Thinking Out Of The Box For The Best Gifts For Clients And Colleagues

Last holiday season, I was invited to a “white elephant” business gift exchange party. If you don’t know what these are, you should, because they can be quite fun, and funny.

Basically, everyone is asked to bring in a bad gift that they have received in the past. These “white elephants” are then exchanged and everyone gets one from someone else. In the version of the party I went to, after all of the gifts were handed out, each person had one chance to then trade the bad gift they got for a less bad gift someone else had.


Like I said, it’s funny to see how many bad gifts are out there, and how people wrestle over what are clearly some mediocre presents, gifts that verge on, “they are so bad, they are good.” I mean, who would ever think to give someone a plastic rock with “You Rock!” written on it?

The moral of the story is that even though these sorts of gifts make for an amusing holiday party (and article, hopefully!), they are really lousy when it comes to actually telling a business associate that you appreciate them, which is the whole point of giving holiday gifts, right?

Like you, I have given and received plenty of holiday business gifts over the years. One thing I have learned along the way is that avoiding the one-size-fits-all mentality seems to work best. If you take some extra time to think about what the person might really want or need, and to be a little creative by considering what actually fits them and their business, you go a long way towards avoiding the white elephant syndrome.

This time of year offers business people a unique opportunity. Getting the chance to thank the people who make your business possible should not be overlooked, or wasted, because you didn’t take the time to do it right.

The good news is that being creative, being thoughtful, and saying thank you need not either be expensive or overly time consuming.

Example: This year my pals at Staples have created an online Holiday Shopping Center where you can find all sorts of great gifts that show your business associates that you not only appreciate them, but you took the time to think out of the box and get them something cool and unique that fits them.

For instance, what about giving that special employee who loves music so much a pair of Beat headphones? Or how about giving the road warrior in your life an electronic luggage scale? Or for technology and fitness nuts, why not look into gifting see superwatches for smartwatches for men?

The Staples center has gifts for co-workers, kids, him, her, under $25, under $50 – you name it. We highly recommend you to check one of those review websites like before making any purchase – you want to make 100% sure those products are not an online scam.

Maybe the part of this e-store that I like the best is the “gift swap,” which has cool items like a 9-piece spa set, a sports duffel, and a 10-piece gardening set – you know, the sorts of gifts you would never bring to a white elephant party because you would not want to part with them.


Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible.

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