Monday Mornings with Madison


Last week, we considered the concept of having a truly thankful heart every day, not just on Thanksgiving Day.  A genuinely grateful attitude is empowering and uplifting for both you and those around you at home and at work.  However, with the holiday season upon us, ‘giving thanks’ takes on a whole new meaning as everyone scurries to buy gifts not only for loved ones but also to those for whom we are thankful.  In the world of business, that includes clients, hard-working employees, key referral sources, and important vendors. At this time of year, the focus shifts more to the ‘giving’ as a way to say ‘thanks.’

So what do you buy for those ‘other’ important people in life?  After purchasing gifts for all the people you know well and love, how do you show your appreciation for the others without breaking the bank?  The first place to start is by asking some basic questions and considering your audience.

1.  Before deciding on a gift for a specific work contact (for example, your assistant, a vendor you work with day-in and day-out or a referral source that brought you an important piece of business), ask “What do I know about this person?” Use this information to choose a thoughtful gift, instead of purchasing a one-size-fits-all item. As the holiday nears, casually ask the person what he or she is interested in, what they’re doing that weekend or anything else to get clues for a gift they’ll appreciate.

2.  However, if you are giving to many clients or colleagues, it may not be practical to purchase different gifts for each.  In that case, ask yourself “What can I afford to give that lets clients know I appreciate them without breaking the bank?”  and “Would I use or appreciate the gift?” Gifts don’t have to be expensive, just thoughtful. 

3.  Gift cards or gift certificates are a great option if you need to give to many people, whether you know them well or not.  Gift cards can be from either a restaurant or a store.  For those people you know well, ask yourself “What would they enjoy?”  A music lover might appreciate an iTunes gift card. Movie buffs could enjoy two tickets to see the movie of their choice. Think about gifts you’ve enjoyed from people who might not know you well and use that as an idea. For people you don’t know well, another option is a generic gift card from a credit card vendor such as American Express, which can be used in most locations.  Be sure to find out if cards or certificates have an expiration date and communicate that with the gift.  Attach a hand-written card to a make a generic gift card more personal.

4.  Before giving gifts to people outside your company, make sure they are allowed to receive gifts. Some companies have implemented restrictive gift policies that set dollar value maximums and others prohibit gifts outright. To avoid an uncomfortable situation for you and the recipient, call the company’s HR office to inquire if such a policy exists.

5.  If you have a lot of people at work to give to, it can get expensive.  Instead, implement a gift exchange so that every person only has to shop for one person.  To make it fun and exciting, do a ‘secret swap’.  Put price brackets on the cost of gift, for example [$20-$30], to ensure that everyone receives something of about equal value.  Make sure everyone chooses gifts that are gender-neutral.

If you prefer not to give gift cards or gift certificates, here are some gift ideas.

Classic items for clients, referral sources or staff:
Picture frame
Teak or slate cutting board
Plush blanket
Elegant pashmina shawl or scarf

Food items for large numbers of clients:
Box of chocolates
Wine and cheese package
Tower of Godiva confections
Gift box of assorted teas or coffees

Homemade gifts for a special coworkers:
Tin of home-baked cookies
Basket of muffins
CD of select music
Cookbook with your favorite recipes

 Other things to consider are gifts that are family-friendly such as a boxed set of classic games including chess, checkers and marbles, or a boxed set of card games.  

Note that you can write off a trade or business gift expense up to $25. The IRS website offers acceptable examples. That amount is a good benchmark for work-related gifts. Save receipts if you plan to reap the benefits of your gifting come tax season.

Just remember that the regardless of religious beliefs, the holiday season is about love and appreciation.  The phrase ‘to give thanks’ should emphasize more the ‘thanks’ than the ‘give’.  So make sure to tell the people to whom you are giving gift how much you appreciate them.

“Gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” Oren Arnold

© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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