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Using Gifts & Generosity to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Client Retention

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About This Episode

Corporate gifting is nothing new. For years, businesses have been branding coffee mugs, hats, and koozies and giving them away to potential clients. But John Ruhlin goes next level when it comes to gifting.

In this episode, Tricia and LZ chat with Ruhlin, a gifted speaker, author of Giftology, and founder of The Ruhlin Group, a gift strategy and logistics company. He’ll talk about how he uses high-end gifts customized to his clients to cut through the noise, increase referrals, and strengthen retention. He tells you how to give, what to give, when is the best time to give, and how to make a giving strategy that has the most impact on your clients.

1. The ‘who’ you are giving it to is more important than the ‘what’ you are giving.

Make it about them, not you or your brand. Send a handwritten note, not something automated from Amazon. Put their name or their family’s name on the gift. Make it truly special and recipient focused.

2. Give gifts that are unexpected.

The most meaningful gifts aren’t tied to an event or time of year (think 5 year work anniversary or Christmas). They are the ones the recipient had no idea were coming. They are the “just because” gifts. When gifts are tied yearly or timed events, they come from a sense of obligation, not gratefulness. Give gifts to your team and clients simply because you appreciate them – and catch them off guard when you give.

3. Give artifacts.

These aren’t branded coffee mugs or key chains. These are truly special gifts – if your house caught on fire, these gifts would be the first things you think about. Artifacts are items you use for years. They are passed down in a family and have an incredibly special meaning. Think about each person you’re giving to and what type of gift would have that level of impact on them.


What is the most special gift you’ve ever received, personal and professional? What made those gifts so meaningful?
How would you describe your business’s current gifting strategy, and how could it improve?
As Lisa and Tricia mentioned, we’re hardwired to want to give company swag as gifts. How do you feel about John’s opinion on giving branded gifts to clients?
What are some of the easiest ways you can show employees and clients that you appreciate them?

It's not the gift, but how you make somebody feel that makes a relationship flourish.

John Ruhlin

The who you're giving to is more important than what that you're giving.

John Ruhlin

A gift is the delivery vehicle for an emotion.

John Ruhlin

Gratitude is an action. It's not just a feeling.

John Ruhlin

John Ruhlin on LinkedIn, Twitter, and his official site.

Tricia Sciortino on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Lisa Zeeveld on Instagram and LinkedIn.

BELAY Solutions

Cutco Knives


(01:58) John answers the icebreaker question: “What was the first concert you ever attended?” 

(04:08) How did John come up with the concept of giftology?

(06:38) “The core of giftology is the psychology of the gifting process.”

(06:56) John talks about the psychology of gifting – the giver and receiver and what they are thinking and feeling. 

(09:00) Practically speaking, how do we show people we appreciate them?

(11:12) “The ‘who’ you are giving it to is more important than the ‘what’ you are giving.”

(13:58) Anything with your company name or logo on it is not a gift, especially for clients. 

(18:57) What does good timing look like with gifts? And what type of budget should you set aside for this?

(26:50) What is the first practical step someone can take to put this into practice today – in both their personal and professional life?

(34:11) This week’s download: Go get John Ruhlin’s complimentary copy of his gifting playbook. It’s a step-by-step guide to help you discover how to create your own 30x ROI gift marketing campaign.

Speaker 1: The who you’re giving it to is more important than the what that you’re giving. Most people get attached to, “I want to give something cool. I want to give something with my logo or in my company colors.” They don’t care about your company colors. They care about their own company colors or their own brand or their own name. So when we walk people through a relationship-building process, we start talking about who are these people and what’s their spouse’s name and what’s their kids’ names.

Speaker 2: Welcome to One Next Step, the most practical business podcast in the world, helping you get more done, grow your business, and lead your team with confidence, with tips and tools you didn’t get in business school. Here are your hosts, Tricia Sciortino and Lisa Zeeveld.

Tricia Sciortino: Welcome to One Next Step. The practical business podcast that helps you run your business, so it stops running you. I’m Tricia.

Lisa Zeeveld: Hey, I’m LZ. In today’s episode, we’re talking about the psychology of gifting. Why it matters to business owners and how you can use it to increase referrals and strengthen retention.

Tricia Sciortino: We are joined today by a world-class expert on corporate gifting, John Ruhlin. He’s the founder of the Ruhlin Group, a gift strategy logistics company, and has been featured in Inc. , Forbes, and Entrepreneur magazine. His clients have included the Chicago Cubs, Chevron, Caesar’s Palace, and UBS. Those are some pretty heavy hitters.

