Startup Founders Don’t Wear Suits… intro topic here…
Suits are about mitigating risk. Suits like control. Suits like spreadsheets, logic, predictable outcomes. And here’s the twist, they often don’t wear suits anymore.
The room goes silent as the suits step off the elevator. This isn’t normal. In this bustling startup, the steady rumble of activity rarely stops. But in this moment, it does. Everyone is staring at them. In most businesses this wouldn’t happen. It’s just a group of business people doing what business people do.
But these days, this simple act of walking in can and does stop the world. And it’s for one simple reason. These people are wearing suits. That’s right, they look like bankers, lawyers, politicians… serious people. And when suits walk in, the startup culture gets nervous. Suits represent a way of thinking. A way of acting. A way unfamiliar to these startup employees. A way that directly conflicts with their self view, their key to success, and in many cases their reason for being.
Truth is they have a right to be concerned. Get past the garments for a moment. Suits have become a metaphor for a way of subduing the startup mindset. You see, startups depend on risk taking, on dreaming, on expecting the unexpected. The culture supports this dependence because startups have learned over time that culture matters. It’s not simply the goodies like free food, pool tables, and nap rooms. It’s a way of being. And this way of being supports the bottom line. The ability to win in a resource-constrained, competitive marketplace.
Suits are about mitigating risk. Suits like control. Suits like spreadsheets, logic, predictable outcomes. And here’s the twist, they often don’t wear suits anymore. That’s right, they sneak in wearing jeans and cool kicks. They’re charming. They’ve learned, they’ve adapted. They’ve gotten in. So instead of relying on the outfit, startup leaders now have to identify the behavior. They have to listen for the language, the demeanor, the look in the eye. It’s not easy.
So here’s a simple test to uncover the suits who’ve infiltrated your culture. Three simple questions:
- Do they call twenty-something employees “entitled”?
- Do they insist on the need for rules?
- Do their deliverables come from MBA models or consultant templates?
Here’s the truth though. You need them. They bring a form of maturity that will help scale your business. But whatever you do, don’t give them power. They are tools for your success, not leaders of it. Know the difference. You need to control the suits, not the other way around. That’s the only way to keep focused on fulfilling your dream and your world-changing outcome.
So when those suits come off the elevator, assure your team that they aren’t in control. Then the team will still stop and stare but smile knowing they have nothing to fear.