I just got back from Seattle. Aside from the bittersweet experience of watching my daughter get ready to head off to college, we made a pit stop to Pike Place Market, as we usually do. Pike Place is one of those rare spots that, while definitely a tourist trap, does not feel like a tourist trap.
Aside from getting some java from the first-ever Starbucks and having some chowder from the spot where Tom Hanks chatted with Rob Reiner in Sleepless in Seattle, we spent a few minutes watching the guys at the fish market toss 50 lb salmon back and forth in front of their customers. Not only do they clearly have a good time doing this, but so do their customers.
And, of course, I am not the first person to notice that tossing fish is not only fun, it is a metaphor for upping the productivity and culture of your business. In the excellent business book Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results, authors Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen explore how the Pike Place fish toss is a perfect example of how fun makes work better.
Here’s why: Every small business has a culture. A few are by design, but most are by default; the default being the owner’s personality and values. While that may sometimes turn out for the best, it doesn’t always, so leaving your business culture to chance is a big mistake. Instead, it is far smarter to intentionally foster the sort of hard working, enjoyable and gratifying esprit-de-corps that makes for a great business.
Why? Because your culture sets the tone. It reinforces values you deem important, even when you are not around. A great culture fosters greatness. Makes sense, no?
Often, fun factors heavily into what is considered a “great culture.” Oh sure, you may think that your business is too serious or important to have fun . . . but think again. Here are 5 reasons why upping the fun factor at your office or shop will boost business:
- It increases productivity: When you see profiles of high-flying and hard-working Internet companies like Facebook or Google, what do you notice? For me, the thing that sticks out is that there are built-in ways for the employees to let off steam and have a good time:
Now, why is that? Because research has shown that people who enjoy their work, and have fun doing it, are also more productive.
Of course, doing this sort of thing at your own place of work does not need to be expensive or difficult. Add a hoop to the parking lot. Put a ping pong table in the break room.
- Foos ball tables
- Video game stations
- Basketball hoops
- Scooters. Scooters? Scooters!
- It fosters creativity: Creativity comes from the right side of the brain, and guess what? Not surprisingly, having fun is usually a right brain activity as well. People typically get those flashes of brilliance on the golf course, at night, or whenever they are doing some activity other than, say, going over the books again.
- It relieves stress: Personal example – Nothing in my work life was more stressful than being a first-year attorney. The hours and pressure were excruciating, and the stress made me less effective than I otherwise might have been. And the firm did little to relieve that. It would have been far better had they taken a play out of the book of some of their Silicon Valley startup clients and allowed us to break up the day with some fun.
We would have sued better, of that I am positive.
- It boosts morale: People work for many reasons – to make money of course, but also to be productive, make a difference and socialize. It follows then that fostering fun at work ties-in with these other reasons. It boosts morale and makes employees happier.
And happier employees means . . .
- Happier customers: Customers love enthusiasm (when it’s genuine). Studies show that happy, fulfilled, engaged employees treat customers better, which in turn impacts the bottom line. Given your druthers, would you choose to buy from a store where the staff is bored and apathetic, or one where they have a good time and love what they do? Exactly.
So —seriously— consider unleashing the fun. Tell us in the comments about the best work culture you’ve experienced. What do you think would be an ideal culture?
(Now, where are those darn Angry Birds?)
About Steve Strauss
Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.