Sunday, August 31, 2003

A CEO walks into a bar ...

Small business

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

Life is too short not to have fun, and that includes the time you spend at work.

When I started my own business, I was determined to create a lighthearted workplace. I wanted to enjoy going to work, and have my employees enjoy work, even when we had too many bills and not enough customers.

Entrepreneur's motto: I started out with nothing and still have most of it left.

So, let's take a moment to get serious about fun.

Fun is a powerful business tool. Using humor wisely can relieve stress, increase communication, enhance motivation, and just make dealing with the ups and downs of daily business life a whole lot easier.

Style sets the tone

Humor is more than jokes; it's an attitude that you bring to situations - whether it's mundane daily tasks or disappointing setbacks. Of course, jokes reflect your sense of humor.

I'm a continual - and some would say terrible - punster. I make puns at the office all day. For example:

•  At the coffee shop, I saw a sign over a tip jar: "If you fear change, leave it here."

•  Sea captains don't like crew cuts.

•  Do cemetery workers like the graveyard shift?

You don't have to take a week off to send your employees to clown college. You might just have them let off a little steam by spending some time joking around, or working on fun projects. In our company, we've got a "stealth project." It's a Web site for an imaginary new invention - downloadable pizza.

Watch those edges

Like everything else in business, you have to use good judgment when having fun. Fun:

• Has to be in good taste. Racist, sexist, overly sexual, or scatological humor isn't appropriate for the workplace - and may be illegal.

• Cannot be abusive to any individual or group. OK, so I (as a blonde) can handle some blonde jokes, and generally you can get away with lawyer and IRS jokes.

Question: Why was the blonde delighted when she finished the jigsaw puzzle in two years?

Answer: The box said, "3-5 years."

Oh, and of course, you can always pick on the big guys ...

• I picked up a Magic 8-Ball the other day and it said "Outlook not so good."

I thought, "Sure, but Microsoft still ships it."

There aren't a lot of small-business jokes, but I've found a few:

• Hear about the business book they're going to write? Pyramid Schemes for Dummies.

• "I decided to open my own business after something my last boss said."

"What did he say?"

"You're fired."

• A fisherman wrote to an engine manufacturer:

"Please send me one of your boat engines, and if it's any good, I'll send you a check."

In a short time he received the following reply from the engine-maker: "Please send the check. If it's any good, we'll send you the engine."

Rhonda Abrams is the author of "The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies" and the president of The Planning Shop. To receive her free business tip newsletter, register at

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