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HUMAN RESOURCES

" Hear the One About the Entrepreneur Who..."

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Life is too short not to have fun, and that includes the time you spend at work.

When I started my own business, I was determined to create a light-hearted workplace. I wanted to enjoy going to work, and have my employees enjoy work, even when we had too many bills and not enough customers.

Entrepreneur's Motto: I started out with nothing and still have most of it left.

So, let's take a moment to get serious about fun.

Fun is a powerful business tool. Using humor wisely can relieve stress, increase communication, enhance motivation, and just make dealing with the ups and downs of daily business life a whole lot easier.

My sister sells advertising specialty items -- those small items given away at trade shows or to customers. She reports that the number one most desired type of product is something that is "fun." Now, that doesn't mean whoopy cushions, rather, she's talking about lighted pens, bouncy balls, and clever toys.

"Using humor as a life management tool is not about remembering jokes you read on the Internet or pulling pranks on your friends," says business humor consultant and speaker Leigh Anne Jasheway, of Eugene, Oregon, on her website at www.accidentalcomic.com. "It is about choosing to see the funny in life instead of the frustrating."

Or as Jasheway might sum up her own business, "I have never worked for a Fortune 500 company. My company, in fact, has been listed on the Misfortune 10,000 for the past eight years."

Humor is more than jokes; it's an attitude that you bring to situations -- whether it's mundane daily tasks or disappointing setbacks. Of course, jokes do help to reflect your sense of humor.

I'm a continual -- and some would say terrible -- punster. I make puns at the office all day:

  • I'm not saying that the customer service in my bank is bad, but when I asked the clerk to check my balance... she leaned over and pushed me.
  • At the coffee shop, I saw a sign over a tip jar: "If you fear change, leave it here."
  • Two banks with different rates have a conflict of interest.
  • Sea captains don't like crew cuts.
  • Do cemetery workers like the graveyard shift?

You don't have to take a week off to send your employees to clown college. Instead, you might have them let off a little steam by spending some time joking around, or working on fun projects. In our company, we've got a "stealth project." It's a website for an imaginary new invention -- downloadable pizza. (You can check out it out at www.downloadablepizza.com, but we're not ready to launch it, so let's keep it our little secret, okay?)

Like everything else in business, you have to use good judgment when having fun. Fun:

  • has to be in good taste. Racist, sexist, overly sexual, or scatological humor isn't appropriate for the workplace -- and may be illegal.
  • can not be abusive to any individual or group. Okay, so I (as a blonde) can handle some blonde jokes, and generally you can get away with lawyer and IRS jokes.
    Q: Why was the blonde delighted when she finished the jigsaw puzzle in two years?
    A: The box said, "3-5 years"

Oh, and of course, you can always pick on the big guys...

  • I picked up a Magic 8-Ball the other day and it said "Outlook not so good." I thought, "Sure, but Microsoft still ships it."

There aren't a lot of small business jokes, but I've found a few:

  • Hear about the business book they're going to write? Pyramid Schemes for Dummies.
  • "I decided to open my own business after something my last boss said."
    "What did he say?"
    "You're fired."
  • An elderly fisherman wrote to an engine manufacturer:
    "Please send me one of your boat engines, and if it's any good, I'll send you a check."
    In a short time he received the following reply from the engine-maker:
    "Please send the check. If it's any good, we'll send you the engine."

If you have good small business or entrepreneur jokes, please e-mail them to me, rhonda@planningshop.com. And remember, a day without sunshine is night.

Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2003


Rhonda Abrams is the author of The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies and the president of The Planning Shop. To receive Rhonda's free business tip newsletter, register at www.PlanningShop.com.




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