3 Reasons Your Business Plan is Useless

5 Creative Ways Business Owners Can Give Thanks to Their Customers and Employees

Kathy Simpson

’Tis the season to be thankful and express our gratitude to others. Thanks extended regularly can generate good will and make your business memorable. And that can lead to more business with customers, greater productivity among employees and maybe even faster payments from your business partners.

Here are some small ways to give big thanks, and they don’t have to cost a lot.

Offer perks, prizes or pick-me-ups

Everyone likes a gift – especially when it’s unexpected. These ideas can be a win-win for the recipient and your business:

  • Gift cards, discount coupons and special deliveries for your customers or vendors reward loyalty, can help bring in repeat business, and are a good way to promote your services and products.
  • Employee rewards, whether tangible or not. A holiday bonus or even a small monetary gesture of appreciation can go a long way with employees. An extra (paid) day off around the holidays can also give time-pressed staff a much deserved break. Sometimes a little extra time is the most valuable.

Make it personal with a card or a call

If you are recognizing someone specific, make sure it’s sincere and timely. Expressing your thanks in writing or a personal phone call is one way to do just that. The person will know you took the time to go the extra mile.

“A handwritten note is a powerful tool for small businesses,” says Emily Carter, state director of the Connecticut Small Business Development Center. “Taking the time to follow up with a personal message will strengthen your relationship with customers and help you to stand apart from your competition.”

A phone call can do the same. With the prevalence of electronic communication, sometimes just hearing a real voice on the other end can have special meaning.

Give a shout-out social media style

Leveraging social media platforms, such as your company’s Facebook page or Twitter feed, is a great way to show public recognition to many people at once. Launch a mini thank-you campaign. Design and share a photo thanking your supporters. You could also post or tweet a list of the top ten things your business is thankful for.

Celebrate those who helped make the year a success

Holiday season usually means busy budget season for businesses. Planning festivities might be the last thing on your mind. But hosting an appreciation event doesn’t have to mean splashing out on a lavish soiree.

Consider these low-cost options for your employees:

  • Potluck it! A potluck party can be fun and inexpensive. Make your event employee-only and encourage everyone to make their favorite dish.
  • Wait until the offseason. You’ll be able to negotiate a better deal with popular holiday venues in January.

For your customers and vendors:

  • Host an open house. To help draw visitors, offer a main attraction, such as a wine tasting or raffle prizes for the first 50 customers.
  • Deliver a fruit basket, floral arrangement or holiday goodies to select clients.

A little goes a long way

However you choose to say thank you, remember this: gratitude is infectious and a little goes a long way. Plant the seeds of appreciation now and set the tone for a prosperous year.

What tips do you have on the best ways to say thanks? Share your ideas with us by posting a comment below.

35 Responses to "5 Creative Ways Business Owners Can Give Thanks to Their Customers and Employees"
    • Karen | November 7, 2017 at 6:12 pm

      As an employee, an invitation to a potluck from my employer is an insult. It says: “I don’t want to do any work or spend any money. Instead I want YOU to work, unpaid, and spend your own money to prepare for this party. Happy Holidays!”

    • Sheila | November 29, 2017 at 12:34 pm

      Wow. I didn’t think of it like that at all. As an employee, I actually like to get together with my co-workers in a non business setting to network in a less stressful environment. Of course, I’m thinking that the potluck is also with basics provided by my employer – our contributions would be supplementary, not the main dishes!

    • Starla | December 5, 2018 at 10:16 am

      I used to work for a company where we had regular potlucks and they were always so much fun! Usually the company would provide the main dish and basics (plates, utensils, paper products). They were a great way to build a team feeling among the employees as well as the employer. it was a smaller (15-25 full-time employees) family-owned business and most of us were long-time employees, so that may have made a difference in how we approached the potluck.

    • Darlene Lutty | December 12, 2018 at 11:10 am

      We go all-out for a nice Holiday dinner at a nearby winery for our employees and their significant others. We usually schedule potlucks in the Summer or Fall when we aren’t crazy busy. We order chicken and make pasta, while employees offer to make their favorite dips and deserts. Those that don’t care to cook will bring pop or buy a veggie tray. It only takes an hour or so, but it is a relaxing atmosphere that everyone seems to enjoy. We, too, are a small, close knit family run business…we rely on each other all year and this is a nice social break that we all look forward to.

