Sunday, January 29, 2006

Appropriate Professional Gifts

Keith Blanton who recently heard me speak at the National Association of Patent Practitioners ( wrote me the following question:

Hello David,
I enjoyed your presentation at the recent NAPP meeting very much. I have some people I would like to send a little token of my appreciation and would be interested if you had a sample list of gifts you typically send out to professional contacts. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thank you, Keith

Professional gifts require a good deal of discretion. Beyond corporate guidelines based on legality of professional gifts, an item’s price, the frequency of gifts recieved, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, etc, there are 3 rules I recommend for appropriate professional gift given:

1. Make certain it’s appropriate & in good taste – I’ve never liked trinkets or “gag” gifts – what’s the point? In general stay away from personal items, i.e. clothing, personal effects & toiletry. Concentrate on what that personal could professionally use? What would they like in their office that would (in a positive manner) remind them of your relationship (can’t go wrong with Tiffany’s Corp Gifts)? For example, I recently saw a CFO take notes at a function on 3x5 personalized card, in a nice leather holder, on the other side of which, he kept his business cards – and the whole thing fit nicely in a suite coat pocket - how practical.

2. Personalize it – if it’s worth doing, do it right. What have you heard them talk about that gives them joy? What do they like doing outside of work. If the person is a big hockey fan, get them hockey tickets. If they’re into the theater, invite them out to a play. We all have outside interests & passions. A) by giving a personalized gift, you illustrate that you DO listen, and b) you make the experience that much more memorable. Also, beyond physical gifts people also appreciate experiences, i.e. a day at Road Atlanta Racing School, a Cooking Class, The Kentucky Derby, or an Atlanta Falcon’s Game. Instead of giving something, why not invite them out to join you for an event that you know they would appreciate.

3. It’s never about the price – it’s the thought that counts, so make each gift giving opportunity, a reason to make a real connection. In 2002 I was at the site of the World Trade Center tragedy in NYC. In a small shop, I found these very unique lapel pins – bought all 10 that the store had, and sent 8 of them to decorated military veterans who are personal friends with a note that read, “Saw this and though of your patriotism and service to this great country. Let us never forget 9/11. David.” Your gifts don’t have to be that dramatic; my point is that the pins were $10 each, but the impact of the personalized note made them priceless.

I also really like to bring unique items back from my personal travels. A small lantern from Turkey, a carved wooden smile from Bali, a hand made picture frame from Iran - all personal, all inexpensive, all grand gestures to the recipients.

Give professional gifts to the relationships you value the most, or the ones you’d like to invest in. Get something simple, personalize a handwritten note, and expect nothing in return. If you can truly touch the people in your life, it will make a greater impact than you’ve ever imagined.

Build Relationships with a Greater Purpose!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Simple NOT to-dos in 2006!

Happy New Year!

I genuinely believe we can learn a great deal from relationships that didn’t turn out as we had hoped or expected, mistakes we made in engaging others, or things we said in our daily interactions that we would have much preferred to had taken back if we could.

As such, here are the top 10 list of what NOT to do in 2006 when it comes to your efforts to build and nurture real relationships.

1. STOP sending out blank holiday cards; they’re useless! If the point is to remind them that you’re thinking of them, personalize it by including an updated picture of yourself, your family, or adding a simple note about what you accomplished in 2005, and please – make those notes interesting!

2. DON’T mass mail anything – personalize every correspondence; you’ll make that much more of an impact. If it’s worth doing, take the time to do it right for a smaller, but highly targeted group.

3. DON’T ask anyone to give you access to relationships they’ve worked decades to build, until you’ve earned that privilege! Remember, it’s a lot easier to ask for a withdrawal after you’ve made a deposit. Find out what’s of value / interest to them – if they get the value of a relationship, they’ll find a way to reciprocate.

4. DON’T be anyone other than yourself! People can see right through a “manufactured” or insincere effort. Take good ideas from every possible source, and make them yours.

5. DON’T waste a single day; you’ll never know when it’ll be your last! It’s amazing even in 2005, how many people are having incredibility superficial interactions on a daily basis. Life is too short – ask intelligent questions to engage others and find out what they really care about and what’s on their radar for 2006.

6. STOP trying to keep up with the Joneses – I recently heard a great line: we spend the money we don’t have, buying things we don’t need, to impress the people we don’t like! Invest in fewer but real relationships today for an amazing portfolio with great dividends for years to come.

