Relax, Business Doesn’t Always Have to Be Business-Like

I just heard that my favorite editor, Deanna Hartley, is leaving Talent Management magazine for a new job at CareerBuilder, the job search behemoth. Although I have only met her once, I will miss her very much; as an editor she gets my sense of “humor” far better than the churlish 50-somethings at other media outlets which will go unnamed.  The good news is that she is leaving one great place to work – Human Capital Media – for another.

I know CareerBuilder well. Back in the early days of the 21st century it was still a very young company in a fairly new market – online recruiting – and it was looking for a big industrial score. Coca-Cola Enterprises was a big score.

I was the head of human resources at the time, with a new talent acquisition department led by the charismatic Stephanie Asbury, a financial whiz. I was wise, and lazy, enough to turn most decision-making over to her, and when she told me we were going to hire an online search firm to manage entry-level hiring I paid little attention. Until I saw the numbers.

This may sound Stone Age to most of you, but like a lot of companies only 10 years ago, collecting accurate data on our human resources – like how many people worked for us – was hard. Forget big data, we had virtually NO data, at least nothing centralized.

We became one of their biggest clients and didn’t object when asked to go to the Super Bowl in 2005.

I have been on the other side of corporate entertaining at big sporting events before – it goes with the territory in the consumer products industry – but at most companies the details are handled by huge departments of people who are basically glorified cruise directors. Very professional, but overly planned and stiff. As a result, corporate entertainment trips are not much fun; instead being glum affairs with jaded spouses and nervous hosts, everybody watching their backs. Death Lizard-type stuff. In this case, it was handled by account managers, 20-something webmeisters who had never done anything remotely like this before. And it was great.

I won’t bore you with all the details of that weekend in Jacksonville, Fla. Plus, I’m not sure if the Florida statute of limitations has run out yet. But I will give you a flavor. For the long drive from the remote resort hotel to the game, someone at the last minute figured that transportation would be needed for the 10 people gathered. One of the CareerBuilder people had a local friend who knew where he could borrow an old stretch limo and off we were. A couple of us chipped in for gas.

The driver they found didn’t know where the stadium was, so I sat in the front seat and directed, having lived there a few years earlier. One of our hosts mentioned that the “real” corporate limos rolling from the hotel to the game were fully catered affairs (including one with Bill Clinton in it), so we decided to pull over at a convenience store and cater our own. I ran in and bought an ice chest, some Slim Jims, a pack of Swisher Sweets and a case of Busch Bavarian, and off we were.

The point of this isn’t about our adventures, of course. The point is that business doesn’t have to be all seriousness, process, hierarchy and protocol. People are at their best, in or out of the office, when they are being themselves, authentic, unpretentious. Laughing. Not sweating the small stuff. Having fun, as TM columnist Jac Fitz-enz wrote last week.

Deanna is going from one group of good, honest and fun people at Human Capital Media to another, and I am happy for her and wish her well.