  both here at Genesis and for the clients we serve.

Perhaps more compelling is Serwer’s view on the preponderance of privately held companies on the list: “A large number of these are private… are not beholden to the tyranny of quarterly earnings.  They can invest in their companies, can treat their employees well.  They don’t have to worry about laying people off and praying to the god of Wall Street.”

Indeed, sometime smaller is better – unless you are Fluffy being chased around the office by Killer.