Adam Blackwell is the owner and creative director of Wellington-based creative agency Stun.

What are some of the things you do to say thanks to your staff and why?

Small businesses are like families. Families that pray together, stay together and while we don't do a whole lot of daily praying at Stun, we do try and eat together as often as we can. Dining together is a chance to chat, say thanks and make everyone feel they're valued and heading in the same direction. That's a simple truth for families and something that is just as relevant for businesses.

I'm not sure that a generic staff Christmas gift is right for us, but we did produce some snazzy branded threads for our team to mark the launch of our new brand this year and that instilled a pride that even took me by surprise. So much togetherness, huh? It's almost revolting.

How about customers? What are some of the ways you say thanks to them and acknowledge those relationships?

We continue to evolve in this area. For many years, I wanted to say thanks with something of exceptional - and shareable - quality so we gave our clients the unbelievably good Ruth Pretty Christmas cakes. Last year, we elected to make a donation to Age Concern instead of giving gifts, so that some lonely elderly Kiwis would have the gift of human contact at Christmas time.

This year, we'll go a step further. I really believe that, for me, when I give, it should be quiet and personal. It doesn't need be a public showing. For me, a business gift feels a little bit contrived right now. So we'll make an anonymous donation to a charity this year, and I'll call each of our clients and speak to them with a personal message of thanks. And we'll dine with our clients and talk with them throughout 2015 to continue to build the relationships we value.

A lot of people give these kinds of thanks during this end of year period. Do you focus your efforts on this time of year or at other times?

Right now for me, Christmas - and the traditions that surround it - is for family. Business relationships can be acknowledged at Christmas time, but I think the thanks and the celebrations should happen when a major project or campaign calls for it throughout the year, instead of being part of a December gift-giving frenzy.

Are there some ways you've observed of giving thanks in business that you think aren't as effective as others?

Many larger businesses have good policies around maximum gift value, and some of them even require their people to pool their Christmas gifts so they can be re-gifted or distributed amongst the whole team. I understand that, but it kind of undermines the act of giving from one person to a specific other to say thanks.


So, perhaps, business gift giving needs a rethink so that saying thanks is not expressed through a physical present, but perhaps can be celebrated through an experience like dining out and making it personal. You may have picked up that dining out is a recurring theme in my daily thought patterns. Any excuse.

What's the best 'thanks' you've been given as a business owner?

My good friends at Cube gave me a piece of Le Creuset cookware several years ago. Quality never goes out of style and that bad boy will outlast me, no matter how many slow cooked Julia Child beef bourguignons it produces. The Cubists know that food plays a disturbingly large role in my daily considerations so it was appreciated that they turned that awareness into a gift I will use forever.