A Startup Guide to Holiday Gifts

As the year is nearing its end, the Christmas carols are sneaking a way into your life and the days seem to be even shorter than last year, you will need to get your employees a holiday gift. Chances are there are more important points on your agenda, such as closing your books or a last few deals rather than fantasizing about holiday gifts. However, Christmas is the ultimate opportunity to show your colleagues or employees your appreciation. In fact, a recent study by Forbes pointed out that 94% of employees consider the holiday gift as a sign of being valued. Christmas is the season to be jolly and the season to bond. In addition, it is an opportunity to get creative! But what do people actually want? As it turns out, gifts that can be enjoyed together with friends or family tend to be most successful as well as gifts that are non-consumable and extend beyond the holiday season. Some ideas…

“52% of employees argues that socks are the absolute worst gift out there.”

1. Cash
We all know those people who claim that money does not motivate, but in practise it often does. A little extra pocket money to spend on champagne or a little Christmas get away always comes in handy, and will be appreciated by most.

2. A Useful Voucher
If you consider cash too trashy of a gift, you can always go for the easy way out and translate it into a gift voucher. After all, it is pretty difficult to screw up a gift card. 29% of employees say they appreciate gift vouchers, according to the same Forbes study, however, the key here is that the voucher can be spent on a wide variety of items. In plain English, it should be useful. Another thing to keep in mind, it that getting someone a voucher might come across as if you didn’t put any effort in. 

3. Open Bar at the Office Party
Last week, we dedicated a blog post to how to behave at the annual Christmas party (read about it here). It turns out that 20% of employees consider a free bar at this great event to be a gift on its own. Something to consider.

4. Something Personal
If you only have a couple of employees, you might want to take the effort to buy something personal. Is one of them always struggling with his/her headphones?

 

Buy some wireless ones. Does one of them always lose his/her keys? Get a personal item tracker (yes, that exists, check it out here). Is one of them a whiskey lover? Well, you get the idea. Getting your employees something personal is a chance to demonstrate that you actually know them and put effort into finding something that is useful specifically to them.

5. A Good Read
Whatever business your startup is operating in, entrepreneurial people are always eager to learn something new. So, do not underestimate the power of a good book! Books are not old-fashioned. On the contrary, the (e-)books are and will continue to be great sources of inspiration.

6. The Safe Options
If you really left it to the last minute, there are some classic options that will do the trick. A good bottle of alcohol or a beautiful bouquet of flowers are in many cases well received and appreciated. The problem with those gifts, however, it that after it will be consumed/go bad, it will be forgotten about.

7. The Worst Gifts
The Forbes survey also highlights what the least appreciated gifts are. 52% of employees argues that socks are the absolute worst gift out there. 26% believes getting no gift at all is worse. Other bad gifts include soap, shower gel and cheap wine. But well, that speaks for itself, doesn’t it? 

Do you have other great gift ideas that other entrepreneurs should know about? We’d love to hear from you!

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through.

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]

How to Behave at the Office Christmas Party

How to Behave at the Office Christmas Party

“It’s the season to be jolly. But how jolly exactly should you let yourself be?”

As the air is getting frosty and your ugly Christmas sweater is trying to get your attention from a lost corner in the closet, it is time to prepare for the one and only real festivity of the year: the office Christmas party. This annual event could be compared to that mandatory visit to your grandma; you either love it or hate it. Whatever category you fall into, you know you should go and that you should behave. But…how much do you drink? What do you wear? How do you talk to your office crush? All examples of simple yet crucial questions that could make or break the night. After all, you don’t want to go down in office history as “the naked guy”, but you don’t want to be that boring, sober person who left at 10 pm neither. So yes, it is the season to be jolly. But how jolly exactly should you let yourself be?

Glasses or Bottles?
Let’s start with the element that in some cases has done more harm than good: alcohol. Yes, it is called a party for a reason and yes that means that you should totally let your hair down. Sharing a few sips, dance moves and good laughs can do wonders for (potential) bonds between you and your coworkers. However, you do understand that you will need to set foot in that office again the Monday after, right? So by all means, drink champagne, wine, beer and Jagermeister, but please, for the love of God, not in excess. As such, it it probably wise to take some appropriate measures beforehand. If you know the food is going to be limited, make sure to fill your dear stomach up. Whether you do this with some fine turkey or a simple kebab, anything will probably do, as long as it contains carbs and doesn’t cause excessive garlic breath. All food aside, you probably know how much your body can handle, so make use of this valuable knowledge throughout the night. 

That Cute Colleague
If you are one of those people who have an office crush, don’t worry. You can’t help it either that there are beautiful people who decided to work in the same building as you. What you can help, though, is if and how you are going to deal with your wish to give voice to these warm, inner feelings towards Susan from Marketing. If the feelings are mutual, you will probably have noticed by now. So please, there is no need to draw any attention to your desperate desire for love by performing Romeo & Juliet’s balcony scene (or any similar rituals). However appropriate it might seem in the heat of the moment, please, please think twice. In addition, if you are successful and find that you and your crush are down for a little snug underneath the mistletoe, you might want to be discreet and make sure that you don’t have an audience. Again, this will simply make things easier on Monday. 

