For many engineering and land surveying firms, the past four years have been a trial with strained budgets. I know some stalwart surveyors who adamantly stated they would never lower their prices, but they have and are coping with the new non-economy along with the rest of us. Although our piece of the “pie” has grown smaller, we press on.

It’s important to remember that the economic challenges have also affected our employees and suppliers. Now would be a good time to engage in creative thinking about how we can best wish those around us in the business world “happy holidays.” A thoughtful gesture can express how much we value these people and what they do.

A December dollar spent is advantageous for several reasons. Every dollar I spend on a business expense made prior to Jan. 1 is a dollar I will not be taxed on. After the ball drops, my silent partner, Uncle Sam, will want a good portion of every dollar left over. This helps me feel better about making some of my business expenses. A wise CPA put it this way: Spend by year end to take the deduction for 2012.*

For those of us who do the business purchasing, we can begin to look around and think of things we might want in the coming spring. This can help our suppliers make their quotas and enjoy a happier year end. We depend on them for assistance, guidance, repairs, and support. They have families and have felt the same pinch as us. Items we will be purchasing and need in the coming year such as spare instrument batteries, chargers, flagging, wood products, new legs, books, bags and magnetic nails can add up quickly.

Our employees might like to have some additions to their office equipment, such as USB drives, backup hard drives, paper, pens, all-in-one printers or inexpensive laptops. All of these can generate goodwill while increasing employee productivity. The business expense is made, we don’t feel the tax pinch, people are happy, and the economy is stimulated.

Back when I was an employee, I spent a chunk of my paycheck replacing jeans that were torn climbing barbed wire fences and personal work items that were lost while cutting through underbrush. I often wished my employer had provided some of the items I used solely at work. Thoughtful stocking stuffers for those who work in the field might include gloves, boot replacement liners and inserts, hand warmers, orange hats, breath mints, company logo cups, lip balm, and yes, even thick wool socks. Purchasing large items like orange safety jackets or parkas with your company logo on them can boost the professional appearance of your crews while saving your employees the cost of a new winter coat. You can be sure they will remember you gave it to them every time they wear it.

How about clients? Even small gestures can let your clients know they are a blessing to you. Though it’s good to honor the owner with a special gift, it’s appreciated if there is a little something for everyone. I once gave tape measures to everyone in each office I supported. A sincere “thank you” means a lot and can strengthen the relationships you have with your clients.

At year end we may feel holiday haggard. It can be tough to navigate the flow of work, weather, holidays, vacations and the like. Taking time early to think of, purchase and deliver business gifts can ease us into the season and lift our spirits.

I once read that if people make themselves smile, it actually elevates their mood. So start celebrating early and spread the cheer. Try to be the first to remember to wish people “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” It can never be cliché to say, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward all.”

Many of us have a lot to be thankful for as 2012 comes to a close. May we all look forward to a prosperous and peaceful year ahead.

*Note: Neither the author nor POB intend this article to be a source of tax advice for surveyors or their clients. You should consult your own accountant or tax attorney for advice on the types of business expenses that may be tax-deductible.