Image

Over the river and through the woods, to the contractor's office we go...

Here it is, the holiday season, again. Where did this year go? I'm still trying to file my summer expense reports.

Even with all of the holiday hassles, I find the next few weeks to be one of the most enjoyable periods of the year. Although we give the gifts of golf outings, lunches, dinners, and other thank you's during the course of the year, we still feel it's necessary to give a little something extra this time of the year as a token of our appreciation for people's business.

Even though I'm filled with the spirit, I'm also challenged by just how much to spend. It seems that a lot of larger customers have enacted rules regarding accepting gifts. These new rules have caused me to plan more effectively.

Helping the new guy

I've never really spent too much money on expensive gifts for my customers, because if you do, they might come to expect it. Most of the time, for the regulars I have serviced over the years, I try to give something that is practical, and something they will enjoy using in the months to come.

One of my counterparts in our stone division asked how I got by with this. I simply answered, “I tell the customers that we spend most of our money trying to make sure that we give them a good product, speedy service, and on-time deliveries.” I've even told them that we sell them the product at a lower profit margin so they can make more money themselves.

I did that occasionally to help some of the smaller guys when they got started. Heck, everyone has to start somewhere. It wasn't my goal, but most reciprocated by continuing to do business with me for many years afterward, and not because of deflated prices either.

I walked into a very good customer's office recently, and as we were talking about a couple of jobs that he had coming up, he pulled a small calculator out of his desk to figure the approximate yardages.

I asked to see the calculator when I realized that it was one that I gave him as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. When I asked about it, he told me that was one of the handiest things that he had received over the years. I told him I was glad to see that he was still using it and that the reason I handed it out that year was we were a little short on sales and that the calculator actually figured about 8% more concrete than he actually needed on the jobs.

“Good,” he said. “So can I expect an 8% rebate on all of the money I have spent with you since then?” We both got a good laugh.

Sometimes, we forget the true meaning of the season. We should give gifts to show appreciation for what people have done with us—not for what we can expect in the future.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from As The Drum Turns.

jimambrose@aol.com

Have you given a great, appropriate, long-lasting gift to a client? Share the idea with our readers. E-mail me and I'll send a 2007 World of Concrete baseball cap to the five best gift ideas.