Cokato Roadtrip

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…

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6 thoughts on “Cokato Roadtrip

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Anthony.

    Reminds me of one of my own road trips ‘out West’ driving around Arizona & New Mexico many years ago. I don’t recall the name of the town now, but posted at the city limits (pop. 200), next to the 25 mph speed limit sign, was another sign that read:

    “It may not look like much to you but it’s heaven to us. So please don’t drive through it like hell!”

    From the description of your visit to Cokato, I think you now get what that sign is saying. A nice story, and not in the least bit weird!

    • I respond from Houston airport. After a lay over (American English for frustrating wait during which I will be too tired to do anything useful but won’t be allowed to sleep) in Atlanta I will fly home.

      I suspect it came across but I was really glad I went to Cokato. There were other stories today. I met some more utterly brilliant people, saw how the work environment can help people be more effective.

      Meanwhile in Houston, Mexico are playing a home World Cup qualifier against Guyana (?). My fab taxi driver Jose told me. He was from San Salvador who are also playing today.

      I watched his sat nav with great amusement as the grid rolled uniformly by. Even I knew where we were going.

      Both places I went to people talked to me of themselves as family.

      I enjoyed this week.

  2. I was there when they ‘closed’ Cokato. I remember thinking at the time that it must have been like a scene from an old Western until someone pointed out that it was where the business that Thomson Reuters paid a squillion (that’s rounded up obviously) dollars for began. So ‘small’ and ‘town’ can lead to ‘big’ and ‘loadsawonga’ if you do it right. But, sadly, it usually ends up in a city eventually.

    The only exception to this rule is the mega-software company called SAS who are based in Cary, in North Carolina. Now THAT is not just in the arse end of nowhere. Cary makes the Arse End of Nowhere look like an overpopulated metropolis.

    • Another business is in the old unit. It’s a cycle I suppose (actually its a long drive, but you know what I mean).

      Houston was different again but equally close knit. More stories from there another day.

      Meanwhile, it must be time to schedule a curry at Waterloo.

      • I think Houston is the American Milton Keynes. Rather unsurprising in almost all respects, a bit bland, clean, and designed around a grid system. It’s a bit warmer though I suppose and has men in silly hats.

        A Waterloo curry sounds exceptionally excellent. I shall organise through the usual means.

        Oh, and congratulations.

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