The holiday are fast approaching and two topics are usually on everyone’s minds: gift giving and holiday parties!!  Even though it’s only October, it’s a good idea to start putting thought into these two tasks now, especially if you are in charge of planning the holiday party for the office or buying gifts for your clients or customers.  Read on for some tips on early gift buying and party planning so you won’t be scrambling when December rolls around!


The holidays lead to filling our days with busy to-do lists and holiday gift shopping. Friends are asking for your Christmas list, family is traveling to town and your house becomes overwhelmed with wrapping paper. While all of these things are time consuming, they are also fun and exciting. But, if you own a business, you also need to make sure you plan enough time for your office holiday party—before all the good spots are filled up. “The primary reason to plan early is because event spaces and caterers get booked quickly,” Laurie Wolford, Owner of Spirit World said. “It is also a good idea to plan early because it takes some of the stress out of the planning process if you have time to make decisions. Inevitably with planning events, obstacles come up along the way, and you can save some hassle by having plenty of time to work around them. Also, planning early and notifying your staff or clients ensures that as many people as possible can attend and generates some excitement about the event leading up to it,” Laurie said.

Some business owners think that hosting a holiday party for their employees isn’t a necessity. Most people believe that all people are busy during the holidays and won’t want to cram another party into their schedules. “Holiday parties are important because it (holidays) is a great time of year to not only bring co-workers and clients together, but to also include their entire families as well. It’s a time of year to show your clients that you’re a real person and a strong company with family values,” Scott Heese from Holidynamics said. “It’s a time of year to give thanks and to step back and look at the year’s accomplishments and to appreciate them. Many of the times those accomplishments include your clients, so stop telling them that you appreciate them and show them,” Heather said.

A holiday party does not need to involve an A-list guest list or be so over-the-top that champagne is on tap. Your office party just needs to show appreciation to your employees and let them know that you have noticed their hard work throughout the year and they deserve a little fun. “It is important to not lose sight of showing your appreciation to your employees during the holiday season, even in the smallest ways,” Angela Roeber from the Strategic Air and Space Museum said. “Whether a holiday party is feasible this year or not, it’s important to try to make a concerted effort to bring employees together, show them appreciation, and boost morale. We all know employees whom we owe appreciation and thanks to for their efforts this holiday season, particularly after many of the challenges our businesses have experienced throughout the year. If your organization can’t provide a holiday party this year for economical reasons, consider other ways that you can show appreciation to your employees.”

Whether you plan a big event or more low-key holiday party this year, keep these points in mind when you plan:

–Be as generous with your budget as it allows. Your employees have worked hard and deserve to have some fun and relax a little. If your company had a tough year and didn’t do as well as expected, don’t think that an over-the-top party is needed. Making the party low-key, but enjoyable will let the employees know that you appreciate their hard work and want to reward them, as much as you possibly can.

–Hiring entertainers for your office party can help keep the party flowing smoothly and allow for a great icebreaker. An entertainer can range anywhere from a band, DJ, magician or local choir group. Something else that is fun to have at parties is renting a photo booth for your event. Having a photo booth onsite gives your employees something fun to do while the party goes on and also gives them something to take home and stick on their fridge.

–Make sure that you have enough food at your event. Hungry people lead to cranky people, which is never fun to have at a party. One of the things people always talk about after events is how good or bad the food was. Before the event, make sure you have a general idea about the number of people coming so you can plan food accordingly. The food might need to come from a variety of sources such as caterers, location of the party, or food you have brought yourself. No matter where the food comes from, the important thing is to remember to have enough so the party can run smoothly and no disappointments arise.

–Having alcohol at an event is something you need to plan for. At an employee party, the last thing you want is for someone to not make it home safe, or to be picked up by the police for drunk driving. If you decide you would like alcohol at the event, having a cab company’s number handy is always a good idea. Also, having a few people who decide not to drink and offer to drive others home is smart. And, finally, if your event is more high-class, renting a limo service for people at the party is something fun, unique and ensures everyone gets home safely.

–If you decide to plan a bigger event, think about hiring a professional party planner early so that you don’t waste your time and energy stressing over a large event.  “There are many benefits to hiring a professional event planner to plan and manage your company events,” says Annette Marquez with The Perfect Occasion.  “The first and foremost reason is it allows all your employees to attend as guests, not as the event planners and managers.  When there is no planner, some staff members will spend many hours planning the event in addition to their regular job responsibilities.  On the day of the event, they oversee onsite details such as set up, décor, verify supplies have arrived, the food tables are set as agreed to and more.  During the event they man the registration table, verify all the functions are on time including when the food is served and that the speaker or entertainer is in place as scheduled. If an unexpected issue arises such as several people who did not RSVP arrive requiring additional tables and more food, your staff would need to coordinate with the venue for additional tables to be set and discuss the need for more food with the caterers. They may need to stay late to pack up supplies or handle other details.  Not relaxing celebrations for these employees.