      • Hannah Sullivan | December 12, 2018 at 2:28 pm

        Darlene, your employee outings sound so fun! Thanks for sharing.

    • Leslie Smith | December 19, 2018 at 11:43 am

      I don’t have employees but for committee meetings with volunteers or get-togethers with girlfriends, potlucks are so fun! I find that people like to show-off their kitchen prowess and their best recipes. A twist on the potluck is every person brings an item for a salad bar and as the host I would supply the greens and a basket of rolls, or bring a topping for baked potatoes.

      • Elizabeth Larkin | December 20, 2018 at 1:07 pm

        Thank you for your comment, Leslie.

    • Betsey Roberts | November 26, 2019 at 4:21 pm

      At our office, we generally take employees and spouses out to our favorite restaurant. Afterward, we meet back at the office to have dessert and coffee (potluck) to open presents. Families are invited. It’s a blast and no one is allowed to be on a diet.

    • Steve | November 26, 2019 at 10:20 pm

      Karen seems like a joy to work with, not sure I’d want her at the potluck anyway.
      We rarely do potluck but they are always well received and very fun.

    • Jacqueline Church | November 26, 2019 at 11:02 pm

      I’m with Karen: a department might have a potluck at someone’s house as a team thing. But for a COMPANY to ask the employees to fund and prepare their own event that’s supposed to be the EMPLOYER’S chance to thank the employees? Tacky. Sends all the wrong messages. Better to do nothing at all.

    • Alex | November 27, 2019 at 5:41 am

      I agree 100% with Karen. Potluck invitations during the Holidays, are insulting. I assure you Management is not doing a potluck anything during the Holidays. As she said, it says they don’t want to spend the time or money on their employees.

    • Bruce Gardner | November 27, 2019 at 6:14 am

      Just saying Thank you goes a long way. I make sure to thank everyone, including the people who sort the mail or cut the grass. I find a lot of enjoyment saying Thank you daily. It is fun to see the other person’s smile.

      • Chloe Silverman | November 27, 2019 at 7:09 am

        We agree! Thank you for commenting, Bruce!

    • Jeff | November 27, 2019 at 6:21 am

      As a small business owner with 26 employees they try to stay together as a family, one persons job always impacts another in the chain of workflow, we have had potlucks that the employees love, we supply the main dish and all the fixings and the employees bring small things to add their flare, everyone enjoys and relaxes, for some of my employees they don’t have much family so we are the surrogate and helps them enjoy the holiday season.

      • Chloe Silverman | November 27, 2019 at 7:09 am

        This sounds so nice! Thank you for the comment!

    • Cindy | November 27, 2019 at 7:53 am

      There is a place for a potluck gathering and they can be a lot of fun. But for an end-of-the-year or holiday get-together, I think it is nice for the employer to make the employees feel appreciated and to treat them. We always have a nice cocktail party with hearty apps and desserts at one of our local, popular restaurants. Our employees really appreciate the gesture and we feel like it is a nice gift for all they do for us throughout the year.

    • Lori Kleinschmidt | November 27, 2019 at 7:55 am

      As a nice way to thank the people who help our business run like clockwork we place a nicely boxed homemade (or bakery) cinnamon Apple coffee cake, and thank you card, on everyone’s desk the week before thanksgiving. It’s nice to receive a holiday treat before everyone is sick of sweets. It’s also a nice holiday breakfast if you have houseguests. We also thank our clients in a similar way. We do about 30 gifts each year.

    • Tom | November 27, 2019 at 8:29 am

      I have to agree with Karen 100% and a little surprised at the number of comments defending Potluck Dinners. Churches and entities like non profits who struggle to turn a profit or break even have events like this. As a business owner I would never let my team know that we’re having a company lunch or dinner and ask each of them to bring a dish to pass. That’s a lot to ask from your team who does so much to help your company grow. It says the boss or owner doesn’t want to part with his/her money and wants one more thing from you beyond what you already contribute on a daily basis.