Sparking that Conversation
At the very beginning of the party, you might be confronted with awkward silences. Isn’t that wonderful news? People will still be sober, don’t really know you and also don’t really know what to talk about. A few tips:

– Avoid work-related topics
Introduce yourself if you don’t know the person
– Find common ground (sports, hobbies, love for food)
Make sure others can join your little conversation
Escape to the toilet or bar if the conversation is absolutely depressing and find colleagues you know are fun 

In terms of talking to the CEO or other influential people, get friendly but keep in mind that they are the ones fueling your bank account every month.

Bearing all this in mind, we trust you will have a marvellous time at your annual Christmas party. From our office to yours, we wish you wonderful days and lots of genius ideas for the new decennium. 

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with start-ups and scale-ups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through.

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected] 

8 Design Thinking Tools You Can Start Using Today

8 Design Thinking Tools You Can Start Using Today

From the big guys in Silicon Valley to the small startups here in Amsterdam, everybody seems to believe that design thinking is an extremely useful approach in order to unlock innovation. Probably, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of design thinking is a wall full of coloured post-its. However, design thinking is so much more! Essentially, design thinking is an iterative approach to solving problems in a way that might not be so obvious as we initially thought. So, design thinking allows us to really get into the shoes of the customer, to challenge assumptions and implications and to experiment, in order to find practical solutions that could be strategically beneficial for a business. Here’s an overview of tools that you can start using today. 

1. Visualization
This is not about drawing or going all out with paint or crayons, it is about using images to support conveying your ideas to others. When people try to express their ideas with words, the IT guy might automatically see code and servers whereas sales employees might start to think in sales campaigns. Instead, if the idea is presented by using a picture, the possibility of unmatched mental models and confusion is significantly being reduced. Consequently, your idea might actually come across as you intended, which increases efficiency and productivity.

2. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping could be used to visualize how ideas and items link to a central idea. As such, it is a great tool when trying to generate, structure and classify patterns that reveal insights for key design criteria. Instead of having a long, boring list with text, the mind map allows you and your team to structure the information in a similar way as the brain does. There’s great software tools out there that you can use, but if you have a decent handwriting, a good old-fashioned piece of paper will do too. Key here is full commitment from everybody involved.

3. Empathy Mapping
Now, more than ever, it is important to always have a customer-centric approach. We probably don’t have to explain that to you. In order to achieve it, however, it might be useful to know exactly what your customer is going through emotionally. What are the pains? What are the gains? Those can be derived from what the customer sees, hears, feels, thinks, says and does. Map it out, update when necessary and never let go of this precious map.  

4. Journey Mapping
Customer journey maps come in all shapes and sizes. And every once in a while, it might be a good idea to revise what your customer is going through. What are the emotional highs and lows? What are the opportunities for creating loyalty? Can the journey be shortened to make life of the customer easier? 

5. Value Chain Analysis
Value chain analysis is actually the business-side equivalent of the customer journey.

 This tool describes how a company deals with its value chain partners to produce, market and distribute new products or services. A careful analysis of the value chain, creates opportunities to create more value for customers all along the chain. In addition, it reveals insights about the company’s partners capabilities and intentions.

6. Business Model Canvas
We’ve already paid a tribute to Osterwalder & Pigneur’s business model canvas in this blogpost. The business model canvas is an excellent tool to visualize and summarize one’s business model, and to get an insight into how value is created and delivered. In a nutshell, it helps in understanding what needs to happen backstage, to create value for customer segments frontstage. 

7. Customer co-creation
Many people might be anxious to show unfinished products to customers, however, it is time to get over that. In line with the lean startup approach (read about it here), innovation is about learning from customers, and therefore customers cannot be involved early enough. How? Provide customer with visuals to get them to understand what could potentially be built. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it does have to be clear. The sooner you uncover what the customer really wants, the sooner you will be able to answer to those wants by delivering value.

8.Storytelling
Storytelling is closely related to visualization. It is a method to make ideas come to life by making them feel real and compelling. Just like visuals, stories can be used to tap into emotions and emotional memories tend to stick, research shows. As such, storytelling can enrich the context of your product or service, and can be used to draw and keep the customer’s attention. However, creating good stories requires some effort. Firstly, you need to be sure who your audience is. For this the previous tools could help. Secondly, create a storyboard. Set the scene for a problem, create characters that feel real in the plot. Do you ever read bedtime stories to your children/nephews/nieces/pets? Then you must know that all good stories follow a logical flow, have some surprise elements to it and a climax a.k.a. your solution to the problem. Don’t be afraid to make use of metaphors (again, to tap into people’s visualization), images and enthusiasm. 

Do you have any other tools that we should know about? We would love to hear more! 

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through. 

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]