Tales and Sales from the Coat Check Table

A few days ago, I attended a business lunch and discussion on immigration for tech founders and their HR people. It was my first time visiting this particular place.

The venue was gorgeous. I could imagine coming here for a wedding reception.

The day was windy and rainy (typical spring, Chicago), and I handed my coat and umbrella to a woman behind a table at the entrance.

She had bright eyes and a beautiful smile. She looked like someone’s grandma.

After the event was over, I went to retrieve my things and struck up a conversation with the coat check lady.

I commented about how lovely the meal had been, and she launched into a sales pitch about the many benefits of holding events there. And yes, she told me, in the summer and fall, couples are married on the patio, then all the guests move inside for the reception.

“Would I like more information?”

I said sure, and she left her post to dig through a cabinet in the foyer to find a brochure and the business card of the events manager.

She was the only employee I interacted with during my noon hour visit, and it spoke volumes about the company and culture.

Her job was obviously *not* to sell — it was to collect and keep an eye on coats. Would she get a cut if I booked an event? Highly doubtful.

Yet, she was *selling.*

During the luncheon, I had been talking with an HR person who said that most companies — in the beginning — have this magical culture, where everyone looks after the bottom line. (Just like the sweet person at the coat check.)

But as businesses grow, things become more compartmentalized. People work in silos. “Not my job” — She told me it happens around employee #200. And it’s practically impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.

Whoa! Does it have to be that way?

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