The Pursuit of Happiness

A second-time CEO starts over, searching for the good small-business life

Like all experiments, this one began with a question.

How was your day? was the question. As thin and unpromising as that. A question no one really answers.

But it was the question Paul Eichen asked himself and did answer. He stopped what he was doing and stared at his work. At his life. Could you do that? Would you? Try it now.

How was your day?

Was work good? Not its results, not the payoffs down some line, but the moment-to-moment doing of it. Did it please you? Were the ideas exciting? Did you make anything you were proud of?

Was your day fun? Does the job you have foster the life you want? Did you get some exercise, see friends, laugh with your children, share dinner with anyone who mattered to you?

Is work working for you? Is life working?

Ask yourself.

Because that's what Paul Eichen did awhile back -- Eichen the company builder who had helped grow a business to more than $100 million -- and the answer he arrived at was not happy. Work was everything, and work was eating him alive. And so what Eichen did was decide to walk away and do things over. To build a new kind of company whose whole point would be to set up a different kind of life. A balanced, healthful, soulful life. A humane one.

And at some other time in our economic history, Eichen's quest for that life might have been less complicated. Today, though, it thrusts him head-on into conflict with a vast tide of our moment -- the rush toward never-before-dreamed-of money and until-now-inaccessible status. Toward glamour. Toward a world where people really do become billionaires and dot-com founders really are photographed for fashion magazines. Where people sacrifice their personal lives for that.

And how do you reconcile the hunger for soul and health with the hunger for success as our age defines it -- our age that seduces us like no other, that dangles wealth and status so close it can seem foolish not to reach for them? Who hasn't felt that pull? Who hasn't wished, like Paul Eichen, that he could just walk away from it?

So, can you build a company whose only reason for being is to make life good? Eichen would see. And if you can build that company, will the world -- the ever-judging, seductive, doubt-inducing audience of your imagined peers -- let you feel as if the life you've achieved is enough? Eichen would find out.

What Eichen did was decide to try an experiment.

This is that experiment's story.

Gradually and all at once
For a long time Paul Eichen tried it the other way. The path of unquestioned striving. "I was driven to succeed," is what he'll tell you now about all those years, his voice leaning on driven more heavily than italics can convey. He was the classic entrepreneur -- a bit of a misfit, a whip-smart college dropout just a few degrees out of mainstream economic sync. He had the classic energy, plus the classic monomania, plus maybe some other manias, too, but only of the kind we Americans so muscularly admire. He was the sort of person about whom others say, "He's willing to pay the price." And you get what you pay for, don't you?

Born in 1955, Eichen grew up in Greater San Diego during the brash days of the electronics industry, the son of a father who throughout the 1960s and 1970s was one of the industry's local entrepreneurial shakers. Myron Eichen started his first company when Paul was five; he has since started or helped fund dozens of other ventures. The father's hours were long; he traveled a lot. Once he brought Paul a toy from Europe that hadn't yet made it to the States: LEGOs. "I thought I'd died and gone to heaven," Paul says.

Can you build a company whose only reason for being is to make life good? Paul Eichen would see.

As a child Paul Eichen was small -- he's only five-foot-five today -- and soft-bodied. When John F. Kennedy pushed a nationwide physical-fitness campaign that brought athletic-skills tests to Eichen's grade school, Eichen finished dead last. Partly to patch those failings, "in high school I became a rock climber, really wiry and strong," Eichen says. But there were few other rock climbers, of course; it was mostly Eichen on his own.

He went to college for a year, but he wanted to work, not just prepare to work. "All I wanted was to work and have a family. Even back then," he says. So at 19 he took a job clerking in a housewares store, where he rose to become manager. Four years later he took a bigger job, selling commercial food-service equipment. He sold reach-in freezers, exhaust hoods, eight-burner stoves. In 1981 he got married, to Amy. Soon she was pregnant with Noah, their first child. And in 1982, when he was 27, Eichen was finishing his second year as the equipment distributor's top producer. Every sales record the company had was his.

It was during those years that Eichen began establishing the pattern he would follow for the first two decades of his vocational life. He worked hard. He learned by doing. He persevered.

What he wanted from work then -- this is what he'll tell you today -- was to earn more than he spent and "show my parents I could accomplish something." He didn't think much more about it. "It was just how I was wired, to work like that," he says.

