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For One Business the Answer is Simple: Green

Times Staff Writer

The experts may say that Christmas parties, gifts and bonuses are dying out in corporate America, but nobody told Bruce FaBrizio.

Each year, the ebullient 37-year-old founder of Sunshine Makers--the Huntington Harbour-based firm that produces Simple Green all-purpose cleaner--tosses a 2-day celebration in early December to mark both the passing of the business year and the coming of Christmas.

FaBrizio gives all 35 employees gifts of cash and vacation trips and throws a catered gourmet luncheon and a huge dinner party. The cash Christmas bonuses can range from $100 to $10,000, he said.

“We do a pretty thorough job of remembering the 364 days prior to Christmas,” said FaBrizio. “Our fiscal year ends Nov. 30, and December is the time for wrap up and review, so we use Christmas as the jumping off spot to get into the new year.”

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FaBrizio, who invented the phenomenally popular cleaning liquid with his late father in 1973, said the choice of a Nov. 30 end to the fiscal year was no coincidence.

“We wanted it this way. We have a 2-day meeting at our offices for the whole staff, we fly people in from around the country. The whole atmosphere is festive, with music and a special luncheon catered by a fine restaurant. Then we wrap it up with a big Christmas party for the staff, suppliers and customers. It’s a black-tie affair with a theme. This year it’s Humphrey Bogart’s ‘Casablanca,’ and we’ll have a camel caravan as part of the scenery.”

FaBrizio, who remembers the company’s early years as rough ones that led to his father’s death from a heart attack at age 47, said his philosophy is to reward the people who have helped make the company successful.

The Christmas season, he said, is a wonderful time to do that.

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In addition to the party and the luncheon, he awards permanent employees “incentive trips” like weekends in Carmel and Hawaii or hot air balloon excursions through the Napa Valley wine country.

Each worker also receives a Christmas check from FaBrizio and, in a new program, workers with 3 or more years at the company get shares of stock.

The trips and the cash gifts vary from person to person, he said. It is not a formal program. “It depends on the person,” he said. “We try to match the experience to the person’s likes and needs.”

The gift-giving, said FaBrizio, “is a way of saying thank you and an inducement to be here next year. As an inducement, it must be working,” he said.

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“We have grown to 35 employees since 1980 and only two people have ever left.” Although Simple Green has been marketed since 1973, it didn’t become a retail product until 1980, the year after FaBrizio’s father died. The corporation, Sunshine Makers, was formed in 1980.

FaBrizio, said that the company’s “lawyers and accounting people are constantly reviewing” the holiday party and gift-giving “to see if we are getting value for the dollars. Well, sales have gone from $62,000 in 1980 to well over $20 million in 1988, so I’d say its worth it.”

He said he expects to spend about $150,000 on the party and gifts for his staff this year.

“It’s a present from me to them” he said. “There’s nothing written, no guarantee they’ll get anything. They bet on the come, they bet on Bruce, and this is my way of paying off.”

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