I went to a small American town today. You read about small town America, and see it in the movies, but I’d never been to one, having spent all my time in the USA in big cities like New York, San Francisco and recently Minneapolis.
I have just taken responsibility for a team based in Plymouth, Minneapolis, they say, “or no” when expressing uncertainty, just like a good friend of mine from Plymouth in Devon. They almost all live in a small town called Cokato in rural Minnesota, 45 mins drive away from the new office. Just to confuse everybody, the rural architecture is perfectly Scandinavian.
I have been to their office in Plymouth several times before but always as the visiting Limey. This time was different, we are part of the same team now.
Their jobs all moved to Plymouth a couple of years ago for the usual corporate reasons. But the move from Cokato is part of their story. I hear it every time I go to Plymouth. Moving from working close to home to the edge of the city was a big deal.
Today I had a two hour 1:1 with the customer support manager. It struck me we should hold this on a road trip. I didn’t know why really, I just wanted to go to where it started. So I made 1:1 type notes on my iPad while we drove to Cokato, population 2000 ish.
It has a railroad, a bikers club, a Dairy Queen and houses dotted about in a way I learned today to be typical of small American towns. We had lunch on the way back in another small town (population 4000 ish). That was the best meal I have had all week.
I hadn’t spent as much time with the team as I wanted this week. When I got back today I wanted to just go and talk with them, so I did and left with a bloody big smile on my face and I think theirs too.
I hope they took my visit to their home town in the way it was meant, a mark of respect for and interest in their story, where they live and come in from every day to make our customers happy.
And I said I wouldn’t be weird this week…