In 1982 he helped launch a start-up that would eventually be called Proxima Corp. (one of the businesses his father helped put together) as its sales manager. Fifteen months later he was the CEO of the still-small company. In 1985 Proxima began developing its first line of computer-data projection equipment, which became the company's meal ticket.

For the next nine years -- until the spring of 1994 -- Proxima was more or less Eichen's life. The company grew from $10 million in 1985 to $130 million in 1994. It was a mad gallop through distribution wars and desperation-fueled innovation. "We'd pour our life force into a product," says Eichen, "and the day we'd introduce it, we knew it was obsolete. That chews up your energy." Not that he saw another choice at the time. This was the world of the Southern California tech boom, of global opportunity if you were fast enough, of overnight industrial parks and titanium-lined glass and the low-decibel hum of a thousand colorless clean rooms. It was awful. It was a rush.

For Eichen, however, it was not a landscape of unbroken success. When Proxima hit a cash-flow ditch in 1989, its board of directors, including Eichen himself as well as his father, decided the company needed more experienced leadership. It named a new CEO, demoting Eichen to the #2 spot. The company regained its footing, and Eichen soldiered on. In 1993, Proxima went public. Shortly afterward, Eichen personally piloted the development of a breakthrough desktop projector that, after it began shipping, in 1994, sent revenues from $60 million to more than $100 million -- and hauled the stock price uphill behind it. Eichen and his family had always lived modestly, but now, he remembers, "life became unexpectedly lucrative." By the time Eichen left Proxima for good, in 1995, he had enough money that "if we didn't scale up our lifestyle, I could have retired."

Trouble was, who was "we" exactly? Indeed, who was he? Eichen was no longer sure.

The man who'd once been a wiry young rock climber was now so fat he couldn't take an evening stroll without stopping. By each weekend he was "cooked," couch-bound, a troll. The man who'd abandoned college to build a family now had one, but he barely ever bumped into its members. "I was up at 5:30 and out before anyone was awake," he says. He lunched at his desk, getting someone to fetch him a sandwich. He sometimes got home so late that his children -- he and Amy now also had a daughter, Rachel -- were asleep when he returned. "They didn't know their father while he was at Proxima," Amy says. "Instead, they had this image of what a dad was" -- Alan Spaulding on Guiding Light, a manipulative, workaholic family-business owner who rarely spent time with his kids.

"I had been living in an unhealthy way for a long time," Eichen says now. "And I was tired. I didn't have the capacity to do what needed to be done." And here was Amy telling him, "Paul, your kids are growing up, and if you want to get to know them, it's now or never." Not to mention that he and Amy weren't solid, either. "When you belong to your company," she says, "everybody else better be able to take care of themselves."

So in 1993 and 1994 Eichen found himself in a place he'd never foreseen and didn't know how he'd reached. He'd tried so hard, hadn't he? What had happened?

"It was no one thing," he knew. It was everything. Everything adding up.

And, oh man, isn't that always the way? "How did you go bankrupt?" a Hemingway character is asked in The Sun Also Rises. "Two ways," comes the answer. "Gradually and then suddenly." So it was with Eichen's bankruptcy of spirit.

On March 31, 1994, Eichen quit Proxima. As agreed upon earlier, he gave his boss and the board a year's notice. But the meaningful part of quitting took effect much faster than that. He had a plan. A possible salvation.

He would start a toy company.

A toy company? said Amy. There were private schools committed to, a house halfway built and eating cash. She'd been running this family, raising these kids, and now -- just when all their collective sacrifice was about to deliver them to safety -- the high-tech executive wanted a toy company?

"Our executives have chosen quality of life over the seductiveness of instant wealth."

Well, sort of. What Eichen wanted was a better life. And he'd begun to see a way to get it.

"I think people tend to know what they need to do in their lives, and they can either ignore it or get on with it," he says. "There were two things I hadn't accomplished." Critical things. "I hadn't created the best relationship with my wife and family. And I hadn't figured out how to best use my creative energy in my work." What he knew, he says, was that "I needed to do my own company. And I knew what it was." The boy who'd loved contraband LEGOs and model kits and machines had the idea for a business. More important, he had the idea for a style of business. A style that just maybe would make for a different kind of life. A true second act.

He had the idea for his experiment.

What would a company look like, Eichen wondered, if its only aim was to foster a good life? What if every company-defining choice you made -- nature of product, type of industry, the location, what you'd wear, the hours, the people you'd work with and the kind of customers you'd have, the space you'd work in, the investors, everything -- what if you made all those choices based on the way they'd make your work feel? On the way they'd make your work and life feel knitted together?

