The philosopher Aesop once said: "No act of kindness, however small is ever wasted."
Many years ago, our poor young family was struggling at Christmas time. We had been married five years, had three children and finances were at the top of our mind. Some thoughtful individuals (we only learned who they were 38 years later) surprised us with six bags of desperately needed groceries dropped anonymously on our doorstep. It was an incredibly thoughtful gift and one our family (now numbering 25) has never forgotten. We do our best each year at this time to pay it forward.
As I reflect on that, I realize that each of us has been blessed in our business lives by an individual who went out of their way to give a gift that was meaningful to our career. At this time of holiday gift giving, here are my top 10 recommendations for presents to consider giving a business colleague:
1. A Referral - Every Company is looking for a way to grow. Introduce your business colleague to a new strategic partnership.
2. A Job Offer - I will forever be grateful to Jim Waldorf of Irsfield, Irsfield and Younger for giving me my first job in law.
3. A Terrific Business Book - Someone once gave me the book Blueprint to a Billion, and it has become part of how I build businesses.
4. A Thoughtful Christmas Card - Take the time to make a list of the ten business people with whom you would like to develop a relationship. Send them a Christmas card with a special message personally written by you expressing your appreciation for their example and skill.
5. A Gift of Mentorship - When a young person asks to take you to lunch to pick your brain on something, go. Be generous with your time.
6. A Recommendation on LinkedIn - It is easy to simply click "endorse" on LinkedIn. What is far more meaningful to someone is to take the time to write a paragraph or two for the entire world to see on why you admire them.
7. Meaningful Comments on a Facebook Post or a Well-Considered Reply to Someone's Tweet - It is really easy to click on "Like" or "Favorite". It becomes special when someone goes the extra mile to comment on your Facebook post or your tweet with a sentence or two of meaningful commentary.
8. A Gift That Reflects the Passion of the Receiver - Someone once surprised me by dropping a new set of golf clubs on my doorstep for a small kindness I had done for them. While the giver was not a golfer, it was clear that they were sincere and considerate as they thought about what I might enjoy.
9. Tickets or a Gift Card to a Restaurant, Opera or Ball Game - whatever the receiver would like best - Think back on a conversation you had with your business colleague. Make the gift special for them.
10. For Fun, A Corporate Decision Maker - a stainless steel engraveable device that can be spun to help guide one's business choices.
Here are some other thoughts to help you think outside the normal gift box. Make sure your gift reflects the fact that you are thinking about them first and foremost. Scratch your brain and think back on a discussion you had with your business associate. Did they mention travel to the Greek Isles? A particular restaurant they loved? A basketball team that was their favorite? A song that they loved?
Martin Luther King, Jr once said: "Everybody can be great... because anyone can serve." Regardless of your circumstance in life, you have the capacity to bless the life of another through service. One form of service is giving a meaningful gift at this time of year.
Take the time to think deeply about what your gift will mean to them. Make it exclusive -- something that would be special to them and not necessarily someone else. As you make another feel appreciated through your gift giving, your relationship with your business contact will be changed for the better. Trust will form. And when Trust forms the relationship will be cemented in important ways.