A professional planner manages all the details.  We are experienced in asking you questions that help design an event that matches your vision. As a professional planner, I seek out venues and vendors from my database that provide the products or services that will enhance your event.  The final choice is yours, but the time consuming legwork will be done, saving staff time and the indirect salary costs related to those tasks.

One of the most important values a professional planner brings to any type of event is the ability to ask you and potential suppliers the right questions. This may sound too simple, but it can save you money, ensure your vision is met and reduce stress. A professional planner will ask vendors questions you may not think to ask such as will you be required to hire additional security or obtain a permit or license.

They can decipher hospitality terminology, such as what a venue means when they ask if you would like a back of the house tour during a site visit or assures you that you will receive the BEO tomorrow.

Planners can help keep your budget in check by negotiating with suppliers and understanding how pricing works.  For example when a caterer quotes a $35 per person meal price, is the quote plus-plus (quoted price plus applicable taxes and gratuity) or is it all-inclusive (taxes and gratuity are included)?  If alcohol is being served, in addition to safe driving concerns, there is also a budget component. Consider a cash bar or providing employees only one or two drink tickets, people usually drink less at a cash bar than when liquor is free.  This will cover both the safe driving and budget issues.”

A option for a medium size gathering is Spirit World in Omaha. “We can hold up to 75 people in our seating area, so it’s a great place for wine and cheese type gathering,” Laurie said. “We also provide off-site catering for anything from light hors d’ouevres to full dinners, with beverages options and delivery and/or staffing available.”

If you are looking for somewhere private to hold your holiday party, consider CRAVE located at 200 South 31st Ave in Omaha Midtown Crossing. “CRAVE offers several private dining accommodations for holiday parties,” Nick Huff of CRAVE said. “Our popular space during the Holiday Season is the Executive Room. The space seats 70 people for a plate dinner, and could host up to 90 for a cocktail reception. It is a beautiful space with mood lighting, beautiful wall décor and you can even pipe in your own music if you wish.” CRAVE also offers full-service catering, as well as a delivery option. “Our team of experienced servers, bartenders and party planners will make you look good on your special night. Catering is a great way for CRAVE to show off our Executive Chef, James Davis,” Huff said. “Custom menus, food action stations and signature cocktails are common accommodations that CRAVE provides.”

A place you can consider for a party location that is off the beaten path is Strategic Air & Space Museum. Strategic Air & Space Museum is conveniently located right off of the interstate exit 426 and only 15 minutes from Lincoln or Omaha. “The importance of the location cannot be stressed enough. No one will visit an event if it is too far or improbably for them do so,” Angela Roeber with Strategic Air & Space Museum said. When planning a venue for your holiday party, keep the size in mind also. “No one likes being in a crowded room.

Hence, while choosing a venue, make sure that the place still has some breathing space after all of your guests have arrived,” Angela said. “The Strategic Air & Space Museum can accommodate a group anywhere from 20 to 2,000.” The last thing to think about when hosting a holiday party is service. “A venue’s reputation for service is critical,” Angela said. The service of the party can make or break your employees or client’s experience. “The Strategic Air & Space Museum allows for a relaxed atmosphere in an extraordinary setting. Let us manage the details so you can spend your time having fun and enjoying the museum.”

If having a party at a ballroom or a restaurant, another suggestion is considering hosting the party at your home. Having a party where you live is more intimate and personal for your employees, which shows them you trust them at your house and are willing to invite them into your life. Having a party at your home is ideal for a small gathering, not more than 20 people. When having a party at your home, you need to decide if you want to entertain your guests by yourself, or hire entertainment. You must also decide if you are going to cook or hire a caterer. If a budget is an issue for you, you can always suggest a potluck to your employees. Having a potluck will offer everyone to feel like they are contributing and this also is more personal to everyone, since they can experience their co-workers kitchen skills.

Something to remember if you are having the party at your home is whether or not to serve alcohol. Most people like a nice glass of wine at holiday parties to unwind a little bit, but you must make sure everyone is responsible and gets home safely. Offering up a ride home is a good idea, or hiring a limo service to provide rides for the evening would be something unique and fun for your employees to enjoy.  A limo service also takes the stress of you, the host, so you don’t have to worry about your employees safety so you can see them Monday morning.