Let's try, Eichen thought. Let me try.

And if people don't like it? If people whisper, "What the hell's gotten into Eichen with that little toy company of his? Why'd he give up?"

Well, if that's what people want to think, then let 'em, right? Eichen thought. Who cares, right?


The true and only heaven
Five years later, early on a recent morning, when the sun was shining in Encinitas, Calif., just north out of San Diego through the coastal villages and beach-plum thickets on the bluffs above the Pacific, a morning when surfers in wet suits already peppered the waves, you would have found Paul Eichen in the conference room of the converted warehouse that's home to Rokenbok Toy Co. -- Eichen in jeans, deck shoes, no socks, and with a good haircut, 25 pounds lighter and smiling, his skin looking polished as his people gathered around him wearing their T-shirts and fleece, carrying sand-bucket-size water cups. Eichen and everyone else would be talking about the most important thing there was to talk about just then: what color to paint a piece of plastic railroad track.

In five years Eichen and his small band (27 at last count) have accomplished something noteworthy: they've invented an independent American toy company, establishing a brand that has won toy-industry accolades and is on track to reach $12 million in revenues this year with what Eichen calls "nominal profitability." These days Eichen's daughter, Rachel, is often around the office in the afternoon after she's gone to ride her horse. ("It's quite acceptable at Rokenbok to have your kids there," says Eichen.) His son, Noah, 18, is editing video footage of Toy Fair -- the industry trade show -- for the Rokenbok shareholders meeting. Employees come and go in workout clothes and on bicycles. And though every one of his executives -- Eichen believes -- has been recruited in the past six months by dot-coms and tech companies promising "instant millions," none have left. ("Our executives have chosen quality of life over the seductiveness of instant wealth -- though they wouldn't have done that if they didn't still have faith in our ability to create wealth over time," Eichen says.)

As for Eichen himself, his entire routine has changed. He stays physically active now. He travels infrequently and reluctantly. He works fewer hours and possesses more energy. He spends weekends visiting galleries or rooting for Noah and Rachel at their various sports. Or he reads. Or plays king of the grill. About his commute, he says, "You know, I don't drive that often. I bike. Changes the whole day."

He's in a groove, Eichen is.

And watching him now after knowing how he'd been half a decade before, it is impossible not to wonder, What plan did he follow to reach this place? What tactics did he use?

How did he get here?

And the answer is, he does not know. The answer is, there was no plan. There were no tactics. For all Eichen's grand hope that his experiment would renew his life, it started with no astonishing vision. The modest truth is that when it came to specifics, he set out with only two: he wanted to make a toy, and he wanted not to commute -- two wishes, it turns out, that may have made all the difference. With just those two inclinations about a product and a location in mind, Eichen took the next critical step. He began.

He resigned from Proxima and walked across the street -- "literally across the street," Eichen says. There, he pitched an industrial designer he admired on his idea: high-tech know-how applied to classic toys. Imagine a LEGO-like construction set, he'd said to the designer, with computerized, remote-controlled vehicles. Help me, he'd said.

Eichen raised $330,000 from friends and relatives -- and added $146,000 from his own pocket -- resolving during the planning process not to use more than his own cash if things looked bad. If he couldn't make headway on the little dump trucks and front-end loaders and snap-together buildings and ramps, he'd close the company and give the other money back.

In the summer of 1995 he and his colleagues finally put models of their toys in a room with other toys (from LEGO, Playmobil, and Brio) and stood behind a one-way mirror as pairs of children were invited to play with whatever they wished. Would they even look at the Rokenbok toys? If they didn't, the business was over. But they did. Eichen and his crew had got at least this much right: the stuff they'd made was fun.

Rokenbok's first office was a single room over a travel agency by the beach, two miles south of Encinitas in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Eichen chose it, he later realized, because it was everything Proxima's location was not. It was close to home instead of hours of traffic away. It felt "real," not sanitized and isolated like the industrial parks where Proxima and so many other tech businesses were set. He could wear old T-shirts and shorts. He could work like hell, then take a nap or a walk, or go around the corner to Pipes and eat breakfast on paper plates with the surfers at first light. "I loved going to Cardiff," Eichen says.