Lisa Zeeveld: Yeah, very, but what I love about John is that he takes this idea of gifting to the next level. I mean, we’re not talking about a branded coffee mug here. We’re talking about thoughtful, curated gifts with a real strategy, or like John likes to call it a recipe behind them. I can’t wait to talk to him and really dig into how corporate gifting can make a huge difference. So let’s get started.

Tricia Sciortino: Hey, John, welcome to the One Next Step podcast today.

John Ruhlin: Hey, thanks for having me.

Tricia Sciortino: Okay. So before we start talking about all things giftology and gifting, we have an icebreaker question for you. We want to know what was the first concert you attended?

John Ruhlin: The first concert I ever attended was Michael W. Smith in college.

Tricia Sciortino: Wow. Okay.

John Ruhlin: I know-

Tricia Sciortino: He was a good one.

John Ruhlin: It was great. It was like at Christmas time. We went to Pennsylvania from Ohio, but growing up on a farm, like I didn’t go to a lot of concerts.

Tricia Sciortino: Concerts. Okay, first album? Album?

John Ruhlin: My first album was when I was five years old, and it was Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Tricia Sciortino: That was my first album. I swear. I’m not even lying. My first album, Michael Jackson Thriller. I was a little older than five.

John Ruhlin: I probably shouldn’t have had it when I was five, but I talked my mom into getting it.

Lisa Zeeveld: So, Thriller at five to Michael W. Smith as your… There’s a lot in there, there’s a lot-

John Ruhlin: I know. Those are my bookends. Those are my bookends.

Lisa Zeeveld : That says a lot right there.

John Ruhlin: I know.

Lisa Zeeveld: That’s the journey.

John Ruhlin: I found Jesus somewhere in there. It’s been a wild, wild journey. I feel like they’re both still great art, like I still appreciate both sides of the music.

Tricia Sciortino: Yeah. Absolutely.

Lisa Zeeveld: Absolutely. That’s awesome.

Tricia Sciortino: Thanks, I love it.

John Ruhlin: Yeah. Good icebreaker.

Lisa Zeeveld: Yes. Yeah. Well, before we started recording, I know we started to cheat our audience out of so much good information. And so I’m going to gush about you one last time and just say, John, I’ve been a huge fan of yours. I was gifted your book from a peer, a friend of mine. And then since then, as I have told you before I continue to pass it along to so many people and really refer them to giftology in your group. So again, thank you so much for being here. And I know that our audience is going to love to hear your story and really the whole concept and theory behind giftology as much as I do. So tell us, how did you come up with this concept? Like what was the real impetus for you to have the idea of giftology?

John Ruhlin: Yeah, well, I kind of mentioned it. Like, I didn’t grow up around nice gifts. I grew up poor on a farm, one of six kids milking goats. So people will sometimes be like, “John, this must be like your love language.” Or, “You grew up around like a country club, like doing nice things.” And like we grew up with plenty to eat, but I definitely didn’t grow up with like the Air Jordans or the cool things. I grew up wanting to get out of Dodge. And so one of my original mentors, when I was going to Malone University, a small Christian school, I was going to go be a doctor because I was like, I want to make money and I don’t want to be poor anymore. So like doctors or lawyers are the only people…

John Ruhlin: But an attorney that was a mentor of mine, he was my girlfriend’s dad was this rainmaker. Like he built relationships and loved on people and was radically generous. He’d find deals on noodles and buy like a semi-load of noodles. And I’d be like, “Paul, that was 40 grand. Are you nuts?” And it wasn’t a tactic. It was just who he was. But I saw where like 10-year and 20- or 30-year seeds he had planted would come back and like he just, he owned oil wells and banks, and real estate. And he was just an amazing relationship builder. And so I wanted to be him. I was like Paul’s 60 I’m 20 at the time. So I started to mimic what he was doing, showing up for people powerfully, being radically generous, sending crazy knives that were engraved to people with their name and their spouse’s name, and a handwritten note, “Carve out five minutes for me.”

John Ruhlin: And I was interning with Cutco, the knife company, and the business just blew up. Like I had started to get referred to pro sports teams. And at the end of the day, nobody cares about gifts. Let’s be honest, even I own a gifting company and it’s not the gift. The gift is the delivery vehicle for an emotion, and that’s what Paul really showed me. It was the thoughtfulness, it was the engraving, the handwritten note. It was all the little things that most people cut out. And it’s easier to order from Amazon. Paul would do the extra steps and because of that, his relationships flourished. So he was a master, not gift giver, he was a master relationship builder.

