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Give a personalized gift to clients this Christmas


Everyone gripes about the commercialization of Christmas, but those Christmas displays popping up in the windows of mall stores remind small-business owners that it's time to decide what to give their clients and customers for the holidays this year.

With budgets tight, it's more important than ever to make wise and thoughtful gift decisions. And, by planning ahead, you not only save money, but are assured of the widest selection of gifts to choose from.

The amount of money you spend is not as important as selecting a gift that pleases a variety of people and makes a positive and lasting impression.

"You want to choose and give a gift based on what it will do for your company," advises Gloria Speen, chief executive officer of Creative Promotional Services in Van Nuys, Calif.

Ms. Speen and her husband, Jerry, a former corporate executive, discourage business owners from giving impersonal food gifts such as turkeys or supermarket gift certificates.

"One big company we worked with switched from gifts to supermarket gift certificates one year," said Gloria Speen. "When we talked with employees after the holidays, several told us they hadn't received anything from the company because they had forgotten about the certificate."

Ms. Speen, who opened the business because she enjoyed choosing gifts for her husband's business associates, prefers personalized business gifts because "people never throw away anything with their name on it."

There is an endless array of business gifts on the market today. Inexpensive gifts include coffee mugs, pens and paper cubes. Crystal paperweights, monogrammed bathrobes and leather portfolios are geared toward executive gift-giving.

Here are some tips for holiday gift-giving:

1. First decide whether you want to give a personal or business-oriented gift.

2. Choose something that you would like to receive.

3. Don't delegate this project to your assistant or purchasing manager. This is a gift from you, the business owner.

4. Know as much you can about your customers and clients so you choose an appropriate gift.

5. Set a reasonable budget and stick to it.

If you are keen on giving an edible gift, consider something more unique than a frozen turkey.

Sweet Impressions Inc., in Santa Clarita, Calif., makes personalized boxes and fills them with a variety of candy. The boxes feature company logos or an appropriate message and cost between $5 and $12 each.

"It's a real surprise when it arrives," said Mitchell Schwartz, who bought the company two and half years ago after retiring from his family's plastics business. Schwartz said. Clients include Midas Mufflers, Apple One (a Southern California-based employment agency), car dealers around the country and a fire extinguisher company that sends boxes of candy to clients after recharging their extinguishers. "The candy is secondary," Mr. Schwartz said. "We are really selling your name."

(For information call Sweet Impressions at (800) 323-8037.)

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Buried in junk mail? The Consumer Resource Institute, a consumer advocate organization, has created a new "Office Anti Junk Mail Kit."

It includes information on how to get off unwanted mailing lists and how to stay on mailing lists you want.

For a kit, send a check or money order to the Consumer Resource Institute, Dept. OJM-10, P.O. Box 2180, Mill Valley, Calif. 94942.

(For a free copy of Jane Applegate's Small Business Owner's Resource Guide send a 29-cent stamped, self-addressed envelope to Jane Applegate, P.O. Box 637, Sun Valley, Calif. 91353.)

(Jane Applegate is a syndicated columnist and author. Write to her through the Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.)

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