corporate_gift_baskets.jpg

5 years of giving and receiving corporate gift baskets

It’s 10am and a new potential vendor comes into my office to present new local products for our gourmet gift baskets. The coffee is brewing and wafts through our space as a slight breeze comes through the open 2nd story garage door. Our new staff member settles into her desk, which had just been set up for her first day of work.

This is a pivotal time, because this month marked our 5th anniversary as a business.

The story of the Saul Good Gift Co. began in the summer of 2006. I had taken some time off work during the summer break from my MBA and was rethinking my work at a non-profit organization in Vancouver.

I had gained a lot of experience researching sustainable business but felt it was time to stop talking and make something happen.

I had taken on a lot! 30 hours a week at work with a commute to outer suburbia, 25 hours of school and a long distance relationship. What was I thinking when I decided to start a corporate gift baskets business? I thought it was going to be easy.

Although, I knew it was crazy to take it on, I knew that something good would come from it. At a minimum I’d apply some knowledge from school. I was confident that there was a real opportunity to add value to gift baskets. After all, most gift baskets kind of suck!

Flash forward to September 1st, 2011. The Saul Good team has been growing and so was the crowd of people coming together around me that morning.

I’m not often told what to do but was instructed to take a seat in a chair in front of the group. We’ve been privileged enough to share office and warehouse space with a community minded complimentary business, Eclipse Awards for three of the last 5 years. Given their focus on recognition awards we share similarity with corporate gifts yet are different enough to not directly compete. All of their staff, and ours, were gathered around. Not to mention that new vendor. I really had no idea what was about to happen.

Saul_Good_Birthday_Gift_Basket

I was presented with an award for having reached 5 years in business, personally customized and etched into a beautiful recycled glass recognition award. It was more than something nice to sit on our shelf. It was the thought and words spoken to me, in front of my team and colaegues, that made me feel special. I had accomplished something significant!

Business isn’t easy, that’s for sure. Although we’re only 5 years young, we’re also 5 years old! I set out to learn something and that’s most definitely been achieved. Here are a few things I’ve taken away that seem relevant, not only to business but also to life every day.

1) It’s all about relationships. There’s only so much any one person can do by oneself. Asking for help and empowering people to participate and contribute is key for a team to achieve their goals. Having a reliable network of people that have expertise complimentary to your team’s gets things done. And done well. Without that you’re all alone. Alone is isolated. It’s disconnected. You might think you can do things better than everyone else but chances are you’re missing out on something. It’s more fun to share.

2) Do things right the first time. Taking short-cuts is tempting. Growing a business on a bootstrap means making more from less. It’s easy to get into the mindset to always say no when it comes to spending money. Maybe its cash you don’t have. Nonetheless its important to understand that if you don’t do things right, and they’re important, then you will end up doing it again. You’ll pay either way and might as well do it right the first time (also see Rule #1, something I learned in year 2).

3) Fail harder. Mistakes are going to happen and when they do, we need to embrace them. Learn from everything you do and figure out ways to simplify the way you do things. The next time will be easier for everyone, more efficient and more profitable. Create a culture that is supportive, addresses problems upfront and allows mistakes rise to the surface.

4) Make sure you’re LTD. Having a good lawyer is important but I’m not talking about incorporating your company. Living The Dream (LTD) is a state of mind achieved when you’re working hard doing something you love to do. Things will come up that you don’t want to or like to do but you need to get stuff done (GSD). There’s a lot to do, don’t complain about it or feel bad for yourself or you might be violating rule # 1 (see above).

Recognition is clearly a powerful tool. It empowers and reinforces goodwill and a healthy corporate culture. It helps to make people feel valued and part of the team. I never thought I’d be running a corporate gift basket business, and for 5 years at that! It could have ended up as a school project report on a shelf. Instead it’s become something I passionately wake up to each and every day. My story starts and ends with a gift. I hope there’s one in there for you as well.