John Ruhlin: And so to this day, I put med school on hold and started gifting agencies so people could outsource their gifting. But people want to latch onto the thing and it’s not the stupid knife, it’s not the whatever. It’s how you make somebody feel that makes the relationship flourish. And so the core of giftology ironically isn’t gifting, it’s more of the five love languages-

Tricia Sciortin…: Psychology.

John Ruhlin: It’s psychology.

Tricia Sciortino: So it’s the psychology of the gifting process. Like what’s going through the mind of the recipient of the gift. So talk a little bit… sit there for a little bit… talk a little bit about the psychology of the gifting, of the giver, of the receiver, and foundationally how that basically ties into the core principle of what you’re talking about.

John Ruhlin: Yeah. Well, what’s interesting is every industry, whether it’s pro sports, whether its financial services, all industries, they all rise and fall in relationships. And so many people will build relationships and do conferences and dinners and whatever else at like this Ritz Carlton level. And for whatever reason, they think they can go get gifts at a Motel Six level. And then they wonder why nobody cares about their tchotchke, their swag, their polo shirt.

Tricia Sciortino: Their $.99 keychain or whatever.

John Ruhlin: Yeah, their keychain. He did a million dollars in business, or he referred us a $50,000 client. Here’s your $5 Starbucks gift card. Like it doesn’t resonate. It doesn’t translate. So at a core level, the psychology is if you value a relationship, how you show up for that relationship will determine whether or not the relationship flourishes or not. And most people, they do some parts of their business or their benefits if they’re for the employees, they do that at a level 10, a Ritz Carlton level. And then they want to like mail it in and check a box and automate things. Or, “Hey here, you’ve been with us for 10 years. Here’s a catalog. Go pick your own gifts.” They don’t understand what they’re communicating in those business relationships, is basically you aren’t worth the time. You aren’t worth the money. You aren’t worth the energy. You don’t matter.

John Ruhlin: And so people wonder why they don’t get referrals. They wonder why their retention sucks. It’s because they don’t understand psychologically what they’re communicating with their trinket, their swag, their touchpoint, their whatever. And so it’s better to do nothing at all or to do something really well once than to basically say, “Hey, you don’t matter. Here’s a tangible form of, I didn’t know you well enough,” or all of those things. So psychologically they’re communicating the wrong things to employees, clients, centers of influence, whatever else because, at the end of the day, we’re just human beings. And there are psychological triggers that we all have. And we all want to be, I don’t care if you’re the janitor or a billionaire, we all want to be treated in a certain way to make that relationship feel special.

Lisa Zeeveld: Yeah. So what’s the secret sauce behind it? Because I don’t think that people set out, right, to not… to your point, they’re looking for the easy button to do it fast because they want to recognize that as a leader in the organization, I want to recognize that person who’s been around five years, but I may not know how to do it well, maybe I didn’t come from a background or any of that. So practically speaking, how do we do this?

John Ruhlin: Well, I think they’re like anything, there’s a recipe. Like if you want to bake bread… that people all the time say, “Well, John, I do giftology.” And I’m like, “Do you follow the recipe?” They’re like, “Well, I do giftology-ish.”

Tricia Sciortin…: Yeah, it’s always, “Ish.”

John Ruhlin: Ish. And I’m like, “Imagine if you bake bread a hundred thousand times, but you don’t put yeast in, I don’t care how many times you do it or what your intention is, people are like, “Oh, John, it’s the thought that counts.” I’m like, “No, that’s BS. It’s the thoughtful thought that counts.”

Tricia Sciortino: Nobody wants to eat crappy bread.

John Ruhlin: Nobody wants to eat crappy. And at the end of the day, even if you spend, I talk about soup, like imagine if you’re making lobster bisque and you take 12 hours to make the lobster and all this stuff. If you serve the lobster bisque and there’s a fly in it, I don’t care that you spent 12 hours and had the great intentions, all people can focus on is the hair or the fly. There is a system, there is a process. And so a lot of the things that we teach, whether we do it for the client or whether they do it on their own, there has to be a handwritten note. That’s part of the secret sauce. Why? Because it’s from one human to another human. It’s not automated. It’s not from Amazon. Even if you’re sending the same thing to 10,000 people, the little parts that communicate, while there was thought put into this, and the handwritten note is one of those things, that matters.

