The Washington Post

Gift-giving will be downsized, yet more personalized

In addition to the ongoing debates about the fiscal cliff, the health-care law and uncertainty over taxes, small business owners have yet another issue to be concerned about as the year draws to a close: What’s the best way to show appreciation to employees and loyal customers?

Gifts that show how well you know your employees can go a long way during the holidays, Mitternight says. (Yagi Studio/GETTY IMAGES)

We used our routine company meeting to share with our nearly 15 employees our end of year decision concerning the absence of supplemental profit sharing or extra income. We decided to provide nominally valued gift certificates and to hold an “in-house/sandwiches-snacks-drinks” get-together instead of a formal dinner.

 Likewise, acknowledgment of long-time or even new but profitable customers or contacts assumes a different than normal approach. Rather than an expensive, though enjoyable, sit-down extended lunch with all of the trimmings at an up-scale restaurant, those connections will be handled on a more personal level.

With a little research and some thrifty shopping, this year I will present those select individuals with a gift, chosen specifically for them.

The sharp dresser gets a tie emblazoned with his favorite team logo. The social drinker gets a bottle of hand chosen wine (possibly one bearing the name of the vineyard of my ancestors). The car enthusiast gets select automotive products.

Those gifts — accompanied by a personal note, hand delivered at a time when the recipient is certain to be present — allow time for not only thanks, but a chance to discuss future business. This even provides an opportunity for a gentle reminder of possibly overlooked and un-paid invoices.

 After all, future business is not really worth it if the only result is ever increasing accounts receivable and no positive cash flow. If that turns out to be the case, and if no more favorable signs come out of Washington, the end of 2013 will only leave pieces of coal in everyone’s stocking (or pay envelope).

 Mike Mitternight is president and owner of Factory Service Agency Inc., a commercial HVAC service and installation contractor in suburban New Orleans.

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