      Let’s talk about good ideas here which some of you have commented and shared above. What I do is noted below.

      1. I give all of my employees a freshly harvested turkey before thanksgiving which is a small way of thanking each of them and also making their Thanksgiving dinner a little easier. I’m always surprised how everyone looks forward to this each year.
      2. The money we would have spent on a year end party is disbursed into holiday bonuses which everyone appreciates.
      3. Instead of our salary employees being forced to take unused vacation before the year end or loose it completely, which used to be our policy, I pay them each what they have left. So if they have two weeks left out of the four they get, they get a check for two weeks of pay. There’s nothing worse than working hard, not using your vacation time and then loosing it all together.
      4. We send out Thanksgiving Cards instead of Holiday Cards to customers and employees so they arrive before turkey day. No one really does this. You typically see everybody in the world sending Holiday Cards out but not Thanksgiving.

    • Teresa Kocher Bock | November 27, 2019 at 8:37 am

      My company does a Christmas potluck and provides the meat and drinks. The employees sign up to bring an appetizer, side dish or dessert and there are prizes for the best dish-voted on by their peers. I do not believe any employer is intending to be cheap or insult anyone by having a potluck. This is a way to get everyone involved and participating in the event and bring employees closer together.

      There is always something to be thankful for!

    • Herschel Thach | November 27, 2019 at 8:41 am

      Isn’t it amazing, you gave 7 suggestions and most of the comments surrounded food. I was thinking back to when I had employees and discovered the more I did as an employer the more complaints I had that I hadn’t done enough. My solution, I stopped. Today I use contract employees and they provide me with gifts showing their Thankfulness and Gratitude for the opportunity to serve. Amazing! I will never have employees again.

    • Cindy | November 27, 2019 at 8:51 am

      We have a staff of 13. We always host the Christmas party. I plan to do everything, but it never fails- others want to know what they can bring! So most times they will add appetizers and desserts. I’ll do everything else. I’ll have a game planned and a fun way to exchange gifts. We all look forward to the evening each year.
      I also plan quarterly birthday parties. I bring everything to the office- cake, chips/dips, cards and gifts.
      But there will be days during the year when nothing is being celebrated and someone will bring a snack. They just wanted to try something new or share something they had tried somewhere else.
      I guess we have embraced- “The way to your heart is through your stomach!” Lol

    • Lynn | November 27, 2019 at 9:06 am

      As a small business owner, you know how valuable your employees are. For the holidays we (my business partner & I) cater a lunch at the office, hand out bonuses in a Christmas Card, always telling each employee how much we appreciate everything they do for us. When everyone has had their fill, we send them home with the rest of the day paid. We do this on the 23rd or the last working day before the 24th. We also give the 24th as a paid day off. We also give the employees a paid day off for their birthdays, they can take the day whenever they want to, we either buy a cake or pizza (employees pick) for their birthday and a 50.00 gift card to their favorite restaurant, presented in a birthday card with a handwritten note in it. We find it important to do things throughout the year, not just at the holidays. A surprise small lunch or closing early with pay goes a long, long way.

    • Dan | November 27, 2019 at 11:17 am

      My employees throw their own potlucks for birthdays and special occasions. I will sponsor a barbeque lunch 3 to 4 times a year and once a month provide lunch for a well deserving department.
      If the employees want to have a company wide potluck and show off their culinary skills (yes Karen, the glass is sometimes half full not half empty) it’s completely up to them.

    • Cheryl Flury | November 27, 2019 at 11:20 am

      A pat on the back with a “thanks for being a loyal dedicated employee.. I know you’ve played a part in my success “ now that would go further ( I’d be even more delicated motivated and loyal) than a potluck ., a gift card or dinner. Just sayin boss.

