Corporate Finance & Governance | Financial Planning | Leadership / Management

The key to recovery? Make ’em laugh

Treat There's a charming Halloween tradition in St. Louis unlike any other I've come across. When St. Louis kids come to your door on Oct. 31, they're expected to tell you a joke before they get any candy.

Younger kids usually stick with something simple like, "Why did the chicken cross the playground? (Answer: "To get to the other slide!")

Older kids, meanwhile, like to try more sophisticated variations. Here's one of my favorites: "Why did the man cross the road?" (Answer: "Why do men do anything?")

What's cool is that the kids are as excited about telling their jokes as they are about getting another handful of chocolate. Usually, the jokes end up producing more Halloween smiles than the candy. In the end, everybody wins.

Who says the best things in life are free?

When we give something of value and get something of value in return, that's gold. That goes way beyond mere commerce. That, in fact, is how trusted relationships are built.

So why haven't more companies battled the recession that way?

It seems as though many businesses think they can coast into economic recovery simply by cutting costs -- slashing jobs, payroll, benefits, services. They're basically thrusting their hands into the economic candy bowl and coming out with as much sugary goodness as they can hold ... and they're not giving their clients or customers anything in return. Not even a joke.

I think the St. Louis kids have it right. As the recovery starts, the businessess that get the most candy will be the ones that make their customers smile most often. That might mean focusing not on short-term economic survival, but on long-term economic growth.

At the same time, sharing a good joke or two can't hurt.


Bill Sheridan