He liked working intensely when he wanted to but having the real world surrounding him when he didn't. And he began to see how a Rokenbok workstyle that evolved "thanks to the happy accident of being in Cardiff" contained a kind of magic. What was at first ad hoc became deliberate -- the casualness, the coming-and-going of Eichen and Rokenbok's creative, itinerant gang, the clarity born of focusing hard on work and life instead of on politics and protocol. And when the kid trials succeeded and the company required bigger, more lasting headquarters, Eichen's first question was, Where do we want to be? And he knew: "Not in an industrial park but in a village. By the beach." Hence, Encinitas, and the rehabbed warehouse a short walk from the sand. Among Rokenbok's sidewalk neighbors are ethnic restaurants and coffee shops, used-book stores and vintage-clothing boutiques, bars, sundries emporiums, and dry cleaners. Ask Rokenbok employees what they think about the office, and one of the first things they'll mention is loving the community around it.

Of course, for Eichen and everyone else at Rokenbok there was something else outside the office that affected how things felt at work -- the suddenly hyperventilating economy all around them. All those names in the news, the latest initial public offerings, the feeling that people were out there operating in entirely un-Rokenbok-like ways and making a damn killing. One of Eichen's father's projects, the convergence-technology start-up Broadcom Corp., was becoming one of the gold rush's stars. Myron Eichen had helped seed Broadcom in 1991 and sits on its board. Today, Broadcom's CEO is worth more than $5 billion. Both Eichens separately describe the company as the workplace where no one can work enough hours, where it's understood that Broadcom comes first. Before health, before family, before God. It's "rock-and-roll," both Eichens will tell you. The big time. CEO Henry Nicholas has his meals specially prepared and brought to his desk, has his personal trainer come to his office and work him out in the next room. You wanna compete? These guys compete. These guys do what it takes to win.

But Paul Eichen -- despite the proximity of Broadcom's example and the world's growing reverence for a different kind of success -- just kept heading to Cardiff, to Pipes, and then to the warehouse in Encinitas, up the road. Not that there wasn't some stumbling. Both at the company and at home.

Plenty at Rokenbok went wrong. Mothers thought their children might choke on the first version of Rokenbok's toy cargo pellets. Forays into Europe were botched. In late 1999 a key retailer went bankrupt, Eichen says, owing Rokenbok $400,000. ("This company's a sports car," an employee remembers Eichen telling her once. "It can turn on a dime, but you feel the bumps.") Still, the toy company climbed from sales of $2.6 million in 1997 to $10 million in 1999 and has earned a kind of self-confidence in spite of the challenges ahead.

At a time when so much work is impossible to explain, here is a product anyone can understand.

How did Eichen get here? By groping his way: Make a toy. Don't commute. Aim for a company that feels good. Begin.

He knew that choosing to make his kind of toy in its kind of industry would by itself make his company feel different. Rokenbok was conceived as a legacy toy with a long life cycle, not as a fad. In theory, a Rokenbok model from years ago is as appealing as today's -- "which gets us off the obsolescence merry-go-round," says Eichen. "There isn't the fear of being left behind. The base technology for Rokenbok won't change for the foreseeable future." The pressure is on quality, not speed. It's a far slower industry than high tech is, and it's tiny; all toy manufacturers combined do less than half the annual revenues of IBM. And the toy industry operates in predictable seasons, not constant waves of product introductions. More than 80% of Rokenbok's sales are made in the the fourth quarter. "Once we have an agenda," says Eichen, "we have an agenda for the year." By wanting to make a lasting toy, Eichen built predictability and sanity of pace right into the new company's foundation.

His product choice, it turns out, has imprinted Rokenbok with some other characteristics, too. At a time when so much work is impossible to explain, here is a product anyone can understand. Anyone can debate which color is best for the railroad track or whether a motorized crane or a bulldozer is a better line extension. Anyone can think about how to package the toys for kids.

As a consequence of that kind of accessibility, colleagues at Rokenbok can understand one another's tasks, no matter how different their jobs are. Coworkers can make suggestions, help solve problems, commiserate. Managers -- including Eichen himself -- can confidently judge for themselves how work is progressing, because it isn't mysterious. That eliminates the anxiety that results from feeling in the dark even at the head of your own business. A whole different, and unusually collaborative, sense of team can evolve.

"Values that are important personally are things we're trying to design right into the product."