John Ruhlin: The other thing is no logos. People fight me on this all the time. Like, “John but our brand, our brand.” I’m like, “Would you ever go to your best friend’s wedding? And on the Tiffany’s vase put BELAY on the Tiffany’s vase you’re giving to your friends?” Nobody would do that because that would be tacky, but we do it in business, so we call it branding and marketing. A gift by its very nature is recipient-focused. It’d have their last name, their family name, their spouse’s name, their wedding date, whatever it is. So I think a lot of times people don’t understand that the who you’re giving it to is more important than the what that you’re giving. Most people get attached to, “I want to give something cool. I want to give something with my logo or in my company colors.” They don’t care about your company colors. They care about their own company colors or their own brand or their own name.

John Ruhlin: So when we walk people through a relationship-building process to execute for them, we start talking about who are these people and what’s their spouse’s name and what’s their kids’ names. We have this step-by-step process. In fact, your entire tribe can go download what we walk people through and charge thousands of dollars. They go to They can download who they should be sending gifts to, what they should be budgeting. What are the things you should be thinking about? What are the secret parts of the recipe? None of it’s rocket science. It’s just very difficult if you want to scale the thoughtfulness to not just one person, like anybody can be a great gift-giver to one. It’s when you have to do it to hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands where the system starts to break down and people start cutting corners because it’s too hard and it’s too clumsy. And it’s all, “I don’t really know that person that well.” And that’s where you start spending money and don’t realize that you’re actually spending money to have a negative consequence. That’s not a good investment.

Tricia Sciortino: Look. Work and life don’t have to be so hard. That’s why BELAY wants to make it easy and fun all while catering to you and your needs because we know you work to live and not the other way around.

Lisa Zeeveld: That’s also why Inc. magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and FlexJobs, have all recognized BELAY as one of the best places to work.

Tricia Sciortino: With 10 years of successfully being a 100% remote organization, BELAY recognizes that maybe you want to pick up your kids after school every day. Maybe you prefer to work on your own schedule. Maybe you’re an empty nester who wants more flexibility and BELAY offers that flexibility.

Lisa Zeeveld: So whether you’re a virtual assistant, bookkeeper, Social Media Manager, or website specialist, BELAY has clients right now who need your expertise and insight.

Tricia Sciortin…: You can have a meaningful career working from home while being present and available for loved ones too. And it starts with BELAY.

Lisa Zeeveld: Earlier, we were talking about people being too nice. And I want to come back around to that. And you said that yeah because people are too nice, they actually don’t tell you that you’re a horrible gift-giver, right?

Tricia Sciortino: Or they don’t want to wear your company logo. They’re not going to wear that shirt to the beach or whatever, because they don’t work there. LZ says all the time when we’re talking about gifting, we always say anything with our name on it, it’s not a gift. Our swag is not a gift.

Lisa Zeeveld: But that came from John.

Tricia Sciortino: Our swag.

Lisa Zeeveld: That’s from you, John.

John Ruhlin: It’s not a gift. That’s a uniform. It’s a uniform, it’s swag.

Tricia Sciortino: It’s great for employees who actually work here. They think it’s cool because they love being here but are our clients and everybody else.

John Ruhlin: Even the employee wouldn’t necessarily call it a gift. It’s part of the uniform. It’s part of the crux of working. But nobody is like on their last day, like, “Oh my gosh,” like the sweatshirt or the polo shirt, like, “Yeah, it’s cool.” Hopefully, it’s a Lululemon or something that’s world-class and fits well and quality. But nobody would call that an artifact. To me, we don’t call them gifts anymore. We call them an artifact. Like in Joey’s, the one that taught me this, Joey Coleman, he’s like, “You want to gift something that weaves into the fabric of their life, that if their house was on fire, they’d grab it.” Well, it’s not necessarily the most valuable that you would grab in your house. It’s pictures. It’s maybe your flag if your parents or grandparents served in the military. It’s something that has a story attached to it.

John Ruhlin: And so many times people are like, “John, why the stupid knives?” And I’m like, “Well if something gets used to break bread with your inner circle for 10, 20, 30, 40 years, that becomes an artifact, a trigger. It’s something that wove into that family’s life.” And so a lot of the things that we do, people are like, “Man, that’s weird. Why knives? Why the crazy artifact mug that costs a thousand dollars?” I’m like, because the story, the meaning, the usefulness, it’s tied into that fabric. And Joey’s like, “John, I love working with you because your gifts become artifacts.” They become something meaningful that tells a story that has all these memories that are attached to it because they became a part of the family’s life.

