Give It Here!

Before You Get Started . . .

Before you start shopping in earnest, be prepared. Begin by making a list of your gift recipients, including updated addresses so the packages can get to the correct place. You'll also need to set a budget-"the most important thing for your sanity," says Greenspan. Don't forget to include the cost of shipping and wrapping the gifts; that expense can add up quickly. Also, keep tax regulations in mind. You can deduct the value of a business gift up to $25 per person annually. There are some exceptions, however, so it's a good idea to be aware of the rules. Visit the IRS Web site and search "business gifts" for information on the tax implications of gifting.

Next, brainstorm some possible gift ideas. Lara Shriftman, partner in the New York City public relations firm of Harrison & Shriftman, relies on her staff to help come up with ideas for client gifts. "We sit down with all our account executives and think about what would be the right gift to give. Some people get so many gifts, you want to give something that really stands out," she says. It's also a good idea to keep your eye out during the year for interesting gifts that might fit particular clients, customers or employees. When you see something that seems like the perfect fit, make a note of it for future reference.

If handling the gift-giving duties yourself seems like an overwhelming task-and handing it off to an assistant seems like cruel and unusual punishment-consider using a gift service like Hill's. For a fee, they take care of buying, wrapping and sending gifts for you. "The number-one reason [clients use us] is to save time so they can focus on their core business," Hill says. "Other reasons are the gift resources we are able to access. Looking for new gift ideas is our business, so we are able to find a variety of items that would not be available in a department store."

When you're selecting a gift service, Greenspan says, you should ask for references, find out how many years the company has been in business and find out what type of shipping they use. Most important, you need to share a vision so you can be sure the gifts and presentation they choose convey the image you wish to present to the world. "Make sure their idea of holiday and design matches yours," she says.

Whether you're using a service or handling the giving yourself, always keep in mind the reason you're giving gifts in the first place. "No one is required to give gifts; it's purely a matter of generosity and respect," says Phyllis Davis, a business etiquette expert in Beverly Hills, California, and author of the forthcoming book E2: The Power of Etiquette and Ethics in American Business (Entrepreneur Press). "It's not the gift that's the thing; it's the spirit [in which] the gift was given."

Preparing for the Holidays

With all the work that goes into celebrating for the holiday season, your to-do list is going to rival Santa's list. Here's more holiday advice to help you get started:

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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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