Having a laugh: The fun parts of setting up and running a business

Don't treat 'fun' with scorn or trivialise it - enjoyment is an essential ingredient of business success, argues William Berry

Fun is a serious business and it might sound contrary to success, but without it, your business can flop. The trick is to have fun in the right way, but what is the right way? Well, don’t bring in fun to your company for the sake of it. It’s the way you apply it that counts.

When it comes to having fun, everyone has a different sense of it. You’ll know that the optimum business has different character types, rather than everyone who is the same. Different people, different skillsets. So the flipside for this is to consider different kinds of people have different kinds of fun needs.

I’ve found that while some employees gain fun and reward out of making the business run more efficiently, others might get satisfaction from organising social events. Others might gain rewards out of thinking how to run meetings more creatively. Others might get fun out of keeping a diary of people’s birthdays.

There’s different fun agendas for different levels of the company strata. What is fun for directors, might not work on the floor level, and vice-versa. The bonus with this is that you can utilise peoples’ desire for fun as a way of adding value to the work environment, and ultimately profitability.

There’s also times when fun can be an ends, not just a means to something. The most recent example of this is the recent cyber phenomenon of something called Minecraft. This is the latest craze for the online community, and set up by Swedish software whizz, Markus Notch Persson. Months later there are not only videos on YouTube of the game, but videos of people playing the game.

It’s not just gone viral, the craze of the craze has gone viral, and made its creator a small fortune. All the time, the whizzkid who invented, and the people who gave it publicity, were doing it in the name of fun. There was no marketing budget, no strategy, no hard investments, no business plan. The success was supercharged by fun.

Lesson here is that you should always have a sense of fun in the things you do. You should always be willing to try new things. When it goes from your company that is when you have to worry, or consider when it is time to move on.

But all the time it’s crucial not to get carried away on the wave of fun. Just like any economy. The real test of a company is not how it operates in the fun times, but how it pulls together and shoulders the storm when the going gets tough. It’s just the more flexible you can be in bending between the two, the more robust the operation you are likely to have. That’s your aim.

As soon as you’re following a mundane formula every day, that’s when the heart and soul has gone. The extreme of this is if you’re company and company culture is extremely serious and the atmosphere in the work space is just too tense to handle. How do you deal with that?

The answer is not to suddenly turn up like David Brent from The Office in a Star Wars mask and pretend to be Hans Solo with his ‘light sabre’. Part of the reason David Brent’s model of fun didn’t help his paper making business profit, was that he dived in too tactlessly with his clown antics. It was too self-indulgent, and not done for the greater company good in mind.

If you have a serious work environment, you need small steps. It’s relative. Sometimes just making the work environment less tense takes you one step up the fun ranks. I remember a case in one company where one person was infecting an otherwise enthusiastic workforce with a laissez faire attitude, and spoiling the fun of running a business for everyone. As soon as she left, everything changed. That was all it took. It was more fun to go in the office almost overnight.

Don’t go in too gung-ho with your fun strategy, it looks fake. Instead take baby steps. Set fun targets according to the work setting. If you’re confronted with a tense environment, just focus on making that environment more comfortable to begin with. Then bring in other fun elements. In the meantime, make sure you have fun yourself thinking of ways to making your business more fun. If you do just that one thing you’ll be ahead of 50% of the companies out there.

Just making the work place a pleasure, and removing the boredom most face at work their entire life, will put you in the top 10%, and ultimately reward you with a valuable business and loyal workforce.

William Berry is a serial entrepreneur and in 2006 was named a Young Gun by Growing Business. He is the founder-director of accommodationforstudents.com, conferencevenues.com, and Vincentbond.com. William is also CEO of the new video start up p6.com, based in California.


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