Corporate Gifts and Mistakes to Avoid

For business owners, the holiday season is often a time to buy gifts for customers, employees and partners for all those who support your business throughout the year. However, it's important to give gifts in a way that won't offend or create awkward situations among those who are important to your small business. Before purchasing holiday gifts for your clients, colleagues or employees, consider the following business gift etiquette tips for all occasions.

Choose your budget carefully

Choosing how much to spend on each gift is one of the trickiest parts of business gift etiquette. When it comes to gifts for your team, it mostly depends on what you can afford. However, buying gifts for vendors, service providers or partners outside of your company can be a little more sensitive. Some entities have limits on what they are allowed to accept. So make sure you don't exceed those limits with excessive gifts. If you work within a company or organization, follow the guidelines outlined by your management team for gift exchange spending limits.

Don't leave people out

Can you afford to get business gifts for your team? Make sure you have them for everyone. You should also try to make the gifts as equal as possible. It may be okay to spend a little more for your executive team. You may also want to spend more for team members who have been around for a very long time. You should also apply this concept to partners or service providers outside your company. Within an organization, colleagues should also make sure to include everyone, unless there is a secret Santa exchange or some sort of arrangement where you only have to buy for one person.

Personalize if possible

It's not always possible for business owners to buy different gifts for each team member, partner and client. But if you have a short enough gift list, try to buy individual gifts that are relevant to each recipient. For example, if you know a particular customer likes their morning coffee, getting a Starbucks gift card instead of a generic Visa card could mean a lot more to them.

Stay practical for vendors, suppliers and customers

While it can be fun to give your team members items that remind them of inside jokes or fun things that have happened in the office throughout the year, it's not as easy to gauge how people outside of your company might view these types of gifts. Unless you have a very close relationship with someone, it's usually safer to stick to useful items, like gift cards or office supplies.

Be careful with humor

Even if you're buying gifts for people you work with directly, make sure any humorous items are appropriate for the office and for the recipient. If you're not sure about someone's sense of humor or if you think a gift might be offensive to anyone in your workplace, avoid it.

Don't assume everyone celebrates Christmas

Holiday parties and gifts are fairly widely accepted in workplaces across the country. However, if you give very specific gifts at Christmas, people who don't celebrate may be uncomfortable. If you're not sure of a particular person's preference, keep your gift and message fairly general.

Research international customs

If you do business internationally, your customers or partners may have different expectations for gift etiquette. You should research holiday customs in that part of the world before purchasing a gift.

Keep promotional gifts to a minimum

It's fairly common for companies to print their logos on items such as tote bags or hats that they give out for vacation gifts. While this isn't necessarily prohibited, you should try not to rely on giveaways as a source of promotion. Make sure they are actually useful to the recipient, which means they should be of fairly high quality and logos should be small and understated.

Create guidelines for team members

As a business owner, gift etiquette isn't just about the items you give to people. It's also part of your responsibility to try to avoid any awkward situations between employees. If you think it's necessary, set price limits or gift purchasing policies for everyone. This is less important if people exchange gifts with colleagues outside the office. You can also simply set up a secret Santa or white elephant gift exchange with a specific price limit.

Say Thank You

Have you received gifts from team members, partners or clients throughout the holiday season? It's also important to acknowledge them as soon as possible. Send a handwritten thank you note to the sender when possible. An e-mail may be acceptable if the gift was sent virtually.

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