Being considered professional is a goal that the vast majority of business owners strive for, and rightly so. Our customers expect professionalism and when a business doesn't deliver, look out. But what exactly is professionalism and what does it mean to be professional? Of that matter what does it mean to be unprofessional.

The reason I ask these questions is that I believe many business owners don't allow fun into their workplace because they feel it's unprofessional and their customers won't like it. After all a business is a place of work not a place of play.

I completely disagree with this notion, and say right here and now that one of the most effective ways to build 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 has some kind of interaction with this business. Thank goodness this concept is changing and people are much more receptive to letting a little fun back into a business.

Think back to the last time you visited a business where it seemed like everyone was having a good time. Did you think that what they delivered was any less professional because they were joking around, laughing or enjoying themselves? I doubt it.

I know of a legal firm that plays attorney jokes on their on-hold telephone system. These legal eagles 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 either.

Surely customers would much rather be in 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?

The important point here is to develop your own philosophy around professionalism vs fun. Clearly define both as they apply to your business. What are your goals and objectives when it comes to being considered professional? How do you want to be perceived by your customers? What is your philosophy about having fun at work? What are the boundaries when it comes to having fun? After all, you aren't running a circus.

Why not develop a 'having fun and being professional' philosophy that clearly defines how you see the relationship between professionalism and fun, what you see as positive and to be encouraged and what should be avoided.

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 your customers respond. I have no doubt that you will be pleasantly surprised by their reaction.