Giving Back to Get Ahead

Article by:
John Ruhlin
EO St. Louis

With balance sheets bleeding and people cutting back on costs, a recession is a poor time to give gifts to employees, clients or prospects, right? Not necessarily. In fact, I just quadrupled our budget for gifts this year. When my peers are giving less, I’m giving more to those who support my business. The result: we’ve seen a major increase in productivity and profits. Here are a few of the things we’ve learned when it comes to investing capital in strategic appreciation:

Trash The Trinkets Our gifting rule is pretty simple: if it can be found at Walmart or a promotional magazine, nine times out 10 it is not a worthy gift. Promotional trinkets might be great for tradeshows, but it’s not a great way to say thanks for the 2,000 hours someone committed to the company over the course of a year. We select our gifts the same way we hire our employees, with much care and thought.

Avoid The Cheesy Catalogs imagine you were a kid again, and it was your birthday. You wake up early to peruse your wrapped gifts, only to find your parents holding a catalog and a highlighter, asking you what they should order. Not exactly a warm feeling, right? I’ve found that deep down, adults still love being surprised with a thoughtful gift that honors their effort. Giving people a catalog to choose from sucks the joy out of gifting. I make the effort to learn about my employees’ hobbies and joys, and then select gifts accordingly. Not only are they being rewarded for their success, but I’m showing them that I’m invested in their happiness. The happier they are, the more successful my business will be.

Rethink The Salary when it comes to monetary gifts, I always ask myself the following question: if I’m an employee, which would be a better place to work: a company that gives me an annual salary of Us$75,000 and no tangible appreciation, or a company that gives me a salary of Us$74,000 and a half-dozen Us$100-200 gifts throughout the year? Both employees “cost” the companies the same, but the latter company will have a more engaged, productive and loyal employee because his efforts are being honored throughout the year.

Make The Significant Others Feel Significant. Our fastest return on investment is to target the spouses. When spouses feel included, things go more smoothly in every way imaginable. I was recently on a plane to China with a Fortune 50 executive, and he explained how during client events, he spends three times as much on the spouses than the actual clients. Why? Because on that plane ride home, the client hears how great their company is and how they can never switch to the competition. No matter how good we are at selling, we will never have as much influence over our clients as their spouses.

At the end of the day, gifting is a simple, often cost-effective way of ensuring that the people who support your business feel appreciated. By making small investments in my staff, clients or prospects today, I’m ensuring a better tomorrow for my business. I can’t think of a better investment.

John Ruhlin is the president of Ruhlin Promotion group. E-mail John at [email protected].

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