Cultivating a Culture of Gratitude in Business: Practical Ways to Appreciate Vendors, Staff, Partners, and Competitors

Bulgari is an Italian fashion house known for luxury jewelry, fragrances, and leather goods. Over the years, high-profile clients like Elizabeth Taylor and Ingrid Bergman enhanced the mystique. Prices are on the, shall we say, high side. In 2014, Bulgari sold a bejeweled bottle of Opera Prima perfume for $250,000. Today, their Octo Tourbillon watch is $734,000. And if you’re thinking of snagging a ring, their Blue Diamond is a mere $18 million.

How does one say “thanks” to customers buying this kind of merch?

To express their gratitude, Bulgari is known to fly their most valued shoppers from all over the globe, first class, to Capri to enjoy a cocktail reception and runway show, mingling with the brand’s celebrity wearers.

That’s a little above sending a coffee mug or a fruit basket.

Given the stratospheric levels of expenditure, elite brands like Hermes, Ferrari, and Prada must provide extremely compelling rewards. To do this, a memorable thank-you strategy must be high-value in more than monetary terms. Smart retailers at this level focus on enhancing the strong personal and emotional connection, with an act or gift that makes the customer feel seen and appreciated by the gesture of gratitude.

I submit that this same principle—making key people feel seen and appreciated—applies to your business, too…

Don’t forget the unsung heroes.

Most companies—including mine—instinctively and understandably show gratitude to their best customers and clients. To let them know they’re appreciated, we may take them out to dine, buy them holiday gifts, send them tickets, thank-you notes, etc. Treating them well totally makes sense; our valued customers are absolutely essential to our survival.

But there are other groups that we are equally dependent on—yet these less obvious categories are often neglected when it comes to gratitude.

Of course, we don’t deliberately ignore them. But in the fast-paced world of business, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle of our schedules and forget the importance of expressing gratitude to the overlooked people behind-the-scenes who contribute to our success year after year.

In the world of business and commerce, relationships play a pivotal role. I can’t stress that enough. Maintaining and nurturing connections with our partners, peers, and staff is essential for sustainability and growth. Intentionally fostering a culture of gratitude breeds goodwill and loyalty, with positive effects on morale and motivation.

In the spirit of the season, I’d like to suggest some practical ways to show gratitude to the good folks we may be tempted to take for granted…


  • Timely Payments. Money talks. Ensure you pay your vendors promptly. This not only helps them with their cash flow, but also shows that you value their products or services. Word will spread that you’re a quick pay.
  • Positive Feedback. Take time to give accolades. Prompt feedback about what people are doing right results in increased engagement. Share what stands out most about their services and highlight specific instances where their efforts made a difference for your business.
  • Referral Partnerships. Networking is a win-win. Actively refer your vendors to others in your sphere. Word of mouth is a powerful tool for small businesses, and your recommendation can go a long way.

Verbal example: “We’re thankful for being able to rely on you. Your willingness to go above and beyond to meet our deadlines is amazing. We’re flourishing, thanks to your flexibility and customer service.”


  • Recognition Programs. Want your staff to reach higher and accomplish more? Implement employee recognition programs that celebrate achievements and milestones. Acknowledge hard work during team meetings or through company-wide communications.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements. Non-monetary rewards are often the most coveted. Show appreciation by offering flexible work schedules or remote work options when feasible. This doesn’t increase costs, and can enhance work-life balance and boost morale.
  • Professional Development. Invest in your employees’ professional growth. Offer training opportunities, workshops, or courses that can help them develop new skills and advance in their careers. Studies show that workers value advancing their education more than pay raises.

Verbal example: “Your dedication really contributed to our success this quarter; you’ve exceeded expectations. Your diligence and detailed approach are an inspiration. We value you and your work.”


  • Collaborative Events. Don’t work in a silo. Host joint events, brainstorming sessions, or projects that involve your peers. This not only strengthens your relationship, but also creates a synergistic atmosphere where everyone feels valued for their input.
  • Share Resources. Ideas grow better when you transplant them into others. Share industry insights, market trends, or helpful resources that benefit both parties. An open exchange can foster a sense of mutual support. It’s not a zero-sum game; the more you give the more you get.
  • Celebrate Successes Together. When you achieve milestones or successes, take time to intentionally celebrate them together with your partners. Recognize their contributions and express gratitude for the collaborative effort that led to the achievement.

Verbal example: “A partner like you is a boon to our business. Thanks for all your advice and insights. It’s hard to imagine our team without you. It may be a cliché, but we’re better together.”  


  • Acknowledgment of Excellence. Do the unexpected—publicly praise your competitors’ achievements. This can be done through social media, industry events, or even a simple email. Recognizing their strengths demonstrates sportsmanship and professionalism.
  • Networking Opportunities. Build bridges. Engage in industry events where you might encounter competitors. Building relationships outside of direct competition can lead to mutual respect and potential collaborations. Reaching out now may be beneficial in the future.
  • Information Sharing. There’s an old saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” That can happen when you share non-sensitive industry insights with competitors. While it may seem counterintuitive, this kind of camaraderie can contribute to a healthier industry overall with more profit.

Verbal example: “Having your group in the market has raised the bar. Competition motivates us to strive even harder for excellence. We’re grateful that you’re inspiring us to up our game.”

This year, choose gratitude.

Incorporating this new attitude into your business practices can create a positive and appreciative environment. Make it part of your routine and workplace culture. Remember, expressing gratitude is not just a one-time task; it’s an ongoing effort that strengthens relationships and contributes to a more collaborative and successful business ecosystem.

When addressing recipients in the four categories, think out of the box and consider giving non-standard thank-you perks (avoid the old standbys like frozen turkeys, logo swag, and gift cards). To make a more lasting impression, consider personalized rewards that create surprise and emotion—like artisanal crafts, hobby items, or gear for the person’s favorite sport. Modern expressions of gratitude are trending to “experiences” like adventure sports, spa treatments, cultural tours, and more.

Obviously, you can spend a fortune, but truthfully, being grateful does not take a lot of time or a fat budget, just a willingness to give credit where it’s due. In fact, none of my 12 gratitude suggestions listed earlier in this post cost a dime. Best of all, gratitude is not a limited resource—you’ll never use it up or run out. So be generous with your thanks and affirmations; there’s no downside to spreading the love. Dale Carnegie said, “People work for money, but they go the extra mile for praise and recognition.”

Bottom line? This Thanksgiving, let’s count our blessings—including the invaluable people in our business universe who may not expect to be thanked. After we’ve identified them, let’s demonstrate how much we appreciate what they do. That can be in words, deeds, or tangible rewards… whatever makes them feel seen and appreciated.

A special thanks.

I’m indebted to all the mentors and associates who’ve shaped my character and coaching. And I’m especially thankful for every client who’s allowed me to help them reach the next level of leadership.

Happy Thanksgiving!