John Ruhlin: The feedback is like you get the polo shirt or you get the cooler with a big logo. It’s not a gift, you’re trying to turn that person into a billboard for you. It’s a manipulation and that’s not a gift, like nothing wrong with it, but let’s put it into the right category. It’s a promotional item. It’s a marketing ploy. It’s a marketing tool. But nobody’s going to confuse in their head, “Oh my gosh, you gave me X, Y, and Z with your logo on it. Like, wow, what a thoughtful gift.” They’re thinking, “Oh, that’s cool marketing swag.” And those hit the heart level. You want to move somebody’s heart, whether as an employee or a client, that’s a different angle. That’s a different strategy than blasting swag out all over the city.

Lisa Zeeveld: Yeah. My son jokes around. BELAY has awesome t-shirts but he’s in college and he jokes around because obviously, I’m an employee of BELAY. He jokes around that’s his sponsorship shirt. So, he says, he’s sponsored by BELAY.

Tricia Sciortino: Your salary paid for his education.

John Ruhlin: I’ll glad he wears it since you’re paying for it.

Lisa Zeeveld: But in contrast, after your book was shared with me and it is something, I can’t say that I do it 100% all the time, but it resonated with me. And I remember the first Christmas after, we gave these phenomenal, handcrafted bags that were actually a Christian mission-focused organization out of Africa that is putting women to work by making these incredible bags. And I’m still, gosh, that’s probably been four or five years ago. Our team members who have even left, still continue to carry that bag because it came with a super cool story. It’s not branded. Right? And it was constructed amazingly. And so to your point, it’s become an artifact for so many people because it has nothing to do with where they worked. It actually came from a place of our heart of wanting to give them something to show. It when it was actually a kind of a bad time, even in our business, there was a lot of change going on and they carry it because it was so thoughtful. We went above and beyond with it.

John Ruhlin: You think about it, if they carry that bag every day for five years, that’s 1500 thoughts that are positively subconsciously, you talk about psychological. We return a phone call or a text message to people differently based upon the depth of the relationship. We refer, based upon the depth of do we like them, trust them, all these things subconsciously happened. And so people don’t understand why you spend so much on an artifact. Well, because it could move somebody’s heart to be like, “Wow, this person thought about me, cares about me.” There’s a relationship there. Everybody says they’re in the relationship business but most people only gift at transactional times, they give gifts after a deal’s done or after a referral’s given or at expected time. So I think that like what you did there, and what’s cool is there’s no logo, and yet they still subconsciously think about you and the relationship and who gave it to them without a logo. That’s where people mess up. They actually spend money to put a logo on it and it actually makes it less likely that the person with think of it.

Tricia Sciortino: Less valuable.

John Ruhlin: Way less value valuable. It devalues it.

Tricia Sciortino: Less valuable even though it costs you more to put the logo on it.

John Ruhlin: Yeah. Horrible. Horrible strategy.

Tricia Sciortin…: Well, so two questions. Number one, you kind of just tease it. So gift timing. Let’s talk about timing of gifts. And also, I mean, if you’re on a budget, like what is an appropriate budget for gifting? If you’re a small business and maybe your clients are not bringing in $50,000 per transaction, what is like the gifting ratio and then timing?

John Ruhlin: What’s the ratio.

Tricia Sciortino: Gift ratio and timing.

John Ruhlin: Yeah, there’s a math equation.

Tricia Sciortino: Oh, there is? Okay.

John Ruhlin: Yeah. Yeah. People are like, “Oh, the gifting thing.” It’s like, “Woo woo.” Like just hold hands and sing kumbaya and everything will work out. This is just like any other part of your business, marketing, and leadership, whatever else. Like it should be a reinvestment strategy. So timing is just as important if not more than what you’re sending. So Ritz Carlton has surprise and delight. We call it planned randomness. We layout for clients, employees, whatever else. Here’s the times we’re going to send it. And it’s not tied to an, I call it no ABC gifting. If you only do things for your spouse on anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s day, and Christmas, those are table-stakes times. Nobody earns brownie points when they show up for an anniversary gift.

Lisa Zeeveld: Nope.

Tricia Sciortino: If they’re expected to.

John Ruhlin: You’re expected to so there like, you just stay at even. In business, same thing. Anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, we don’t allow clients to send gifts between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not because we’re the Grinch. It’s because as an entrepreneur, whether you have a million-dollar company or billion-dollar company, you don’t have unlimited resources. You want to invest a dollar and get $10 back out. That happens because you surprise somebody. You don’t give gifts at expected times, at obligatory times. So the most powerful time to show up for a spouse or a client or an employee is just because I was thinking of you. Two to four times a year, not tied to anything. “Hey, I was thinking of you.” So you could send the same gift to 10,000 people and everybody’s getting it and being like, “I didn’t do a deal. I didn’t do a referral. It’s not renewal time. They were just thinking of me?”

