What Role Should Fun Play In Your Business?

I’’ve been thinking about fun lately. (Like money, it’s something we never seem to get enough of.) If you read the business press, you know that fun — having it, creating it, and promoting it — has been one of the primary business concerns of young dot-com entrepreneurs. Some of these businesses seem to have fun as their No.1 priority. There is a company in San Francisco, for example, that has turned its workplace into an arrested adolescent’s theme park.

Another entrepreneur, profiled in a recent issue of Inc. Magazine, gave up on a $130 million business that produced computer-data equipment to devote his life and a new business to making life fun. He decided to run a toy-manufacturing business in a San Diego warehouse with plenty of video games and no hosiery requirement for his employees. Some business plan. To make matters worse, this kind of “out-of-the-box” thinking has been given the highest praise by The Wall Street Journal, Fortune Small Business, Inc., etc.

When you think about the reporters who write for these publications — kids just out of college — a reverence for fun is not surprising. You are getting the feeling that I’’m against fun. But that’’s not true. What I’’m against is having silly business priorities. And it seems to me that turning your company into a theme park and banning socks is not the way to run a profitable business. I offer as evidence the thousands of dot-coms that have gone out of business in the past 12 months. It wasn’’t solely because they wanted fun that fate undid them, but the importance they gave fun had a lot to do with it.

The primary purpose of a business is to make a profit. A good businessman creates a profit by selling a product or service for more than it costs him to make it. This is not an easy job, but it’’s a noble one. If you apply yourself diligently to a purpose you care about — and running your business should be such a purpose — you will have a lot of fun. But if you try to twist your business into a fun-making enterprise, it won’’t work . . . and that won’t be fun. Life is wonderful like that.

If you spend your energy trying to take care of yourself, you will be miserable. If you focus on something else, you’’ll be fine. So if you want fun in business, don’’t make it your objective. Build a better mousetrap. Make a profit. Grow your enterprise. Do a good job and the fun will be there when you need it.