Your employees and clients kept your business doors open for another year, and you couldn't be more grateful. To express your gratitude this holiday season, you'd like to give gifts of appreciation. You're no Ebenezer Scrooge hoarding pennies, but there are still ways to show holiday love without breaking the bank. We asked three business pros for thrifty but thoughtful ways to spread holiday cheer.
A key part of their advice? Don't go into debt if you don't have the cash to include everyone on your list. Small gestures such as a personally picked item or a handwritten note can still make a difference.
1. Keep gifts small.
Jon Ulin (@JonUlin), CFP and managing principal of Florida-based Ulin & Co. Wealth Management, advises keeping gifts small this year for your clients and employees.
"Many people are still fighting every day to get ahead financially," Ulin says. "Slinging fancy gifts around may unintentionally brand your business in a pretentious light while giving off vibes like the characters from The Wolf of Wall Street."
Additionally, Ulin cautions that certain industries have rules and regulations that prohibit exorbitant gifts to clients. "For example, if you work in the financial services industry, FINRA nationally regulates all associated advisers and their firms to limit gifts to clients at $100 in value per person for the whole year," he says.
2. It's the thought that counts.
Maybe you've convinced yourself that your business doesn't need to pay for gifts because you're strapped for cash. But the gesture can go a long way.
Rachel Wagner (@EtiquetteRachel), business etiquette consultant and owner of Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol, says that gifts don't have to be costly to be appreciated.
"Communication with clients or employees during the holidays does two things," Wagner explains. "It helps them feel thought of and appreciated. And it keeps the small-business owner top of the mind to the client."
A gift during the holiday season may subtract from your bottom line right now, but it can add back to your profits later on by letting your clients know you appreciate them.
Wagner also suggests introducing a Secret Santa gift exchange to your office to spread the giving equally among employees who want to participate. Set a low price range between $10 and $25 to keep it affordable.
3. Don't overdo it.
Arden Clise (@ArdenClise), president of Clise Etiquette, cautions that gift giving falls into the "too much" category when it breaks the bank or when it makes your clients wonder if you're spending their money wisely.
Clise recommends scaling your gift budget to fit your company size and annual budget. "If you are a large company with revenue in the millions, hosting a big party for your clients or employees in an upscale restaurant or club with a buffet dinner and an open bar would probably be appropriate," she says. "But if you're a small company with just a few employees that would not make sense."
For a small business on a budget, Clise suggests thanking employees for their hard work by taking them out to lunch. For clients, consider sending out holiday cards or only giving gifts to your best clients.
Thrifty Gift-Giving Inspiration
Need a little inspiration for gifts to wow clients and employees? Our three business pros told us about the best budget-friendly gifts they've received or given.
- Hand-delivered baked goods. Ulin appreciated hand-delivered apple pies from a business partner to the entire office the afternoon before Thanksgiving. "This token of thought and energy provides us the 'wow' factor – that someone would do something so thoughtful in a timely manner," he says.
- Personalized gift bags. Wagner's company orders assorted cheeses and local crackers that they put into an individual gift bag for each employee. "This gift has always been super well received because most people enjoy this type of snack over the holidays with family and friends," Wagner says.
- Calendar. Clise received an online advent calendar that was "absolutely gorgeous and a lot of fun." She enjoyed it so much that she sent it to many of her clients the following year.
For other ways small businesses can celebrate the holidays, check out "4 Spins on Small Business Holiday Traditions."