Wearing the new suit of clothes I received for graduation and taking the cable car to my first day at work was exciting but also nerve wracking. This was the start of my first real job as an executive trainee at the Emporium/Capwell on Market Street in San Francisco. After arriving at the store, I was sent to the men’s clothing department. I didn’t know that men’s clothing was short for men’s “tailored clothing” meaning suits, sport coats and slacks. Eventually I figured out where I should be.
John, the men’s clothing salesman, was a sage pro. That morning John said something to me that has stayed with me all of these years. He began by telling me to straighten up the department. Fold all the clothes, make sure the jackets were hanging perfectly straight, and make sure every bit of lint was picked up off the floor. Of course, I conscientiously swept, straightened and arranged all of the clothes and did everything John asked me to do. It was a Monday morning and business was slow so it didn’t take me more than an hour or so to have that department in what I thought was pristine shape! After I proudly finished my task, I asked John “what should I do next”? He said start all over again. Well, this didn’t seem very logical to me. For heavens sake, I was a college graduate and I like to be efficient with my time. Was there a reason to re-do and re-straighten? John then said to me a simple thing which has stayed with me all of these years. He said “When you think no one is watching, they are” Yea right! Oh well, I thought, John’s my boss today I’ll do what he says. Not long after I started diligently refolding a pair of slacks, I looked up and standing by my side was the merchandise manager for the entire men’s area. He gave me a smile and a nod of approval. At that point what John, the sage salesman, said made utter and absolute sense. I never forgot what John told me. Now that doesn’t mean I perfectly practiced it, but I always remembered the importance of what John told me that first day on the job.