This sounds like pretty solid advice, if you can't smile and be friendly you probably shouldn't open a shop. When I am presenting I quote this proverb often, and I am always surprised at the response.

The audience collectively bursts out laughing, which in itself is kind of fun. But I don't quite understand why it is funny. In fact I think it is deadly serious.

In the past many purchases were simply transactions--money was exchanged for a product or service. In many ways there was not a lot of emotion tied to the exchange, it was more about convenience and necessity.

Today, we make many, if not most of our purchases with a much higher expectation of emotional connection and one thing that stops us connecting is miserable people. Sadly way too many businesses have a lot of miserable people working in them (and owning them).

Of course the real issue is why are people miserable? Generally it is a lack of engagement of some sort in the workplace. But even this starts much higher up the food chain. The person at the top, the CEO, the business owner, the Manager, whoever it may be, will always have a dramatic impact on the mood of the business. These are the people who have "opened the shop" and if they are miserable, the overall mood of the company tends to follow suit.

The bottom line is that we all have to have a lot more fun when it comes to doing business. It is very easy to dismiss this as being all hippy dippy, however I see more evidence daily that successful organisations encourage a playful culture. One great example of this is Virgin Airlines. The sense of fun starts at the top with Richard Branson and works it way through the business like a playful virus.

What are the videos that go viral? The ones where the business is being fun playful and the staff are having fun. As consumers this appeals to our thinking and our desire for emotional connection.

Some businesses tend to think that a sense of fun is unprofessional. Do we think Virgin is any less professional or safe as an airline because of their playful attitude? Absolutely not.

Now of course, there are some businesses that need to maintain a more solemn approach. It is hard to imagine a funeral parlor being a place of huge amounts of fun. Generally though, most businesses can certainly encourage their staff to lighten up, to relax, to engage and be more human.

As the business owner, CEO or manager, you need to ask yourself if you have become way too serious?

Bringing a more playful approach to doing business has to start from the top and for many people, this means relearning how to have fun. From here, we need to let our team know that it is OK to lighten up, to connect and engage with our customers in a fun, but respectful way. And collectively we all have to learn how to laugh a whole lot more.

Published on: Oct 28, 2014