On Suit Coats, Ties & Welcome Signs: Why Small Courtesies Matter
"Joe, they're ten minutes early." Our guests were waiting in the lobby. Time to zip through the mental checklist. Suit coat buttoned? Check. Tie straight? Check. Welcome sign? Did we put out the Welcome sign? A quick call to the receptionist confirmed that, "Yes," the Welcome sign was on the table. Check.
Years earlier our Development team had spent a morning with John Scales, then Senior Vice President for Development at Texas Children's Hospital. Entering the lobby, teeming with people coming and going, we spotted John.
You couldn't miss him. Suit coat always buttoned. Tie always straight. Always hospitable. Always courteous. Always professional. Always extending the brand of this premier institution. Visitors felt special when welcomed by John.
As we shook hands, my eyes were drawn to a Welcome sign at the receptionist's desk. It wasn't a typical lobby Welcome sign. This one was nicely framed. Strategically placed. You couldn't miss it. Nor miss the fact that it was customized with the name of a visiting group being hosted by the hospital later that day.
Noticing I was noticing the sign, John remarked: "It takes just a minute to make a sign like this. It really makes a first impression. Visitors know they are important to us." Intentional gesture of hospitality. Small courtesy as extension of brand. This type of Welcome sign would be one of many takeaways from the visit with John.
Now, with our guests waiting to be greeted, I headed down the hall to the lobby. Rounding the corner, I saw them looking at our Welcome sign. They couldn't miss it.
A customized greeting;
Printed on a letter-sized piece of paper;
Inserted in a frame;
Leaning on a small easel;
Prominently displayed on a table in the center of the lobby.
I watched as one of the guests corralled the others to gather around the Welcome sign. They huddled, with the sign in the middle. "One of you---point to the sign. Yeah, that's it. Perfect!" And he took a group photo. To the delight of all. Then the guest taking the photo wanted a photo of himself by the sign. They were really into this.
Over the years I saw this scene---and variations of it---repeated again and again. The mighty. The humble. The famous. The forgotten. They would enter the lobby, and see our Welcome sign. With their names framed. Invariably, they would pause. All seemed to relish the small courtesy extended. And because this mattered to them, it was reason enough to double- and triple-check that the suit coat was always buttoned. And that the tie was always straight.