More than 20 years ago Chris Simpson,Managing Director of Lexel, had a small business that he ran from home, when he decided to hold a BBQ to thank his customers after noting that other businesses traditionally held some sort of Christmas ‘shindig’. Today, that BBQ is still going strong, although now the menu includes 300 steaks and nearly 500 sausages for more than 400 attendees.
As business grew, the BBQ grew steadily, and Simpson jokingly said, “We woke up one year and found that it was so accepted within the industry that it was too damn hard to change it!” But despite the massive amount of food, Simpson said that Lexel prides itself on its personal touch and has never hired caterers to put on the event. Instead staff members, family and friends don aprons and help feed the hungry attendees, all of whom are clients or suppliers of Lexel. And adding to that personal touch, Simpson said that each steak is made to order, not cooked in advance.
Simpson said the BBQ is the biggest event put on by the company each year, and is beneficial for business because it helps customers meet staff they might not ordinarily meet, especially the senior management staff.
And though it’s a bit different to most companies’ Christmas parties, Simpson said he’s heard from many of the company’s customers that the informality is appreciated.
“Being the way that we do it, they can walk in, have a couple of drinks, talk to the people they want to and have a sausage or a steak,” he said, emphasising that people aren’t pressured to stay for the entire event.
In the early days of the company, Simpson was a bit nervous about having customers and suppliers at the same event, but said that it’s actually been beneficial for both, as some account managers even arrange for clients and suppliers to meet at the BBQ.
The event is highly anticipated each year, and Simpson says there are no immediate plans to change the BBQ in the future.