If you find a place to host a holiday party that is off the beaten path and doesn’t normally host holiday parties, you might want to look into renting equipment and supplies. “Be festive. If you are going to call it a holiday party, then make sure to make it fun and festive by decorating the area. Even create one conversation piece by using a foliage theme of wreaths, trees, and garlands and be sure to have them all lit up,” Scott Heese with Holidynamics said. “One of our (Holidynamics) most popular items for holiday party decorating is our complete battery operated series. Hang wreaths that are lit by using batteries; no outlets needed! Holidynamics has a complete foliage series that is called our Estate Line. It consists of 30’’ wreath, 36’’ teardrop, 48’’ wreath, 6’ garland, 36’’ stake tree, 48’’ table top tree and a 30’’ Urn filler that are all powered by using “D” batteries,” Scott said.

If renting equipment is something you are going to do, make sure you submit your order by mid October to ensure you get the equipment you need before the holiday party takes place.

The holidays are a time of giving and showing people how much you care and appreciate them. While friends and families are usually showered with gifts and praise, don’t forget your employees if you run a business! “Employees and clients need to feel appreciated and feel a personal connection to your company. Holiday Parties are a great way to establish and strengthen personal relationships between colleagues and clients,” Laurie Wolford said. “And, it is also a nice opportunity to celebrate and reward achievements the staff has made throughout the year.”

Whether your business is small or large, planning a holiday party early takes the stress off of you as the holidays approach and your to-do lists get longer and longer. Planning early also makes sure you get your ideal location, caterer and entertainment you are looking for.

And now on to the other important aspect of the holidays…buying gifts!  These ideas can be good for both personal and business gift giving, but always remember that the theme of October is BUY EARLY!


It seems the months get shorter closer to Christmas and time flies by. Even if it seems too early to be thinking about shopping for the holidays, the big day will be here before you know it! The sooner you get your holiday shopping done, the less stressed and happier you will be. For a business owner, this is especially true, since you need to order gifts for your clients and employees ahead of time to ensure the gifts are on time. “Choosing high-quality products for business gift giving in any price range shows off your sense of good taste and appreciation,” Dawn Tangeman from Bear Creek Coffee Omaha said. “Gifts should reflect the value you place on your relationship with the recipient whether it is an individual or a group.”

If you are ahead of the game and getting your shopping down early this year, we’ve got some great ideas and tips for you! Here are some great tips from Dawn:

Plan ahead….

–It’s a good idea to make decisions about purchasing holiday business gifts early.

–If you wait until the last minute to buy (or place an order), you may find that you aren’t able to get the exact items you want.

–Make your holiday gift stand out by sending the gift the first week of December instead of the third.

–If you’re shipping gifts to some of the employees/clients on your list, pay close attention to holiday shipping deadlines.

–If you decide to send or deliver perishable items, make sure the recipient will be available to accept and properly store the item before you ship it.

Specialty items

Imprinted and screen-printed apparel and promotional products are specialty items that are great ideas for gifts. Personalized pens, mugs, coolers, shirts and duffel bags will all be special gifts for your employees or clients. Not only are these items unique, but they are also high quality gifts that you can brand with your logo or contact information for a more personalized touch.

At Bear Creek Coffee in Omaha, they want to personalize gifts to help promote your brand and company. “All gifts come with free imprinting of your logo on every gift,” Dawn Tangeman said. “When the recipient opens their gifts, the first thing they’ll see is your logo, not ours. There is no die charge or set up charge.”

When thinking of ideas to get your employees and clients, remember that you do not need to get everyone on your list the exact same gift. It is a good idea to think of people’s personality when it comes to gifts. Doing this shows that you know them and took the time out to really think of something they would use and appreciate. Another thing to think about is the appropriate size of gift. Many business owners send bigger gifts to more long-term clients and smaller gifts to clients they don’t do as much business with. If you decide to go with a specialty gift, consider pairing a specialty item with a non-specialty item, such as food, gift certificates to their store of choice and other items.

And, finally, when it comes to giving specialty gifts, think about hand delivery instead of shipping or having the gift shipped to their office or home. If your clients live near you, there is no reason to hire someone to deliver the gift. Taking the time out of your day to deliver the gift will show the client that you really care and impress them, which will strengthen your client relationship.

Gifts for a Vehicle

Everyone drives a car, so if you’re looking for that personal gift for someone on your list that seems to have it all; look no further than his or her vehicle.

A great idea is a remote car starter. Remote car starters are great gifts for students, elderly people and most other people that don’t like getting into a cold car on a chilly winter morning before work. “Out of all the accessories we install, remote starters are the overwhelming top gift choice of our customers,” Rick Quistad of Jones Automotive said. “It seems that everyone would like to have a cooled off vehicle in the summer, or warmed up one in the winter.  “I never have to scrape my windows” is often expressed in our surveys,” Rick said.

