Give It Here!

Even in the holiday homestretch, finding the right gift for everyone on your business's list doesn't have to put you in the red.

Seems like only yesterday you finally got rid of the last of the truckload of fruitcakes a client was nice enough to bestow upon your office last December. Well, guess what? It's holiday time again. And that means it's time to buy gifts for your associates, clients, employees and general supporters.

With all the other obligations you have this time of the year, selecting, buying and delivering the perfect business gift can seem like overload. So why bother? "Companies need to give gifts because it's a way of expressing a feeling. It keeps a business relationship alive," says Andrea Claster Greenspan, founder of Claster and Co. Inc., a gift service in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

But if someone is on your payroll or is a paid service provider, aren't they already getting something from you? "At holiday time, you're really giving gifts to show your appreciation for work well done, for business given and for dependability," explains Greenspan.

Certainly, you pay your suppliers on time for services rendered, but there are times when they do a little extra for you, rush orders, etc. "You don't want that responsiveness you expect from a good vendor to go unnoticed," Greenspan says. "Now is a great time to say thanks for being a team partner."

In addition to showing your appreciation, gifts to clients serve a more lasting purpose. "[Whether] your name is or isn't on the gift, [if] it's something they will appreciate, it will be a constant reminder of your company," says Amanda Hill, founder of Amanda Hill Gifts, an Atlanta gift service.

All right-now that we've agreed gifting is good, how do you begin? Start as early as possible. "Ideally, [start in] June or July, because depending on what you're looking for, there can be a six- to eight-week lead time [to order the gift]," says Hill. "If you're looking for quantity gifts, September or October is getting late."

Uh-oh. Well, maybe in that perfect world where your shirts never need dry cleaning and your car always has a full tank of gas, all your holiday shopping is already done, completely hassle--free. But in the real world, sometimes the last minute is the only minute--so don't panic just because you're getting a late start on this year's business gifts. "My main point in emphasizing shopping early has to do with the fact that most custom projects require approximately 60 to 90 days," says Greenspan. "[But] even with time limitations, you'll still get plenty of options to choose from."

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This article was originally published in the November 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Give It Here!.

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