7. DON’T let your ego get in the way of a great relationship! Take the higher road and apologize for any misunderstandings, miscommunications, or misperceptions, even if it was their fault, mistake, or misstep.

8. DON’T keep score. Doing for others doesn’t have to come with an agenda or a quid-pro-quo expectation. Those who get the value of a relationship will find a way to reciprocate; those who don’t, you don’t need to continue to invest in.

9. DON’T let friendships you’ve worked hard to build, fade! Find value-added reasons to stay in touch by sending articles, useful reference materials, schedule monthly gatherings of like-minded people, or make it a point to constantly introduce people who could be an asset to one another.

10. DON’T feel like you have to do all of this on your own. Find a mentor, become a mentor, put together a mastermind group, join a new organization where you can learn from others, get politically involved in this year of elections, take up an active role in your favorite association, but make sure 2006 is a year where you made a difference!

Build Relationships, One At a Time!
Best to you in 2006,

Saturday, December 17, 2005

What a Blessing! And about Holiday Cards...

One of the most incredibly rewarding aspects of speaking around the country is getting emails like the ones below from amazing people you’re blessed to meet every day. Many people would simply say – that’s nice, and move on. When possible, I actually like to pick up the phone and call great people like Frak and Ruth and not only say thank you for the kind note, but how moved I continue to be by your kindness and how delighted I am that you’ve found the RelationshipEconomics™ content of value and interest.

Hi David, I really enjoyed the speech you gave at Scientific Atlanta this morning about Social Networking and building contacts. I didn't get a chance to talk to you afterwards but I just wanted to let you know how eye-opening your presentation was to me. I look forward to attending more of your presentations in the future. All the best, Frak

Dear David, I wanted to thank you for sharing your views on Relationship Currency. I have been thinking about your presentation ever since I've heard it. You have empowered me to seek a mentor and create a plan. For years I have worked with key executives and with a diverse group. I have always believed in going above and beyond to provide quality customer service, therefore establishing a deal of deposits and maintaining a well known reputation. I have in my time made withdrawals but after listening to you realize that I have no plan. I have been driven by my work ethics and just seized the moment when I saw that my relationships could be used to my benefit when needed. You definitely have a gift and I look forward to learning further about your concept of Relationship Currency in January 2006. Happy Holidays! Ruth

Here is the R$ Tip of the day – STOP sending out generic holiday cards. I cringe when a handful of them show up in the mail every day with simply a company name – no note, no pictures, no signature, no idea who this person or company is!! In short – no soul! We’re loosing our ability to touch people. Not just attach a crooked label and run it through the postage meter, but really reach out and touch people. Conversely, a long-time personal friend, Mike (she) Johnson has a) always hand-made her holiday cards, and b) always includes a state of the union note with pictures – amazing how fast kids grow up!

Focus your holiday wishes on the relationships you value the most. Pick 10 people you really care about and do something specific for them. Send something personalized; uniquely YOU! And sign it:

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Quanza, and Assalam o alaikum

Thursday, December 15, 2005

RelationshipEconomics in Action! Meet Willie...

We all hear good ideas often and have even gotten fairly good at making "to-do" lists, with all the right intentions, but how often do you really act on them?

I had the honor and privilege to speak to a great group at Scientific-Atlanta this week. As I often do, I asked an unsuspecting audience member to stand up and asked the crowd how many people really knew him. Below is his note of taking action on just some of the good ideas he heard during our time together - which has to be one of the amazing gifts you get as a professional speaker. Here is kudos to one of my new friends, Willie - BTW, we're all going to his house for dinner soon, and bringing a friend :-) :

Hello David,

I'm the "Willie" you met and introduced to my fellow employees at Scientific Atlanta on Wednesday (12/14/05). I decided to follow through with some of your "to do" list items (with his invite to me on LinkedIn). I do plan to take the course you will be conducting on site in January.

Your talk hit home on a number of accounts, as I have been lately contemplating my current position, my future and opportunities for advancement. Currently a software engineer, I have been hoping to obtain a position that requires me to interact with people more consistently. I do look forward to taking your workshop.

Best wishes to you and your family this advent season.


