Joking aside

Choked up, streaming eyes, gasping for breath…

No, dear hearts, not evidence of the widespread January lurg, or the intro to a tedious “sickness and small business” saga. These, my dears, are simply the symptoms of helpless and hysterical laughter. You know, the kind that’s utterly impossible to get a grip of. The kind that has you clutching your sides and sucking up your pelvic floor. The kind that comes along only infrequently, but makes you glad to be alive, goddamit.

Admittedly, there’s not much opportunity for intense hilarity of that kind in small business – laughing ’til you just can’t laugh any more is usually confined to the pub, the company of the family comedian, or an audience with Kevin Bridges. Nah, the SME sector does not tend to throw its head back for great big belly laughs, it’s just a bit too po-faced for that. This is a community which usually wants to be taken seriously, and quite right too. We are in the business of getting business, and that is not necessarily a laughing matter. But it saddens this lover of laughter that the polished professional front of small biz so often takes precedence over the real live human within. Strikes me that the enterprise environment, especially the networking circuit/circus, actively encourages a certain rather bland conformity.

No-one’s suggesting that running or promoting a business is a barrel of laughs. It’s bloody hard graft and sometimes the funny side of small biz couldn’t be further from one’s entrepreneurial agenda. There are children to feed and bills to pay, not exactly material for side-splitting punchlines. And obviously, some environments are more conducive than others for a bloody good guffaw, so no-one here is suggesting inappropriate giggling or snidey snickering. Nor do we really recommend fake bonhomie, or displaying the traits of the class clown – fake fun is as phoney as it gets.

Not everyone is a natural born joker and business does not necessarily have to be fun, fun, fun (but my god, if you don’t get a pretty big dose of deep pleasure from your own endeavours in enterprise, then you are in deep doo-doo). Having clients and commercial colleagues in stitches is not exactly an essential quality, you don’t need a degree in stand-up or to have survived a session at Green’s Playhouse to succeed. And, mercifully for most, delivering sparkling repartee at crack of dawn network events is not a pre-requisite, but honestly, it would be a big relief to see a bit more facade-slippage in small biz.

Do us, and yourself, a favour. See when it comes to the business of real human contact, especially on the getting-to-know-you networking merry-go-round, gonnae please crack a smile? You know, a proper, wide smile – one which isn’t just there for fleeting, front-facing effect. A big grin which reaches right to your eyes, and forces you to bare your teeth, in a good way. It’s pure joy when it happens, and what’s more, it’s madly infectious.

So go on, guys and gals, light up! It’s okay to have a bit of a laugh, and put the real human you right up front. Joking aside, it simply makes good business sense.