12 Meaningful (and Free) Gifts for Business Associates

How to show your appreciation in a way that builds stronger relationships with employees, vendors and other colleagues.

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By John Peitzman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Corporate gifting has pretty much always been a de rigueur expense for most companies, with resulting spending that is simply staggering. A July, 2021 study conducted by Coresight Research (sponsored by GiftNow) estimated that the corporate gifting market will reach $242 billion this year, with most companies spending between $75 to $100 per gift. From shopping cards to toiletry bags to food baskets to portable phone chargers, the market is flooded with gizmos and gadgets to purchase and give out in bulk. But what if you could show your appreciation in a more personal way that helps build stronger and more dimensional relationships?

Presenting gift ideas that will do just that:

1. Time: Of course, this is anyone's most valuable asset. You can't replenish it. When you give someone your uninterrupted time, you are gifting a part of you. So, consider that employee who has been trying to meet with you for 15 minutes to share an idea, or a vendor who has been loyal for years, and give some of those precious hours.

Related: 10 Ways to Buy More Time

2. Gratitude: This can be expressed in many ways. Simply saying "Thank you" is one option, of course, but so is offering compliments and/or writing a handwritten note of appreciation. Make an extra effort to show colleagues that you see and value them.

3. Autonomy: Part of being a great leader is developing a great staff and establishing rewarding vendor relations. Give them the gift of showing that they meet your expectations by ceding them more autonomy.

4. Support: This can come in many ways. You can show genuine interest and encouragement, or give someone time and space. You can also simply ask what people need or want for their support, then let them come to you with answers.

5. Education: It's one thing to tell someone what to do or what you want — it's another to empower them with the knowledge to perform and grow.

6. Credit: When a company succeeds, it is often the result of the efforts of many, yet too often only a few get credit. As a leader, your successes should be shared with those who contributed. Doing so only serves to make you look stronger and more confident.

7. Compassion: Sometimes this quality is mistaken for being soft or easy, and it's frequently difficult for people to show vulnerability, but make an effort to be understanding. Show genuine sincerity and empathy. Be flexible. Advocate for others. Be willing to help prioritize and pitch in.

Related: Stop Talking About Empathy, and Start Acting On It

8. Interest: Key business partners with whom you work — whether employees, vendors, customers or others — have interests within and beyond the scope of their jobs. Ask questions about them, and really listen.

9. Clarity: Clearly identify roles, responsibilities and expectations. Make sure everyone understands and is on board, and provide complimentary support and direction as needed.

10. Loyalty: From following through with commitments, to making it about more than just the bottom line, to leading with integrity… loyalty is essential to building any healthy relationship.

11. Opportunity: Reward employees with an opportunity for advancement and additional responsibility, and let vendors take on more business when they demonstrate they are ready. Gift people essential to your business with the opportunity to be a bigger part of it.

12. Experience: Don't lock employees into the same tasks every day. Let them learn all aspects of the company to which they show aptitude and interest. Resulting knowledge will make them an even more valuable asset, and they will feel more valuable and vested.

Related: Why You Need to Prioritize Upskilling Your Workforce

John Peitzman

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Certified High Performance Coach

John Peitzman is a Certified High Performance Coach™, professional speaker, bestselling author and creator of The BUILD Framework®. He teaches his clients how to successfully integrate ancient techniques, proven business methodologies and high-performance concepts in life to obtain greater success.

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