What a Real Life “Finding Nemo” Story Shows About Parenting and Corporate Action

Here’s a two-fer on parenting and corporate leadership – from a real-life version of “Finding Nemo”.

The story of Nemo is that of a headstrong clown fish who doesn’t listen to his father and gets lost, nearly dying in the process but in the end having quite an adventure.

Recently, my wife took our middle daughter to Quebec for her 10th birthday. It’s a tradition in our family that you get to pick a big trip for that milestone with mom or dad.

My daughter had a blast – walks around Quebec, a trip to the aquarium, a visit to a giant toy store, a fancy 5-course dinner. As they were leaving on the last day my wife asked if she had Nemo, her stuffed animal who has gone everywhere with her since she was two. Rushing, our daughter said she did.

Back home at bedtime, she opened her suitcase and no Nemo. Tears, fear, sadness.

A phone call to the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac put a well-honed stuffy search team in motion. The front desk called the housekeeper in charge of that wing, and the search was on. Nemo was hopefully sloshing around in a washing machine full of bed sheets.

Now at this point, parents know there are two outcomes. There’s “Knuffle Bunny Free” by Mo Willems where the beloved floppy-eared bunny gets left on an airplane, and no one from the airline is helpful. Or “Catie Copley” by Deborah Kovacs where a plucky black Labrador takes it upon herself to find the lost stuffed bear – in the hotel laundry room.

After a day, the search for Nemo was elevated to the head of housekeeping who called my wife and explained that sometimes locating a lost stuffy takes a few days.

Once a week had passed, my wife told our daughter to prepare for the worst. Nemo was probably gone – as if the crazed Australian dentist in the movie had him trapped in his aquarium forever.

And then, as this was sinking in, she got her daily call. Housekeeping had found Nemo – and the hotel would repatriate him!

The parenting lessons are straightforward: always be honest with your children, and stress consequences. In this case, there were consequences for not checking that Nemo was in the suitcase.

But there are more corporate lessons.

1) While thousands of things get left behind each year in rooms, hotels have policies in place to find and return valuable items. Nemo is not an expensive watch. But the housekeeping department treated him like any valuable.2) The Fairmont kept in daily contact with my wife, so she had up-to-date information to share with our daughter. A watch could be replaced, but there was only one Nemo.

3) Housekeeping called the minute they found Nemo – and charged only for the postage to send him home.

4) Company culture matters.


In a bizarre life imitates children’s book moment, Catie Copley, the plucky lab, found the storybook lost bear in the Copley Plaza – another Fairmont property. Thank goodness she didn’t leave Nemo behind on the plane!