Making something anyone can understand transforms relationships outside the company, as well. Bankers, investors, and media people pay attention differently simply because it's possible. Even friends and -- most profoundly -- family can connect with your work life. A Rokenbok engineer describes horsing around with his kid and the company's toys on the family-room floor, puzzling out problems that way, revealing how work can be play. Suddenly, a parent's vocational life isn't opaque. Connections happen.

"It doesn't hurt that it's fun stuff," says Eichen, or that unlike so many things people work on today, it's tangible, pleasing to hold and manipulate, and intended to last a very long time. "We're trying to make something classic, not disposable. Values that are important personally -- quality, constructive fun, learning, design sophistication -- are things we're trying to design right into the product, and that feels great," he says. It invests the work with meaning. "Nobody remembers desktop projectors."

Can you build a company whose first aim is to make life good? It's beginning to seem so. Can a company like that turn a plummeting life around? To look at Eichen, you begin to imagine it can. You see the reenergized body, the recovered relationships with his kids, the business that looks very much like the mirage he'd crawled toward after so long in the desert. Like more than the mirage, even. Better. Here Eichen is, biking to work in the sun.

But there have been so many stumbles. In February, Paul and Amy decided mutually that "after many years of trying to put things back together," their marriage had failed. He won't say why exactly. Neither will she. But Paul Eichen understands that along with the sad human fallout from the breakup will come fresh skepticism about this experiment of his, this attempt to make work so good that life would be, too. I hadn't created the best relationship with my wife and family, remember? And so he built this company with its different priorities, its devotion to family and play, and in the end he still hasn't created that relationship -- at least not with his wife. So much for Eichen in the groove.

The seductions of glamour, the craving for heart
So how was your day?

Was work good, were the ideas exciting? Did the job you have foster the life you want? Is work working for you?

Is life working?

Paul Eichen is on the phone, listening to the questions, for the last time taking stock. He understands that what people want to know is whether the experiment has worked, whether he got what he wanted. And it's complicated, isn't it? There are his kids, his company, his health, his divorce. There is his head. There is his heart.

He did not save his marriage after all. Is Rokenbok's appeal an illusion?

"No, no, no," he says. "The things I didn't do that I needed to do -- to get to know my wife and what she needed -- I didn't do while I was at Proxima for 13 years and before that. I was driven to succeed. I didn't see what I was missing at home.

"I'm not blaming that completely on the work environment. I'm blaming it on me and Amy not understanding what was needed to make a strong marriage. But working like I did didn't help."

He pauses.

"You've gotta understand," he says. "Amy and I are not fighting. There are no attorneys, no CPAs, no private investigators, no arguments. About custody, about property. We've resolved it all on our own." And how often does that happen?

"Without Rokenbok, it wouldn't have worked that way," Paul says. "The energy and flexibility it brought to my life has allowed Amy and me to work through all this really hard stuff, this transition. We talk every day. We raise the kids together. And it's peaceful." (It's true, Amy Eichen says. "And the kids are good, which is what we both care about most.")

Look, he's saying, life gets messy. Do not kid yourself that even the most balanced workplace can prevent that. It can help, God knows. But the world will not be managed. The world is too big.

And yet, in some sadly ironic way, the manner in which a marriage was ended between two people whom Amy Eichen calls "really good friends with a good family" turns out to be another proof, Paul believes, that the experiment has worked. "My health and well-being today is as good as it's been in the past 25 years," he says. "I'm stronger, I rest better, eat better. I have all the intellectual stimulation of a challenging job that an active mind likes to have, and all the contact with bright, intelligent people, and yet I don't have the stresses of a day-to-day environment that most businesspeople have to deal with."

He has taken the right path, he believes -- no matter how far he is from the take-no-prisoners, have-no-life swashbuckling of the business elite. From places like Broadcom, a company his own father helps direct. Broadcom with its $518 million in revenues, its price/earnings multiple of 370, its CEO worth $5.5 billion. Once, Eichen was on that path, just with fewer zeros. At Proxima that was his life -- that mania -- a life spent running that fast. But he's over it now. A soul and health, or glamour and spoils? He's made his choice. "If someone said to me, 'Paul, would you come run this dot-com?' I'd say, 'No, I'm running my toy company.' And it feels great," he says. The experiment, he says, is working. And for all the complications, you believe him.

In the end here is what's remarkable about Paul Eichen's journey: that he did it at all. That for all the imperfections and blowups and ongoing struggles, for all the groping, he made the life he sought. He's doing the work he wanted to do, the way he wanted to do it, in the place he wanted to do it.

