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  • Frederick L Shelton

The Head Hunter's Guide To Executive Gifting



I’m the CEO of a national legal recruiting firm and when you’re in a business that is dependent upon relationships, it doesn’t hurt to give a thoughtful and memorable gift once in a while. Here are my secrets for what I call “Executive Gifting” i.e. gifts for the affluent attorneys with whom I work.



Part 1. What Not to Give

If you buy a gift for your favorite CEO and it has no real impact or is soon forgotten, you’ve wasted your time and money. Thus the most common mistakes in executive gifting are as follows:

1. Don’t buy perishables. Flowers, gift baskets etc. are nice but no one will ever remember you because you sent them pointsettias.

2. Don’t buy consumables. Last Christmas, I received five bottles of single malt Scotch and one bottle of blended Scotch (you’ll never guess what my favorite spirit is). But a year later, I couldn’t tell you who sent which. Don’t get me wrong - I was grateful for the gesture. But if I’m going to spend $150 on a gift, I want it to have impact. Fruit baskets, bottles of wine etc. just don’t have impact. There is one exception which will be covered later.

3. Don’t buy an experience that they already enjoy often. Dinner at a nice restaurant isn’t going to impress someone who eats there on a regular basis.

4. Don’t buy something unless you know it’s appropriate. Back in the 90’s, an attorney bought one of my recruiters an expensive bottle of wine. It was very nice but my recruiter was a recovering alcoholic so the end result was that I received a thousand dollar bottle of wine.


When it comes to buying memorable gifts, the key is “Personalization, personalization, personalization!”.


The Head Hunter’s First Rule of Executive Gifting: Be Remembered. How do you buy a gift that will be so impactful, the recipient will remember it was you who gave it to them for years to come? The old saying in real estate is “Location, location, location!”. When it comes to buying memorable gifts, the key is “Personalization, personalization, personalization!”.

For example, we have a friend who is a wine connoisseur. He flies around the world collecting cases of wine and ships them back home to the US. One night during dinner at Bardot Brasserie, an exquisite French restaurant in the Aria Hotel, we presented him with a bottle of wine.

This may seem contradictory to the mistakes I advised one should avoid but there this particular bottle of grape juice had serious personalization that created a “Wow Factor”.

Besides being rated 100 out of 100 by Wine Spectator magazine, the bottle had a

dazzling brass & silver badge and had the following inscription engraved on the bottle in gold filigree:

“Bruce Baker A one of a kind bottle for a one of a kind friend.”


He positively gushed! He showed the waitress and sommelier and gave them each a taste. The Som commented that it was one of the coolest gifts he’d seen since working there.

While we went with the $380 bottle, our personal wine consultant Dawna Herndon has bottles starting as low as $30 (plus the cost of inscription) for the more budget conscious buyers.


Another gift you can give to a client is themselves. I have been unimpressed by most

acrylic products etc. but ! Memories You Can Hold uses over 180 cameras, high-tech software and 3D printing to create among the most accurate recreations of people and

pets that I have seen. Seriously, it’s mind-blowing what they can do.


Another great example of advanced gift giving, came from a client of mine. I’m an avid tennis fan and have been since the 70’s. My favorite contemporary player is Roger Federer but I also love watching old videos from the era of Bjorn Borg (the original tennis rock star and “Ice Man), John McEnroe (the Bad Boy), Jimmy Connors and so on.

One day the doorbell rang and what showed up at my door? A framed and elegantly mounted tennis ball signed by Bjorn Borg! I was thrilled! It hangs prominently in my Man Cave and reminds me of the attorney who sent it, every time I look at it.

Best of all, it probably cost less than a bottle of 24 year-old Scotch.


The only caveat is that if the recipient has more autographed basketballs than Harvey Spector, another autographed basketball is probably not the way to go (unless it is a prized, missing piece of a collection or other circumstances merit the purchase).

If you know what sport, music, movies etc. that your clients like, stores like the Art of Music, are a treasure trove of gifts that will not be forgotten.




Experiential Gifts - When a Ferrari is Not Enough

I thought about those exotic car racing places. I’ve been to a couple. They are VERY cool and a lot of fun! However the 5 – 10 minutes on the track goes by so fast, specifically because it is a lot of fun!

Good gift for a C-Level? Maybe not. I realized that in the last year, I’ve driven an R-8, NSX and thanks to an event hosted by a club I belong to, I just drove the 2019 Ferrari Portofino last week. No I don’t own any of those cars right now. But while driving one would be a thrill for most people (and a great gift!), it wouldn’t be necessarily be anything new for those in the C-Suite.

The key to experiential gifts is that they be something the recipient hasn’t done before or at least not many times.

So an alternative might be something like Dig This. (See pic above). If you haven’t seen it on tv, Dig This is where a guy or gal who normally works in an office, can go and operate heavy machinery like a 20 TON Caterpillar excavator.

My adult kids were able to do everything from digging huge holes, to delicately picking up a basketball and dropping in a tire hole for a “2 pointer”.

The best part was when they wrote everything that they don’t like on a parked car and then completely destroyed it with the excavator. <pic>

Unlike exotic car racing, skydiving etc. the Dig This experience lasts over an hour and again, that’s significant because our memory of an event is ingrained in direct proportion to how long the event lasts.

Dig This offers something else unique: The Grand-Child Option. For as little as twenty dollars, that CEO can take her grandchildren to operate Caterpillar mini excavators on their own! Oh and don’t worry. After over a decade in business, they’ve never had a single injury.



Let Them Be a Navy SEAL for a Day

A friend of mine is a casino CEO. I was wracking my brain trying to figure something out something to give him. This is the type of guy who would consider a Rolex a “nice” gift.

I ended up giving him a gift certificate for an civilian adventure at a local Counter-Terrorism Training School. In addition to training the most elite bodyguards and security

details in the world, they run a Civilian Adventures company that teaches everyday people like me how to do stunt driving, crash through cars, shoot machine guns from helicopters, hostage rescue, knife throwing, Combat Drone assaults and so on. That was a gift he definitely won’t forget anytime soon.




Which is the point. When giving to the affluent the key is to make it as personal and unique as possible. When done right, you and your gift will be remembered for a long time afterward. FS

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