Bah, Humbug! Be original this holiday

Over the years past, I have had a great deal of difficulty with this holiday season — not because of the holiday, but because of the commercialization of the holiday.

There are so many people who have enabled me to be successful; it would be impossible to thank them all, individually and with an appropriate gift at this time of year.  I was raised with a unique philosophy:  “If you don’t recognize me during the year, don’t bother me on my birthday.” (You can translate that: “Don’t give me a gift for the holiday unless you mean it and unless we have an on-going relationship during the year. I’d much prefer a lower legal fee.”

You may think this is extreme; I think there is merit in the idea that a holiday or once a year is not really effective to recognize the value to you of the people for whom you care or without whom you would be less successful.

I like Mark’s comments this month in his “The Maraia Minutes Newsletter” Vol. 9 Issue 12, December, 2006,  concerning holiday cards.  With his permission, I quote the following segment from his commentary:

“Holiday Card

The topic of holiday cards has earned its own discussion. Have you ever received a holiday card from a friend or valued business colleague, looked at the address on the envelope and been excited to see what was inside only to find a simple signature? Maybe I still carry child-like holiday expectations, but I am disappointed, sometimes confused, and at the least uninspired when that happens to me. What message does this simple action unintentionally send? Hasn’t a client who spends six figures in legal fees earned the time it takes for you to write something that says you value the relationship?

Clients have reported to us the common practice of laying out a series of holiday cards grouped by clients in their boardrooms, and having their partners start at one end of the table to sign each card down the line. We would call this assembly line sentiment.

While we could speculate endlessly as to the impact just sending a card with only a signature on it has on its recipient, we would like to encourage something more. Will you consider writing a personal note and putting more than your ‘paw print’ on your holiday greeting?

What to say? First, it must be in your own words, authentic and truthful.
Beyond that, you may consider highlighting the following: Why the relationship is valuable to you; What impact has knowing the individual had on you and your practice?; What makes them unique or enjoyable to work with?; What you would like to achieve together with them next year?; or A specific wish for the person based upon your knowledge of their personal needs or goals. You might also include something personal about you – mention your family, your holiday plans, what the holidays mean to you, etc. This is easy to duplicate, yet still adds a personal touch that allows the recipient to get to know you a little better and acknowledges that they are already an “insider” with you. How would you react to receiving a note like this?

One innovative client this year has indicated his plan to include a response card within his holiday card. It will provide his client the opportunity to recommend a local charity to which the lawyer will make a $50 donation in the name of his client. This is a fresh and memorable idea, certainly one that moves beyond the commonplace gift of a box of golf balls or a restaurant guide.

So, this year, if it is a card, personalize it. If you are sending a small gift, know that it is something your client wants, and if you can personally deliver your gift or make a unique holiday phone call to supplement your note, do so. Let your VIPs know they are very important to you!”

Mark Maraia is the author of Rainmaking Made Simple: What Every Professional Must Know.  See other of Mark’s newsletters at his website.


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