Do you find yourself year after year dashing around at the last minute trying to manage the challenges that the holidays hold for you as the business owner? No matter how many times you tell yourself that you will plan better next year, you find yourself once again getting behind on sending out greeting cards, arranging for the holiday party and selecting corporate gifts.
So how can you get ahead and plan properly for the holiday season? Start now. It’s not too early. Signs of the holiday season are already beginning to appear in shops and stores all around town.
Holiday greeting cards
The reason for sending out season’s greetings is to enhance client relationships; but what is intended as a thoughtful act can offend the very people you want to impress if you are not careful.
• Order your cards well in advance. Start the process as early as you can so that you can impress without stress.
• Choose a quality card that shows you value your clients and colleagues. This is no time to skimp.
• Make sure your list is up-to-date with correct names and current addresses. Add new clients and contacts and update addresses throughout the year.
• Sign each card personally and write a short note. A few handwritten words wishing your clients a happy holiday or thanking them for their business are essential even if you have a printed message on the card.
• Handwrite the address. Don’t use computer-generated labels. They are impersonal and make your greetings look like a mass mailing—possibly landing your card in the trash.
• Be sensitive to religious beliefs and cultural celebrations. Know whether your clients observe Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa and make your cards appropriate.
Generic messages like “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays” are safe bets, but not as impressive as the card with exactly the right wish.
The holiday party
• Consider what kind of party is appropriate for your employees. Would they be more comfortable with a casual party or would they like a formal event?
• Should you hold it during work hours, in the evening or on a weekend? The holiday season is hectic so be mindful of your employees’ need to spend time with family and friends.
• If you decide on an after-hours celebration and plan to serve alcohol, realize that some of your group may party hard. Have a plan in place to get them home safely and without liability.
Gift-giving for clients
Choosing a gift for your clients during the holiday season can be a daunting task. The following tips should help you select gifts that will be appropriate, appreciated and remembered for all the right reasons.
Follow the corporate guidelines. Some companies have strict policies about the kinds of gifts their employees may receive. If you have any doubt, ask your clients or check with their human resource department.
Consider your client’s interests. Find out what sports, hobbies or pastimes people enjoy. Your client may have a favorite food or beverage. Tailoring your gift to the client can win you extra points.
Be creative. Look for items that are distinctive and different. Try to make your gift stand out just as you want your company to stand out.
If your client is a golfer, one more set of tumblers with clubs on them is not as memorable as tickets to a particular tournament or a complimentary round of golf.
If you have a long gift list, it’s harder to be original. Nevertheless, there are lots of items available besides mugs and pens.
Consider a charitable donation. If you do, stay away from controversial organizations. The nice thing about a charitable gift is that the recipients need not know how much you spent, and they don’t have to worry about what to do with more clutter after the holidays.
Be generous with group gifts. If you decide to send food to your client’s office, make sure there is enough for everybody. The holiday season is no time to cause a food fight.
Office gift exchange
The inner office gift-giving can often cause problems and confusion although it is well-intended.
Everyone in the office or department should be in agreement as to how this will be done. Will each employee be expected to have a gift for everyone or will there be a drawing for names so that only one gift needs to be purchased? Will a price range be identified? All of these are important questions to have answered before the holidays.
In difficult financial times, consideration should be given to individual employee’s circumstances. No one should be made to feel embarrassed if spending money on an office gift is not within their budget.
What if employees want to give special gifts to a few of their closest colleagues? Suggest that this be done away from the office.
Remember, as the business owner, you don’t have to do it all. You can delegate these tasks, but ultimately you are responsible for seeing that all goes well. Make this holiday season memorable for all the right reasons.
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette and modern manners expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. Since 1996, thousands have attended her sessions - from keynote presentations and seminars to conference breakout sessions. She also provides individual coaching services. Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant. Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, call her at 912-598-981, or go to www.lydiaramsey.com.