John Ruhlin: Now you take a, maybe not even a big gift, but now they’re like, “Wow, this person was just thinking of me.” Versus they felt like they had to based upon a transactional carrot and stick or you’ve been here five years or whatever. Those are obligatory times. So timing is super important. And so many people, they get it wrong. They do the Christmas gifts. They do the anniversary gifts. And they’re like, “Yeah, nobody really cares.” I’m like, “They don’t care because they were expecting to get something.” That surprise element changes everything in all relationships because you’re choosing to do it because you wanted to not because you had to. And then on the budget side, whether you’re a hundred thousand dollar company or Google, the budget numbers are the same. It’s a reinvestment. I call it a reverse tithe.

John Ruhlin: So five to 15%, 10% average of net profit back into the relationship. So if you made a hundred grand last year, you’re reinvesting 10 grand. People are like, “That’s a lot of money.” And I’m like, “You get to keep 90 grand. Those people are buying their own gifts basically, but you’re choosing to do it thoughtfully.” And the goal is not just to check a box. The goal is to keep the relationship, to grow the relationship, and the secret sauce is you get Joey Coleman’s and all of your clients out there actively selling on your behalf. I have some clients that literally like seven figures have come from them going out and selling and advocating for our clients.

John Ruhlin: So you invest, let’s call it 20 grand maybe in one relationship, people are like, “It’s a lot of money.” And I’m like, if seven figures comes back in, that’s a 50 X return on relationship. Show me a Facebook ad campaign where you get 50 X. You can’t, there’s no more powerful thing than to invest in human beings where the relationship is still one of the most powerful things. So 10% of net, I don’t care if you have a… well, I don’t care what size company you have. I started when I was in college, at $500 a month is what I was investing as a 21-year-old. So people are like, “Oh, John, I can’t afford to do it.” I’m like, “Take your beer budget money, carve off some of this budget over here, over there.” People will add employees and not think twice about it. I’m like you just added 100, 200, $500,000 to overhead. What about taking a portion of that and reinvesting it back into the people you currently have, the clients you currently have.

John Ruhlin: And so, that 10% is kind of the mid-tier number. And even if you don’t have money as a college kid like I tell people anybody can handwrite a note. And I think the note sometimes is more powerful than the artifact because the note provides meaning and thoughtfulness and creates context. And so anybody that pushes back and says, “Oh, my client can’t receive a gift.” I’m like, “They can receive a handwritten note.” That’s why I spend $10 on our sheet of metal letterhead. I handwrite thousands of notes on sheets of steel that cost 10 bucks each and people get it. And it’s more valuable than the $500 Apple Watch because they’re like, “Wow. Somebody took time to put really a lot of thought into this note.” And the Apple Watch we just outsourced it to Target or Walmart or whatever. So any size company can incorporate this.

Lisa Zeeveld: Well, and I love it too because I have actually taken a lot of this even into my personal relationships too. And so we kind of joke around what will my kids need therapy for? Hopefully, it’s not for gifting, but after reading your book and oddly enough, something that Gene Simmons said from yes, from the rock band Kiss, is that on those ABC holidays, right? Anniversaries, birthdays, and Christmas, we have found that they feel a little obligatory. And so we kind of minimize them in our family. We do with our kids because we actually like to do the things that are not required, air quotes, right?

Lisa Zeeveld: We like to do the surprise wows. And so it could be in the middle of May. And I might buy a gift because I just want to versus having to feel like I’m required to buy that big gift at Christmas. And it has changed the way even my family looks at material goods and looks at the way that we show love to each other. And so when you do that with your friends and your colleagues and your family, it really starts this tribe and culture of generosity, because it really is coming from the right place. And I think that as this culture of bigger is better, you start to bring it down really to what matters most.

John Ruhlin: Yep. I mean, you teach your kids to say, please and thank you not once a year, every time, every day. And yet in gifting, we do it like at Christmas or birthday. Like no, like love on people, 365. Don’t wait for like, don’t wait for an employee to stick around for 25 years, and give them the gold watch. We do nicer things for most people when they start on day one to welcome them or their spouse then most people do it at 10 years or 20 years. I want to celebrate people now, not you have to check a box and be here 10,000 hours before you’re going to get some vacuum cleaner or something out of a crappy magazine you don’t even want.

