10 October 2009

Lighten up, it’s only business.

When you write a book called “101 Ways to Have a Business and a Life” you get asked a lot of strange questions and you encounter a lot of people who want to know the meaning of life, or at least the number one most important thing they need to do to get their life back into some kind of balance.

Well for me it is an easy one to answer and I base my answer on my observations of literally thousands of small businesses globally. Those business owners who can laugh and have fun always seem to have the most balanced lives and, as a by product, they seem to do much better financially than their sour faced counterparts.

I like to quote Confucius at a time like this – “a man without a smile should never open a shop”. In reality I think most of us need to lighten up, because after all, it is only business.

Being considered to be professional is a goal that the vast majority of business owners strive for and rightly so. Our customers expect professionalism and for a business that can’t deliver, look out. But what exactly is professionalism?

I believe many business owners don’t allow fun into their workplace because they feel it’s being unprofessional and their customers won’t like it or it will somehow lessen the perception that their customers have of them and the services they provide or the products they sell.

I completely disagree with this concept and say right here and now, that one of the keys to building a dynamic and successful business is to have a workplace that actively encourages people to have a good time. And by people I mean staff, customers, suppliers, cleaners, whoever have any interaction with this business.

Think back to the last time you visited a business where it seemed like everyone was having a way too much fun. Did you think that what they delivered was any less professional because they were joking around and enjoying themselves? I doubt it. If you haven’t read the book “Fish Tales” grab it today. It is an amazing story of a retail fishmonger business in Seattle that has become internationally renowned for developing a philosophy on building successful businesses based on creating an energetic, dynamic, fun filled workplace.

I know of a legal firm that has lawyer jokes on their message on hold telephone system. They are very successful. Their clients love them, they deliver exceptional service and they get results. Their advertising is fun and they enjoy laughing at themselves and the legal profession as a whole. Does this make them less professional? Not in my eyes, certainly not in the eyes of their clients and I would hazard a guess and say not in the eyes of their bank manager.

Surely customers would much rather be around an environment where the people they are doing business with are having a good time? Where everyone is quick to smile, light hearted and clearly in a good mood. Surely staff would want to work for a company that has a reputation as a place where people enjoy going to work.

Welcome fun back into your working life, encourage it, enjoy it, spread it around but define the boundaries so that everyone knows what is OK and what is not. Try it in little steps first and start to notice how you customers respond. I have no doubt that you will be surprised by their reaction.

3 thoughts on “Lighten up, it’s only business.”

  1. Jean Burman says:

    I love the Apple Store openings. Recently witnessed the Robina (Gold Coast) opening. For the first week… each and every customer who entered the store was greeted with a rousing standing ovation by staff. It drew attention to the place… and made people laugh… even the ones who would have otherwise simply passed by without going in. Really really cool marketing.

  2. Hi Jean – and yes, Apple does it very well. They are the masters of Cool Marketing. What a brand they have created – the envy of most brands in the world I think. Like Virgin to some degree – a brand that has managed to keep a unique and incredibly appealing edge. I love it. Now, brand “Jean Burman” is underway….


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Andrew Griffiths is Australia's #1 small business author with 12 best selling books now sold in over 60 countries. He's a writing and publishing expert, an international speaker and leading business advisor with over 20 years' experience. Andrew presents around the world and is considered an expert in entrepreneurship and an authority on building a profile. He is a thought leader through writing, publishing and speaking and is featured regularly in mainstream global media.

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