About the hat

It’s an old urban legend of the type where truth lies deeper than the questionable details. In my version, offered as unofficial onboarding advice when I joined IBM’s global insurance team, it was back in Tom Watson’s day, when salesmen traveled down from Binghamton by rail.

In the taxi he discovered that his hat — essential for a respectable presence — had been left on the train. He diverted to a menswear shop en route to his appointment.

Back at the office he was surprised to be shortchanged on his expenses with the terse explanation: “We don’t buy hats.”

After a couple more attempts to present his claim, met with the same rebuff, he changed tactics. Crafting a flawless expense report from his most recent journey he handed it to his boss, looking him in the eye and saying, “Find the hat.”

In other versions it’s a Texan and a Stetson, and so on.

This blog is meant to capture and share stories like this one, to help shed some light on what life in business is really about.

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This time for sure!

Once upon a time every respectable salesman wore a hat. Why not? I’ll be saying more about hats that are present and missing as we discuss business folkways in the 21st Century. You would think a lot has changed, and that’s true enough. But an awful lot stays the same, starting with people!

More to come …

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