John Ruhlin: I just had a call a couple of hours ago with somebody who was like, “I worked at Stryker, and it was like, I ended up like, I’ve been there so long.” He’s like, “Everybody at 10 years, they don’t know what else to get. So they’d all just pick the telescope.” They didn’t need it. It was the only thing they thought was somewhat interesting or whatever else, but it was like, here’s one of your 20 things to pick from. So many people have that mentality of like, here’s the little box you got to fit in. And this is the time you send a gift. Like, no, you should be finding creative reasons to love on people. And then relationships first because people realize that you went out of your way to do something for them. And now there’s a fun story and all that tied into it as well.

Lisa Zeeveld: Well, so we like to consider ourselves the most practical business podcast in the world. Okay, it’s self-proclaimed.

Tricia Sciortino: I think we’re pretty stinking practical.

Lisa Zeeveld: I know we are pretty practical. So we’ve got SMB, small to medium-sized businesses right now that are listening, and they are really grooving with what we’re saying. They’re on board for it. What is the first practical step that they can take to start implementing this? Not only with their business, but their whole life, what is something practical they can do today?

John Ruhlin: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think that it’s very popular. I know the guys who started the five-minute journal. I know Tim Ferriss, who ordered like 10,000 of them and passed them out. The idea of taking time to identify all the relationships, do a 360-degree view of all the relationships that have allowed you to build a half a million, million, $5 million company. It’s mentors, it’s advisors, it’s influencers, it’s employees, maybe past employees. If you would take and do the five-minute journal and write down three people that you’re grateful for. But over the next year, you end up with a thousand people to appreciate, clients… think about that. Like, that’s a lot. And most people, when they start writing down, they start to realize how there’s been a lot of people that have gotten me to where I’m at now. And if I want to get from a million dollars to $10 million, there’s a lot of relationships I need to pour into to have in my corner if I want to get to that next level.

John Ruhlin: But you have to identify the people and then gratitude isn’t just a feeling, I think it’s very like, “Oh, I feel gratitude.” Great. Show me with your time and your pocketbook. Show me your calendar, show me your checkbook, I’ll tell you what your priorities are. So if you say, start like one person, 10 people, a hundred people, but make it a math equation. Say, “I have this much business right now. I have these relationships and start to figure out if I can’t do a hundred people really well, maybe it’s 10, maybe it’s 20, maybe it’s five, but put real thought, intention. People are like, “John, I need your help it’s my wife’s 25th anniversary.”

John Ruhlin: And I’m like, “I can’t help you gift your wife or your husband.” Like you should’ve been… anybody can do this if they put the intentionality that they’ve put into their fantasy football league, into their relationships, they’ll flourish. They’ll do well. And so I think it’s a matter of identifying the people, identify whatever your net profit is, and then start to take the steps to commit time, energy, and intentionality, and strategy. And walk before you run. You don’t have to start out with doing something for thousands of people. It oftentimes it’s 10 people or 25 people that really make your business tick, or that will make your business tick but start. It’s gratitude’s an action. It’s not just a feeling.

Lisa Zeeveld: Yeah. Perfect. Love it. And I like how you said, even just a handwritten note, right? We can all afford a stamp and a notecard, right? Maybe it’s not that cool sheet of metal that you have, but everybody right now has a piece of paper, a pen, and can afford a stamp to send something. So I think too that helps break it down.

John Ruhlin: Yeah. If you want to cry and have the other person cry, especially in 2021, take that note and go read it to them in person. Your gratitude and joy and endorphins will go up. There’s all kinds of studies on happiness and all this research, take the handwritten note, put an hour, or even 20 minutes into writing something thoughtful, not thanks so much for being… like go deep. But if you want to cry and make the other person cry, go read it to them in person. And I challenge you not to cry, but they’ll never forget it. They’ll never get rid of that note.

Lisa Zeeveld: Just put the work in. Yeah.

John Ruhlin: It’s that part in any business, right. It’s not always sexy or pretty, but it’s rolling up your sleeves and putting the time, energy, and effort into relationships and the effort does matter.

Lisa Zeeveld: Well, this has been incredible, John, thank you so much. I feel like I could just continue to talk to you all day, but it’s been five years in the making that I have wanted to actually meet you and talk with you. So super grateful for your time and for joining the podcast and really helping our listeners understand the true meaning behind a gift and the true meaning behind gratitude. And we’ll definitely point them, can you give us that address again, where they can go and download the guide?

