It is from Solomon, history’s wealthiest king. He knew business inside out, what made people tick and was as straight as they come.
But what does it mean?
In today’s context it means the commercial cut and thrust of market growth and business building needs to get a little touchy-feely from time to time.
It also means the benefits can outweigh the effort. In a corporate context giving gifts is a serious business. And there is a chasm between presenting a gift to ingratiate yourself with someone and showing sincere respect for someone and through which to establish a relationship to benefit both of you.
Most organisations have guidelines for corporate gifts and it’s important that you are familiar with them. Unless you are careful, and if your motivation is out of step, the gift can be interpreted at worst as an attempt to leverage the relationship in an inappropriate way or at best as an expression of gratitude for the relationship.
A word of warning: never give gifts if you are tendering for work or engaged in some other competitive process. This can result in your company being excluded, risk you and your company’s reputation and open the possibility of legal action.
Our western business culture is not characterised as giving gifts, however, if done well and handled sensitively the practice can develop your corporate relationships and potentially open new opportunities.
Do your homework
CEOs should take time to research the cultural and personal context of the receiver and select a gift that suits both. Below are a few guidelines for selecting and presenting a gift.
- Check your motivation. Buying a gift to buy someone’s favour is transparent and will be quickly exposed.
- Do it yourself. As a CEO you are generally time poor. But asking your PA or someone else in your team to arrange the gift will not have the same impact. You need to have a connection with the item because at the end of the day, the gift is from you.
- Keep it nominal and appropriate. A gift must be suitable to the context. That’s where your research is vital. You do not want to embarrass the other person (or yourself) by offering a gift that suggests the receiver now has an obligation to you. Never give cash.
- Presenting the gift. Give value to the gift (beyond its price tag) by passing it to the recipient in a way that shows the other person also has value. This is an honouring moment and one that will help cement the relationship you are seeking to build.
- Know something about the gift. Being able to talk about the gift, pointing out its unique features shows even more thoughtfulness and engages the recipient personally and adds to the relationship you are building.
- And now you wait. The fruit of your gift may take time to ripen. Don’t expect a quick upturn in your sales volumes or new markets to open immediately. These things take time.
Your gift does not always have to involve a purchased item. It could be a simple, handwritten note of thanks for the invitation to a networking event, dinner or conference or a hard to get face-to-face meeting. Keep the note simple and sincere. Write it yourself on company letterhead or compliments slip. The personally written note says more about how you valued the opportunity and the person who provided it. It’s very old school and that’s why it works.
Finally, giving gifts means you are likely to receive them. Be a good receiver. If you aren’t already, learn to be so. Be delighted and thankful. Take time to unwrap and inspect the gift and ask questions about it. And … if you already have one of whatever it is, don’t say so. If the duplicate is on display, say that you have someone in mind who had always admired it and you can now pass it on and keep the new one.