The Business Of Being Personal

June 12, 2012

You've Got Mail movie

In the Nora Ephron’ 1998 classic, “You’ve Got Mail,” Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) runs a charming little children’s bookstore called The Shop Around The Corner. Fox Books, a corporate, big-box discounter owned by Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) opens next to her store and puts her out of business.

Of course, the movie offers a much more extensive plot, but my point focuses on Joe’s mantra, which he repeats obsessively throughout the movie: “It isn’t personal, it’s business.”

Kathleen, in a great example of what it means to think critically, questions this premise at its core. This excerpt from the original screenplay shows what I mean:

JOE
(Referring to putting Kathleen out of business)
It wasn’t personal; it was business.

KATHLEEN
(Who is literally sick and tired, she has a cold and is frustrated by losing the Shop Around the Corner)
What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All it means is – – it’s not personal to you, but it’s personal to me, it’s personal to a lot of people.(she shrugs helplessly) What’s wrong with personal anyway?

JOE
(He hesitates and then says sheepishly) Nothing.

KATHLEEN
I mean, whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

So, there it is. One of my central beliefs. Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal. After all, we work in the real world not some segmented reality where we can conveniently separate work from self. We go to work each day bring our whole selves into the effort.

Which brings me to the heart of the matter. Last week, I joined Fast Horse. What a thrill. I signed on unhesitatingly because business at Fast Horse is personal, in every way. The people here have formed genuine friendships; we’ve got each other’s backs in an “all for one and one for all” sort of way.

My colleagues, these new friends of mine, take personal pride in their work, putting every ounce of themselves into their craft and as a result the work stands above the rest. Our clients reflect our personal values and they waste no time in offering their genuine appreciation for a job well done.

At Fast Horse, it begins by being personal. For me, it’s like coming home.