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Op/ed: It pays to show gratitude in business relationships

By   /   Friday, September 19th, 2014  /   Comments Off on Op/ed: It pays to show gratitude in business relationships

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By Scott Harris

“We were very impressed and pleased with the work your team did with the video. The results were truly amazing! We know that it took a huge effort (extra effort) on the parts of many, and we would like to honor the folks who made critical contributions with a small recognition gift. Can you get me a list of names and places they like to shop (or eat)? I was going to do flowers, but figured the guys may not like that so much.”

That was in an email I received recently. It came from a client who was obviously happy with the effort, and results, of a high-visibility video project we completed for them. The timeframe was very short and the project deadline was completely inflexible. My staff was paid for their time and for the overtime that occurred as a result of the rush. The client paid our fees (including rush charges) promptly and we made a very fair profit.

I share this story because the email I received is so unusual. It is not an email that is sent from one company to another, but rather from people to people. Our client took the time to acknowledge that the team worked evenings and weekends to get this done. They were grateful for the effort and went above and beyond to show their gratitude. It is fair to say that the gift certificates (regardless of dollar amounts) will go much further than the profit earned and the overtime paid to motivate the team.

Imagine the next time this client needs a little something extra: The staff will jump through hoops to make sure they get what they need. Not because they’re hoping for another free Subway sandwich, but because they are human beings and enjoy, crave and need to be recognized. We all do.

This is important, because vendor relations are one of the most under-utilized or mismanaged tools available. Many think that the only thing required in managing vendors is to get the lowest price possible while pushing at deadlines, often set with no clear reason or purpose. To take the opposite tact — paying a fair price and going above and beyond in rewarding the vendor’s extra effort and good results — ensures that they next time they call, they’ll be treated like royalty.

I understand the argument that if you’re paid to do a job, that should be enough. And you’re right, it should. However, it’s never just “a” job. My firm is fortunate enough to complete a consistently steady stream of work for multiple clients, so when one client takes a little time and effort to show its appreciation, it stands out and is remembered. When the returns are potentially so great for a gesture of gratitude, it’s simply a good business investment to do so. Plus, it’s just a nice thing to do.

I also understand the philosophy that all clients and customers are equal, but in truth, we all know that’s not always the case. Some clients are better than others — they are more profitable, easier to work with, and are, quite simply, nicer people. And to think that these nice customers, who vendors enjoy working with, won’t be met with more enthusiasm and attention denies human nature.

Many of us, especially in service industries, give gifts to our clients and prospects whether it be meals, tickets to a game or, heck, even a nice muffin basket. We do this to stay top-of-mind, remind our clients of our interest or gratitude, and because we know that the little things can go a long way. Perhaps remembering the important, often indispensable, role your vendors play in the success of your business and that they are people too will prompt you to reach out and say, in whatever way works for best for you, thank you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to call one of Mustang’s hardest-working and reliable vendors and say “thank you.”

• Scott Harris is the owner of Westlake Village-based marketing agency Mustang Marketing. Contact him at

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