“I reach out to a lot of employees…. I ask: ‘Are you having fun?’…. I’ll just ask, ‘What’s your ratio of fun days right now? Are you 6, 8, 9, are you 4 out of 10? If you’re 4, why?’ If you’re not having fun 8 out of 10 days on a consistent basis, you’ve got to say something. You can’t just expect that your manager always knows if you’re not having fun.” — Chris Barbin, chief executive of Appirio, an information technology company, in an interview in the New York Times.
Gus Brent started the digital strategy company Gadzookology in his parents’ garage. Now the company is worth between 16 and 17 trillion dollars (according to a flippant statement made by someone at a party). What’s the key to its success? How did this college drop-out and inept grocery bagger manage to create THE company of the new millennium? According to Brent, the answer is “fun.”
Q: What is the secret of Gadookology’s alleged success?
BRENT: Easy. They key to a successful company is joy. The employees must have a feeling of fun and joy. They must actually take pleasure in coming to work each day. Happy employees make for happy digital strategies. It’s really that simple.
Q: Your company seems to be taking a page from other big names in the tech industry. All those social-network outfits and animation studios encourage creativity and play in the workplace. Is that something you encourage as well?
BRENT: We have a saying around here: If you’re sad, you’re fired. So to answer your question, yes, we like to play. I studied those companies. I read about their fun cafeterias and naps-at-work policies. But I didn’t think they were going far enough. As a CEO, I can take the new corporate ideology and push it a step further.
Q: Can you give an example?
BRENT: For starters, naps are mandatory. A mild sedative in the communal ice cream bucket gives my employees the rest they need and deserve. From 3 to about 5 in the afternoon, everyone is out cold. They wake up a tad groggy and confused, but after a few bites of our caffeinated pancakes and an oral steroid, they bounce right back.
Q: Don’t they figure out the ice cream drugged pretty quickly?
BRENT: Of course! And they love it! At 2:55, they start chanting, “Nice cream, nice cream, nice cream!”
Q: Getting back to your joy doctrine…how much of the workday is spent actually working?
BRENT [unfastens his cape]: We don’t have clocks here. Is it 4:30? Is it December? Who cares! You want to talk about hours? How many hours did it take to come up with the cup holder in a car? I’m thinking that baby took about ten minutes. Some guy looked at his car and said, “I wish I could put my coffee cup somewhere that wouldn’t leave me with scrotal burns.” Bam! He revolutionizes the industry. Ten minutes! That’s all it takes. So my employees only need to really work for ten minutes during their entire careers.
Q: Tell me about the water slide.
BRENT: First, it’s not a water slide. It’s a Hydrated Idea Incline. When an employee is stuck on a certain problem, or if they wish to travel to the first floor, they take a ride on the Hydrated Idea Incline. The positive ions of the warm spraying water, in combination with the pornography on the widescreen display above the splashdown pool, greatly increase creativity.
Q: I notice several oddly dressed men murmuring and shuffling about. Who are they?
BRENT: We have a fantastic employee-to-shaman ration here. It’s something like three to one. Anyway, instead of piping in awful pop music, we have these shamans — or is it shamen? I need a nap! — walk around and whisper in the ears of the workers. Now, I have no freaking clue what they’re saying. It’s not English. But it works. Somehow.
Q: Why eschew the standard concept of desks?
BRENT: Desks are shameful. Businesses are very slow to realize that when you sit at a desk, half of your body is completely hidden. Our employees instead conduct all business on computers that hover above the ground using magnetism and ghosts. It costs more, but it’s impossible to put a price on whimsy. For instance, our new boomerang court will help…
Q: Pardon me, but speaking of money, several former employees have come forward saying that they were never paid.
BRENT: Haha. Sounds like some people never got their rides on the Fun-rail. [Blows a flute to summon the Fun-rail, an enormous three-railed steam-powered train that travels throughout the campus.] All aboard! This train is one of the company’s greatest perks. It’s so much fun! It runs on coal made from the charred bones of some of history’s greatest business leaders. Right now, we’re burning the bones of a DuPont. Smell that? That’s the smell of creative business, or Creabusinitivess, as I call it in my forthcoming opera “Fun and Funner”.
Q: How does the train help employees?
BRENT: It travels to the candy butcher, of course. But this is the local train, so it also make stops at the cafeteria, the movie theater, the erotic barber, the regular barber, the Grilled Cheeseingtons outlet, the make-your-own trophy bar, the one-way mirror at Tom Hanks’ house — don’t tell him! — and finally the den. That’s where you can just sort of relax and adopt a puppy that never grows older.
Q: And what about the recent investigation into your munitions depot?
BRENT: Oh that? It’s for the think tank. What the hell would my employees do with a think tank if they had no ammunition? Then you’re basically stuck with a huge metal car with a long snout. Just last week Maggie in accounting used the think tank to eliminate some unwanted rubbish and photos of her ex, and during the cathartic process, she came up with a way the company can save 8% on magicians each year by paying for our own employees to take magic lessons. We’re cutting out the middle man and passing the savings on to…everyone.
Q: What is the hiring process like at Gadzookology?
BRENT: Listen, I don’t care where you went to school! I don’t even want to see your resume. When someone walks in looking for a job, I only ask them three things: Hat size, what’s the opposite of trees, and are you allergic to magnetism?
Q: So you accept all job candidates?
BRENT: What if I turned down the next Albert Einstein or Bono? I don’t want to lie awake at night thinking of what could have been. So yes, I hire everyone. Is that foolish? Maybe. Is it fun? Yes. Is fun the key to success? “Duh” squared [throws javelin at giant dart board].
Q: And how do you plan on making any money? You seem to be spending millions of dollars every day.
BRENT: It’s a bit technical. The money comes in via revenue generated from split-second leveraged municipal-bond-derivative-monetization deals handled by a computer.
Q: So a computer does all the work?
BRENT: Yeah. Everyone else is just support staff and/or boomerang-court custodians. Or shamans. Or lifeguards. Or candy butchers. We also have one guy, Leo, who just walks around telling people how certain movies should have ended. He’s got some great ideas about The Deer Hunter. Powerful stuff…
Q: And you make a profit?
BRENT: Like I said. It’s technical. But I figure if I’m good enough at these ridiculous interviews, then there’s nothing stopping Gadzookology from being the very best at what we do.
Q: And what does Gadzookology do…exactly?
BRENT: Bio-technical consulting with a focus on social-media analytics and digital strategies — that is, imaginative new ways to use your fingers and toes. We also sell our own T-shirts and maple syrup. Now if you excuse me, I have a meeting about possibly getting Tom Petty to perform in the handicapped stall of our restroom on the ninth floor. Help yourself to one of our forever puppies.
Dan Bergstein is about to launch his new startup, startdown.com.