Provide the personal touch

Provide the personal touch

Find the perfect business gift this season by keeping corporate ethics and etiquette in mind.

Min Chen
The Sunday Times
Nov 22, 2015

GIVING gifts during the holiday season is a popular and thoughtful way to show appreciation to your clients, colleagues and business partners, but it can also be a tricky concept.

Besides having to find a great corporate gift, ethical considerations and etiquette also come into play.

Too lavish a gift may go against a company’s gift policy, and gifting impersonal items like office supplies imprinted with a business logo might come across as an off-hand gesture.

It is also important for employers to differentiate between a gift and an incentive: the latter rewards hard work and good results, while the former is offered without prerequisites and out of goodwill.

Though corporate gift giving does often work towards strengthening business ties and office relations, it should nonetheless be a well thought out and heartfelt action that is in keeping with the spirit of the season.

As you draw up your corporate gift list this Christmas, here are some pointers to get the perfect
business present.

Do your homework

While preparing your corporate gift strategy, check with your intended recipients if their company has policies about receiving business gifts.

Some companies put limits on the price or value of a corporate gift and the context in which a gift is proffered, while others prohibit them entirely. Determining these restrictions will avoid any awkward situations for your recipients and help you make a better impression with your gift giving.

When it comes to clients and partners, a corporate gift should appropriately reflect the business

Consider not the number or dollar value of business transactions made, but the rapport you have with the recipients and their attitude towards you.

Close relationships allow you to shop for a more personal item, but if your connection with a client has been mostly businesslike, make sure your gift isn’t overly presumptuous.

As a rule-of-thumb, steer clear of extravagant gifts like cars, lest they go against a company’s corporate gift policy or be misinterpreted as a bribe. And of course, items of a more personal nature like clothing, jewellery or lingerie are totally inappropriate.

Keep it practical

Before heading out to shop, get a good gauge of your company’s corporate gift budget to avoid splashing out on costly items.

At the same time, do not compromise on the quality of a gift, as it may reflect badly on the image of your company.

If you are on a tight budget, refrain from buying a second-rate gift and instead, plan for small, personal tokens of higher quality. If you are stumped for gift ideas, go for practicality.

The most functional of corporate gift options are work-related items, such as calendars, pen sets and journals. Ensure that they are logo-free and not tacky.

Other practical favourites are food hampers or wine baskets, with which you can win hearts as well as tummies, and gift cards, which allow recipients to choose their own gifts.

For a more unique twist, consider gifting a subscription box service, which is easily tailored to a recipient’s likes and style.

Show value

However long your corporate gift list is, be careful to not be too impersonal in buying, packaging and delivering your gifts.

If possible, buy gifts that echo the interests and personality of your recipient to show how much you value your relationship.

Avoid gifting your company’s customised stationery or premiums carrying its logo. Besides being impersonal, they may be seen as self-promotion.

Also take special care when packaging the gift and if you are including a card, write a personal note.

Finally, show your sincerity by delivering your gift in person.

This article was first published on November 22, 2015.
Get a copy of The Sunday Times or go to for more stories.