A remote car starter won’t disappoint anyone on your list, especially if they live on a busy street and don’t have the luxury of a warm garage to park their car in!

Woodworking Classes

If someone on your lists wants to get into a new hobby, thinking about a unique gift, such as woodworking classes. “How about a holiday gift that will last a lifetime? The opportunity to learn a new skill is a priceless gift,” Gerry Phelan from Midwest Woodworkers Inc. said. “If you have someone on your gift list who needs a creative outlet and enjoys working with their hands, a woodworking class is a great choice.”

“All our woodworking classes are very hands on. We don’t just talk about woodworking, we have folks dive in and start making sawdust,” Gerry said. “In most cases, participants complete a project like a pen, a turned bowl, a carved figurine or even a nightstand right in class. Most of our classes are aimed at folks who are just starting out and do not require previous experience.”

If you decide woodworking classes for one aren’t enough, make it even more special by getting woodworking classes for both your employee and yourself. This will allow for bonding time and a unique skill that both of you can share! This  type of gift is great for fathers, so that they can enjoy some quality time with their children that can bring them closer together and offer a memory to last a lifetime.

If you are not sure what type of class to get your new woodworker, a gift certificate to Midwest Woodworkers Inc. can be a great idea to pick their own class, or a chance to buy something in the store. “We offer gift certificates in any amount that never expire and have no service charges,” Gerry said.

But, if you prefer giving something that you picked out yourself, but don’t think classes are their thing, Midwest Woodworkers Inc. has plenty of items to choose from. “If you prefer a gift you can wrap, we have a number of reasonably priced items that would appeal to any woodworker: digital measuring devices, Incra rulers, bench cookies, and of course clamps,” Gerry said. “We also have a huge selection of woodworking books and magazines.”

Unique and Fun Gifts

Is someone on your list a lover of fun and fashion? If so, then shopping for these types of people can be easy, enjoyable and fun! To get them something unique, try shopping at a local boutique that carries fun clothes, accessories and other different items they would love. Shopping somewhere local and unique allows the chance for you to get out there and experience new places to shop and get people on your list new styles for the seasons and introduce them to local boutiques they might now of known existed. If going into the store is overwhelming, and you are not sure what to get, try talking to the staff and getting their opinions on gift ideas. Explaining your person on your list to staff will give them an idea of the perfect gift for that special someone.

Something to keep in mind if you are shopping for clothing is size. If you are not sure about their size, consider buying things where size doesn’t matter, like socks, jewelry and purses. You can also relay on gift certificates so they can get pick something out on their own. Buying the wrong size for someone can be offending and also runs the risk that they will forgot to go back and exchange the gift for the right size, and then your thoughtful gift would have gone to waste.

Spa packages also make great gifts.  “We have spa packages sure to fit anyone’s budget as a way to introduce multiple types of spa services to someone who may have never tried massage therapy or skincare services,” says Lynn Klein with Lynn Klein Massage and Skincare.  “We have a Holiday Gift Pack that includes four gift certificates great for giving or keeping for yourself!”

Another fun and unique idea is fun foodie goodies like chocolates, nuts and special candies. “Our gifts are jam packed full of the finest premium chocolates, fresh roasted nuts and other gourmet treats. They are not filled with fluff, air and inexpensive fillers like so many mail order and retail companies,” Dawn with Bear Creek said.

Popcorn bags with personalized labels are also fun gifts, especially when they can be done for just $.99 a bag at Colby Ridge.  You can personalize the gift for the recipient or you can just personalize it with your company’s logo and information so all of your clients will have that reminder when they’re eating their delicious popcorn.  If popcorn isn’t their thing, Colby Ridge has a number of other yummy options, including the ever-popular chocolate covered potato chips!

“New to Lynn Klein is a line of organic coffees and teas for the coffee, tea or hot chocolate lover in your family,” says Lynn Klein.  “The weather is turning cooler now and everyone likes their coffee in the morning.  It’s a healthy alternative to convenience store coffees and the chain coffees.  It’s considered to be alkaline to the body, not acidic like other coffees and features an ancient healing herb called Ganoderma.”

“Shopping for unique gifts can be challenging but if you know enough about the person you are giving for it should be easy to identify what they like,” concludes Lynn. “If you still are mystified… just ask them directly what they would like!”

There is no better time to start thinking about holiday gifts than right now. The sooner you start thinking and planning, the less stress you will have when the holidays creep closer and closer. Shopping early also ensures that you won’t have to worry about empty shelves, waiting in line and paying for rush order deliveries. Shop early and enjoy the holidays as stress free as possible!