John Ruhlin: Yeah, is kind of the first step.

Tricia Sciortino: Awesome.

Lisa Zeeveld: Wonderful.

Tricia Sciortino: Thank you so much.

John Ruhlin: Hey, thank you, guys.

Lisa Zeeveld: Man, T, that was some good stuff today. John truly brought some good nuggets. That was just like, gems.

Tricia Sciortino: He did. It’s truly, I feel like a lost art of appreciating relationship. There’s so few organizations and people out there who truly understand the value to truly being thoughtful in your kind of client experience. I’m going to use business as an example since we’re talking about business. But yeah, I kind of wish, right, more transactions with businesses that we deal with were really as thoughtful as John kind of talks about in his giftology and all of it, it’s a lost art.

Lisa Zeeveld: It truly is. Yeah. And I think that it’s hard, right, it probably gave some of our listeners… the hair stood up on the back of their neck when they’re like, don’t send a gift that has your brand on it. Because we’re hardwired-

Tricia Sciortino: We’re so guilty. Oh…

Lisa Zeeveld: I know. We just spent a whole bunch of money buying branded gifts too.

Tricia Sciortino: Oh, we just BELAY cups and mugs.

Lisa Zeeveld: Yeah. We’re hardwired to do that. And so I think that’s just such a great reminder. I loved his terminology in this. I don’t actually believe this was in the book. He’ll probably prove me wrong if I asked it. But the fact of giving an artifact…

Tricia Sciortino: That word, yeah.

Lisa Zeeveld: The word of an artifact, like if your house was on fire, God forbid, would it be something that you would actually miss or try to grab whatever that thing is. And I need to remember that. That was really key for me that word artifact, I think I’m going to use that more often as… and even like, I’m thinking about, we gift our team members on Christmas and I’m in charge of that, of coming up with ideas. We of course, as a team decide, but I bring the ideas to the table, and it’s got my wheels turning.

Tricia Sciortino: Yeah. No, I think as an organization, we do a really good job with this. We have different gifting programs and frugal wow programs, and we are mindful to not put our logo on everything, we really are. But I think it was just a great reminder that we can do better, actually. We can do better.

Lisa Zeeveld: Yeah. And especially, I like how he said, even tying in family members. So in the book he talks about the Cutco knives and how putting a family name on that. And so, yeah, because you don’t want to throw something with your name on it. Not another business name, of course. But your name and-

Tricia Sciortino: Do you want to know something?

Lisa Zeeveld: Yes.

Tricia Sciortino: I have a set of Cutco knives.

Lisa Zeeveld: No you do not.

Tricia Sciortino: I do too and they have my name on them and I use them all the time.

Lisa Zeeveld: No way.

Tricia Sciortin…: I got that gift. I did. I got them as a gift from a vendor that we used to use. Yeah.

Lisa Zeeveld: They must have read John’s book.

Lisa Zeeveld: They read his book.

Tricia Sciortino: They did. They’re pretty awesome. I always say if somebody breaks into the house, I’m going right for it. So…

Lisa Zeeveld: That’s awesome. I never knew anybody. So now I do.

Tricia Sciortino: I’m like proof.

Lisa Zeeveld: Yes. Yes. All right. Well, as always, we have a download for you so that you can take your One Next Step. John, our guest, has offered a complimentary copy of his gifting playbook. It’s a step-by-step guide to help you discover how to create your own 30 X ROI gift marketing campaign.

Tricia Sciortino: Yes. If you want the download, text the phrase One Next Step to 3-1-9-9-6, or visit And you’ll find all the details on that resource as well as notes from today’s show. Thank you for joining us today. We will see you next week for another episode of the One Next Step.

Lisa Zeeveld: Start by making today count.

Lisa Zeeveld: Hey guys, please tune in to the podcast next week, when BELAY’s very own vice-president of revenue, Lisa Seal will join us to share how to better overcome objections in the sales process. You don’t want to miss this, and here is a preview of what you can expect.

Lisa Seal: Those are the stories that we would hear. I went on a date night with my wife for the first time in six months because I was able to step away. And that is for a salesperson to hear that, that’s the win. Most people think salespeople are coin-operated and we certainly, we love a good competition, but really, it’s those stories that you hear that just fills your heart if you’re an empathetic servant-hearted salesperson.

Speaker 2: Thanks for listening to One Next Step. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or follow us on Spotify, then join us next time for more practical business tips and tools to help you get more done throughout your business and lead your team with confidence. For more episodes, show notes, and helpful resources, visit

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