What's remarkable is that he did it at a time when it could not have been harder, because here comes the world, after all, this new world in which the money for a half-decent IPO is insanely greater than ever and the time it takes to get that money dizzyingly shorter than before. And the seduction is new, because sometimes it's not even about money anymore. It's about how the players in the big game are suddenly who people want to be. When Bill Gates was becoming the richest man in the world, people wanted what he had -- his money, his influence, his fame maybe, possibly even his brain -- but they didn't want to be him. Whatever else he was, he was not cool. He was the classic entrepreneur, the old model, the misfit a few degrees out of mainstream sync. And now the new entrepreneurs aren't misfits anymore. Now, suddenly, they're hip. Where once entrepreneurs were respected for what they could get done, now they're celebrated for their glamour. And everybody knows that if you're anybody in business, then this is where you'll be: working round the clock at the wired-up center of the speeding world, dancing with all the other people who matter.

"If someone said to me, 'Paul, would you come run this dot-com?' I'd say, 'No, I'm running my toy company.' And it feels great."

The seduction is new because the money can be so big, the time needed to get it so short, that people postpone their lives to chase it. We postpone health, friends, family, dreams. We postpone happiness. We tell ourselves there will be time for those after the IPO, right? After the options vest, after we've sacrificed whatever we have to sacrifice in order to grab one of those brass rings that are everywhere, that everyone else is already getting ahold of. We say to ourselves that the sacrifices will be worth it, that we'll collect our spoils and then get out, then get back to living. The rewards are so big, we'll do life serially. Work now, live later.

But Paul Eichen knows better.

In the end, what Eichen's journey has to teach us is that you don't do life that way.

You do life day by day.

And once you make that leap, reject those seductions, you may even make a discovery: you don't miss what the world seems to think is so dazzling.

"What's to miss?" he says. "Is it bad to have fewer meetings? Is it bad to travel less? Is it bad to worry less?

"Look," he says, "at a company like Rokenbok you still get to keep the good parts: intellectual stimulation, social activity, the fun of competing to win." And you get to have a life, too. You get less money but enough. Design your company right, and not only can it give you a good life but it can even grow a little, too.

There's a story Eichen tells about driving to work in the early days of Rokenbok. Every morning, he would pass under the freeway, the eight lanes of shoulder-to-shoulder traffic that he didn't run with anymore. The ride he'd gotten off. And for a long time he felt guilty for seeking what he was after instead of what the people on the freeway chased. "And then, you know what?" he says. "I got over it. It passes, you know? It just does."

In the end what Paul Eichen wants you to know is that there has been nothing harder in his life than his two untethering breakups -- from Proxima and from his companion of 20 years -- but that the best thing about Rokenbok is how it has carried him through them. The best thing is what it feels like "to go in and see your friends every morning, to be with people who are happy to be doing what they're doing, happy with the lives they can have while doing it," he says. What's best is each day.

And so it's the same question again, always the same question. How was your day, Paul? we ask.

"My day?" He thinks it over a moment. Thinking, maybe, of everything about the experiment that's worked. And he says, "My day was good.

"Really good," he says.

"How was yours?"

Michael Hopkins is the executive editor of Inc. Research assistance for this article was provided by Anne Marie Borrego and Mary Kwak.

Once more, with feeling

What would a company look like if its first aim were to foster a good life? In the course of building Rokenbok, the second company he's run, Paul Eichen identified some of the considerations that guided him:

Location. Where a company is determines not only the commute but the richness of life outside the office.

Industry anxiety level. Some products or services are outmoded even before they're marketed; the typical life cycle of an industry's products affects the daily anxiety felt by those who work in it.

Workstyle. As long as employees can do their work, they can be encouraged to set their own hours, dress as they wish, attend to their health, and put their families first.

The nature of the product and family or personal life. If the company's product or service is easy to understand and inherently interesting to kids, partners, and friends, then work life can easily and enjoyably be shared with them instead of compartmentalized. It becomes a source of connection instead of distance.

The nature of the product and collegiality. Similarly, an easy-to-understand product or service enables coworkers to be engaged by one another's problems and achievements. It promotes teamwork instead of isolation.

The nature of the product and relationships with customers. Work feels better if the product or service generates customer loyalty.

An attention-getting product. If a product or service is inherently charming to outsiders, including the media or financial communities, the attention it gets promotes the stature of the workplace.

Please e-mail your comments to