November 28, 2011

Thoughts on Holiday Gifts

By Paul Bieber

Tis the holiday season. I figured this out watching TV last night. In a one-hour show, there were 19 different ads for holiday gifts. Subtle, oh-so subtle. I imagine it is even greater on kids’ shows on Saturday morning.

The question is what to do in your business environment with vendors and customers. (We’ll talk about ‘with employees’ next week.) Of course, you want to say thanks to your key customers, and a nice gift is always appreciated. But can you do better than the cookie tray or bottle of cheer? I’ll bet a nickel that none of your customers buy from you because of holiday gifts…it is because you offer quality service at a price that fits their budget. An extra $25 or $50 gift in December will not keep them as a customer.

I want to share two special companies’ programs with you. First is a company here in NH, a financial advisor that I work with. They send a letter to all of their customers asking them to make a donation to any recognized charity, anywhere in the country. The customers mail the check to the advisor, and then they match it and forward to the charity. There is a maximum amount of $120 per family. So, my donation is doubled, the charities come out ahead and everyone feels great about it. I don’t want another bottle of booze and my particular charity benefits. I really like this program and while it is not the main reason to work with the company, it does let me know they care about people and charity as much as they do about earning fees.

The other company is Galaxy Glass in New Jersey. It is owned by Eugene Negrin, who is a fellow blogger here on the USGNN. While I worked at Floral Glass, Eugene would always send me a cookie tin filled with delicious rugalech, a traditional eastern European cookie. I always thanked him for thinking of me and when I left work, Eugene tracked me down here and started sending the tins to my home. I always looked forward to them, because you don’t get this kind of cookie in New Hampshire. This year, I received a note telling me that Eugene was discontinuing the cookie program as he felt that it was more important to donate to charity this year than to give out the cookies. The charities win, Eugene feels good, I don’t get the calories, and the world takes one small step towards being a better place. This is truly a better example of holiday spirit than a box of cookies.

You do have to give a guy on the loading dock his bottle. When you think of something for the owners and managers of your vendors and customers, let them know you are honoring them with a donation to a local food bank or a national charity. I know that will be more appreciated than the calories.

You should have a firm policy in your company about accepting gifts. We allowed employees to receive gifts from vendors or customers, up to specified value; $25 was the level when I left. They had to let managment know they received a gift, and we would write a corporate thank you note. Did everyone tell us? Of course not, but most did. We encouraged vendors to notify the office when they gave gifts to our employees. We also encouraged employees to share their gifts with others in their departments. We discouraged vendors from sending gifts to employees’ homes. Although, I do remember a very beautiful cut glass bowl that was sent to my home by LOF. I told Chuck Kaplanek, the owner, about the gift, and he received one at home also. My wife still uses the bowl, and I remember LOF when I see it. This is a rare occurance. Most gifts get forgotton about ten minutes after the sales rep leaves them in the office!

Thanks for reading today…there will be more on gifts for the holiday season next week.