    • Timmerle Kelly | November 27, 2019 at 11:22 am

      It’s interesting that out of all the wonderful ideas in the article, the one that jumped out at everyone, and almost the only one commented on here, is the one about potlucks. If we ignore that suggestion for a minute, extra paid-off days, depending on the industry, are always a favorite gift for employees. For clients, customers, vendors, and donors, hand-written notes that are personal and meaningful go a long way. Non-sales phone calls to thank a person and connect better relationally are also well-received. Good conversation starters – “Tell me about your holiday plans.” “What is your family’s favorite way to celebrate the holidays? “Where are you from originally?” “What is your favorite holiday memory?” Getting to know those we serve helps connect us better for the future.

    • Carolyn | November 27, 2019 at 1:11 pm

      We have a veterinary hospital with a small staff-under 20. Years ago we had them choose between a hosted dinner party and getting bonuses. They chose bonuses! Now as we have evolved to the present time we give the bonuses but also host a potluck. We rent the location, provide the main course, drinks, serving supplies, and some desserts. The employees enjoy being together in a non-stressful setting where they can relate to each other as just regular people. They enjoy showing off their favorite recipes. There is no pressure for the ones who prefer not to attend. It is a family event with gifts for the kids. We have done white elephant gift exchanges (hilarious) but normally do not have a gift exchange. This is fun and the employees actually look forward to it.

      • Chloe Silverman | November 27, 2019 at 8:16 pm

        Such great ideas! Thank you for sharing!

    • Jerry Arnold | November 27, 2019 at 1:53 pm

      Over the years with different jobs, some of the best memories were the at-work holiday potlucks!! We were at work anyway & this was a chance to see family traditions & foods from coworkers! It was a great team building experience. If you have to work thru the holidays, you might as well eat well!!

    • H Siwinski | November 27, 2019 at 2:09 pm

      Just want to say thank you for all the great ideas in the newsletters you send me. I know how much work goes into these and as a small, new business owner with limited time and money I really appreciate this extra service.
      Thank you!!!

      • Chloe Silverman | November 27, 2019 at 8:14 pm

        We are so glad to hear that you are enjoying these! Thank you for commenting!

    • Christiane Johnson | November 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      I do not have employees, but for my customers I have gift certificate with a drawing every other week, until Christmas, with the first one at Thanksgiving. Also each buying customer gets a little token in their bag: a little note pad in the form of a peach or a watermelon. It might not be much, but it is the thought that count and so far they all loved it.

    • Carrie | November 29, 2019 at 2:53 pm

      Pot-lucks do feel a little like extra work sometimes, and I have noticed the same people contribute and clean up. Monetary gifts are always welcomed, but as an office coordinator, extra time is precious. An extra day or a getting to leave at lunch time the day before the holiday can be a significant stress reducer.

    • Shirley | November 30, 2019 at 9:26 am

      We take our first shift (60) to a buffet for holiday lunch. Then second shift (28) has their dinner at the buffet later.
      They love it – choice of all kinds of food and desserts.
      No mess no clean up — I just pay the bill.

      • Chloe Silverman | December 2, 2019 at 7:17 am

        This sounds great! Thank you for the comment Shirley!

    • Lisa | December 3, 2019 at 4:06 pm

      We have a staff potluck every year since we started the company (10 years and counting). We do a potluck because everyone has their own interpretation of what food is and it assures them that there is at least one dish they can eat. We also chat, play a gift exchange game which everyone enjoys. As a small company, I think everyone would rather do a potluck than go out of business for the company to host a holiday extravaganza. Of course, we also go out of our way to be kind, thank each other every day for the work we do and to support each other. Which is so important always, but especially in the day and time. To know you’re appreciated, people look forward to seeing you and spend time together can be very heart warming. My staff love what they do and we all have fun doing it. That wouldn’t be possible without appreciation, why just provide that on one day? Then a potluck doesn’t seem so nasty as to say bring your own food. For those of you who host the whole shebang, next time you have a party, look around you and see who is actually taking in the entire event. I’m sure there will be some that didn’t get to enjoy what was being served, whether due to food allergies, etc.

2 Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Disclaimer: Comments are subject to moderation and removal without cause or justification and may take up to 24 hours to be seen in comments. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Please do not include personal policy information; if you have questions or concerns regarding your policy with The Hartford, please log into your account or you can speak directly to a Customer Service Representative.