Earl Fay gave me this American Flag back in 2007. It flew over Baghdad during the first Gulf War when Earl was a crew chief on a US attack aircraft. I guess they do things like that in the military; put US flags in the cockpit with the pilot when he goes into combat. Well, it was a real prize when he handed it to me. I had just done some training for Earl’s Sales team and he was expressing his gratitude for the training. The money I earned was nice but his gift of this flag was really special. Earl has told me several times to fly this flag but I prefer to keep it on my bookshelf in my office. I don’t want to fly it outside where the elements will erode it. I want to save it. It’s one of my favorite keepsakes.
And what do you think my opinion of Earl is? He is practically a hero of mine – he IS a hero! He gave me something of himself. Didn’t Emerson say: “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself”. Earl is a very patriotic American and I’m more patriotic just having his flag here. If Earl Fay were to call me up and ask for a big favor, what do you think I would do? I would rearrange everything, pay almost any price to help him. If Earl was selling something, do you think I would buy it? You bet I would. Even if the price was a little higher or it was more inconvenient. I feel very indebted to Earl in a very good way. I want to repay his great favor. That is the power of gifts.
Gifts that include “a portion of thyself” are the best kind. This is true of business gifts and personal gifts but I really want to focus on business gift giving. Business gifts are …good for business. They help create and maintain strong relationships. They open doors for you with prospects. They communicate good will.
But only if the gift is genuine. Some gifts are bribes. That is insulting. Imagine a husband giving his wife a gift as a bribe. That’s not going to work. Other gifts are “quid pro quo” which is very much like a bribe but more prearranged. The giver knows without a doubt that his gift is expected as part of the deal. These arrangements are not good gifts. Avoid them.
When thinking about gift giving, think about what you have in common with the other person. The best ideas are things of very low monetary value but great personal value. Earl’s flag probably has about a $10 value on Craigslist even though I wouldn’t part with it for thousands. Sometimes company policies prevent gift giving specifically to eliminate quid pro quo and bribes. But they don’t usually prevent the kind of gifts Emerson was referring to.
So, become a good gift giver. Enrich your personal and professional life with gifts. Strengthen your bond with people and make their lives better. And be prepared to receive more than you give.