Giving clients holiday gifts is more than a good idea, to hear Leann Phenix talk about it: "It's a 'must do,'" says the CEO of the Austin, Texas, literary publicity firm that bears her name. "From the first year of our company's existence, we have given gifts even when cash flow was tight," she says. "We did so in the beginning to help people remember us. We continue to give gifts not only to stay visible, but also because we are genuinely thankful when people help us. It makes us feel good to give, and it makes the receiver feel good."
The good tidings have spread: Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists has grown from a start-up in 1994 to 11 employees and close to $1 million in revenues last year. And the company has honed its gift-giving skills in the process. Well before the holidays, Phenix already has a list to check twice. "We want the gifts we give to make a lasting impression," she explains.
Many small-business owners share her attitude. The most recent American Express survey on small-business gift buying estimated $5 billion would be spent wishing clients, employees and vendors "happy holidays." More than one-third of the nearly 800 business owners participating in the survey said they would buy holiday gifts, spending an average of $1,800 each.
Sure, that was in flush 1999-but even in tougher economic climates, business gifts are a wise investment. "Gifts will never take the place of good service, outstanding product and integrity, which are foremost in any [business] relationship," says Lynn Tucker, president of Corporate Presence LLC, a Baltimore-based corporate gift service company. "But all things being equal, entrepreneurs should never underestimate the edge they gain with a memorable gift."
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Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.