Time for a big question:
Are you having fun in your business?
Fun can seem like such a trivial thing. Something that “serious people” and “mature adults” and “responsible business owners” don’t have time for.
But at the same time, it’s something that we crave deep in our bones, which means it must serve a fundamental purpose of some kind.
The world of business is full of all kinds of people. On one end of the spectrum you’ll find people who seem to be perpetually having fun all day every day, flitting from beach to beach living the high life in some tropical paradise. On the other end, you’ll find people who are working ALL OF THE HOURS and will cut you if you suggest they maybe slow down & take a break.
(I’m told I fall into the second category. I probably do, seeing how I’m writing this on a Sunday.)
But here’s the thing: There’s a difference between working hard and not allowing yourself to have fun.
I work almost constantly, but I also have a lot of fun doing it. (And I also make time for non-work activities every now & again.)
We all know that building a business is like working multiple full-time jobs.
It means giving up evenings to send out sales pitches. It means having to turn down dinner out with friends when you’re in the middle of a cash flow crisis. It means spending Saturdays doing your accounting and Sundays attending all the webinars you said you were going to get to last month.
Building a business is not for the faint of heart.
It requires a significant time investment. It requires you to overclock your brain when you’ve got projects that absolutely, positively must get out the door this weekend. It requires a willingness to take utterly insane risks.
In other words, it requires a pile of work.
But just because you’re working hard, that doesn’t mean you can’t make time for fun as well. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with your work.
Now, I don’t claim to have all the answers. But this I know to be true:
If you’re going to be working on something 10, 12, 14 hours a day, it had damn well better be fun at least some of the time.
Otherwise, what’s the point? If you’re not having fun in your business, you have a problem. You can find jobs that will pay you more money and involve fewer hours & less stress. Very few entrepreneurs start businesses because they want to make money.
Fast-growth entrepreneurs are obsessed with making money. It’s their entire reason for being in business, and they’ll do whatever it takes to strike it rich as soon as possible. But here’s the thing: Most entrepreneurs are of a different kind.
A 2006 poll of over 4,000 small business owners found that 70% of business owners simply wanted to make enough money to cover their living expenses. Money was secondary to independence.
The truth of the matter is that most entrepreneurs take on all of this work, all of this risk, because they crave independence. Making money in business takes a good deal of time and effort. If your goal is to start making money now, then go get a job.
But if you want to be independent, then start a business.
And part of having independence? Is exercising it.
That’s the great part of being a business owner – you get to choose how you live your life and how you approach your work.
And I would argue that in choosing how you approach your work, you should choose to prioritize having fun.
Why? It’s simple:
A Fun Business is an Effective Business
Turns out, we’ve studied this. We have the data on it. We know what the dealio is.
And data gathered by social scientists over the last 20 years shows that (1) fun workplaces make employees happy, and (2) happy employees are effective employees.
Here’s what we know about how fun impacts the workplace.
• Boost motivation
• Improve productivity
• Lower stress
• Create higher job satisfaction rates
• Result in better performance evaluations
Fun in the workplace is also a GREAT way to defuse employee conflicts by allowing your team to bond. And a team that bonds well is a team that works well.
But get this: A fun workplace also improves your staff retention rate.
If you’re in an industry with a high turnover rate, then you need to keep as many of your employees as you can if you want to gain a competitive edge. Well…according to the Harvard Business Review, the single biggest predictor of workplace satisfaction is organizational culture.
In other words, it doesn’t matter how much you pay your people if you don’t have a positive workplace culture. If people feel out of place, or unable to be themselves, don’t expect them to stick around for any amount of money.
And it turns out, you CAN create a fun workplace environment without embracing absolute chaos or losing respect.
There are lots of easy ways that you can start making your business more fun, whether you’re a large corporation, a startup, a family business, or a solopreneur – without resorting to the cliché and tired “Casual Friday”.
Host a karaoke night. Play some tasteful pranks. Institute an hourly “exercise break” that requires all team members to get up and do jumping jacks for 5 minutes. Whether it’s a semi-annual foosball tournament, a Friday afternoon Nerf fight, or just sharing funny Internet memes on the office Slack channel, there are a lot of easy ways to make work more fun without completely derailing everything.
What do you think about having fun at work? If you’re opposed to it: What preconceived notions about the nature and purpose of work are informing your opinion? If you’re in favour of it: What is your business doing to make sure your work is fun?