There is a vast difference between thinking about and making lists of all of the great relationships you could have, vs. putting an actionable plan together to go out there and make it happen. Here is a quick hint for you:

3-30, 3-60, 3-90
  • Focus on building 3 new relationships over the next 30 days
  • Invest in 3 existing relationships and focus on elevating them on your Quality Pyramid (you have to come hear the speech or sit through a workshop!) over the next 60 days
  • Leverage 3 relationships towards one of your quantifiable goals over the next 90-days

Build, Invest, Leverage

Live a relationship-centered life!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Incredible Value of Candor in a Real Relationship!

“A remarkable absence of candor in the workplace represents one of the most significant obstacles to companies' success”, said Jack Welch at a recent Stanford Graduate School of Business gathering. "In a bureaucracy, people are afraid to speak out. This type of environment slows you down, and it doesn't improve the workplace." Instead, Welch called for developing a corporate culture that encourages and rewards honest feedback. "You reinforce the behaviors that you reward," he explained. "If you reward candor, you'll get it."

Ed King, a newly found friend who also runs Turning Point Strategies, a brand makeover company, sent out this note today – those who know me will attest to my love of candor! Ed - Well Done!

Delta Translator

Earlier this year, I sent an email to Delta Airline's customer service (about getting SkyMiles credit on a recent flight). Here is the automatic response I received via email: "Thank you for taking the time to get in touch with us. We appreciate every opportunity to listen to our customers and act upon what we hear. Our response to your e-mail may take a little longer than usual due to the high number of customers who have contacted us recently. In the meantime, thanks for your patience. As this is an automatically generated message, please do not reply."

Here's what it really means:

"Thank you for emailing us and not calling us. It's cheaper for us this way. Our understaffed contact center will get to your concern regarding [insert pressing issue here] after they've sorted through the more important emails. In fact, we may not get back to you for a while. You see, our company is hemorrhaging more than $2 billion per quarter, and we simply cannot spend money on things such as 'customer service'. In the meantime, you might want to look at getting an AirTran A+ Rewards membership. That airline actually makes money. As this is an automatically generated message, and has absolutely no personal touch, please do not reply."

Customer service isn't generated at the expense of profits. Profits come from the investment in customer service.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Passion as Your Fuel

Received this kind note from my good friend Cathy Chandler, who is the CFO at Liaison Technologies after my presentation to her TEC (The Executive Committee) group. It made me smile.

Your presentation went great! The feedback was very positive. From a personal viewpoint, I have attended several sessions in the past on this topic and this one blew them all away! Very well organized with good takeaways. Also, I have been attending TEC sessions for several years now. This one compares very favorably to what I have seen - and they have some awesome speakers on their circuit. I think you hit a home run.

I also think you have found your niche. I've always thought you were the master at this. The fact that you were able to add so many personal examples of what you do really added to the content. People could see that you live this and that you are passionate about it.
Find your passion, package it and share it with the World!
Enjoy the weekend,

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Relationship Entitlement

Having a cup of latte at my favorite Disco Kroger Starbucks this morning, I was reminded of Howard Schultz, the Chairman’s comments that "Success is not an entitlement. It has to be earned." And I thought about how some people believe relationships are an entitlement due to their company’s organization structure! A relationship is not driven by professional dictatorship or a customer / vendor interaction. Just because someone reports to you, or you buy from them, (or vice versa for that matter) doesn’t entitle you to a relationship.

A trustworthy, reciprocal relationship takes a personal commitment, time, and a genuine effort to invest in others – what’s important to them, what’s of value to them, where are they struggling or could improve their daily lives, how are they measured or compensated? By focusing on the needs of the others and helping them fulfill those needs, you create a sense of reciprocity in others and those who get the value of a relationship will find a way to become an asset to you as well.

Get to really know the people you work with everyday. We pass these people in the hallways, the corporate cafeteria, and in countless conference calls and meetings throughout the day, the week, the month, and year after year, but we seldom make an attempt to connect with any of them! Phil has been disconnected from this project for the past month – do you know his wife was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness? John’s son is coming home from college this summer and is really looking for an internship – can you make an introduction or do you even know he has a son! Get beyond proposals and contracts and get to know and deal with the individuals and help them experience the quantifiable value of a longer-term relationship.

Don’t assume you’re entitled to any relationship – earn it every day and expect the same from others!

Make it a great day,