VC Cliché of the Week

One of the scariest phrases/clichés I hear in board meetings
and conversations among VCs is “we need a suit to run this company” or its
cousin “we need a suit to take this company public”. It is so scary because so many suits are empty.

All it takes is one company destroyed by an empty suit to make you realize that
it’s what is in the head and the heart that matters not what kind of clothes
the person wears.

This is going to be more of a rant than the traditional VC
Cliché of the Week post where I try to dole out some anecdotes and advice. I just need to get this off my chest.

I was invited to attend a conference at which three of my
portfolio companies were presenting earlier this month. I showed up at the door to the private club
where the conference was being hosted only to find that I could not come in
without a jacket and tie on. I had a
very nice pair of conservative looking slacks on and a blue collared business
shirt. It was your basic business outfit. I wasn’t wearing jeans and a ripped t-shirt or anything.

But that wasn’t enough for this club. They offered to let me borrow a jacket and
tie from the front desk. I declined on
principal. I am not going to put on a
borrowed monkey suit on for anyone.

Had I known that I needed to wear a suit, I would have
gladly put one on in the morning. But
the insanity of the situation caused me to bolt from that place. I have nothing against suits and I almost
always wear them when I am presenting or attending a formal affair. I actually enjoy
knotting the tie, putting on the fancy shirt, maybe donning a pair of
cufflinks. It’s fun getting dressed up.

But it’s not fun getting dressed up in a borrowed suit
jacket that doesn’t fit and a stained tie just because someone thinks that’s
how I should look. No thanks.

And hiring someone to do the critical job of leading a
company, motivating the team, navigating the treacherous waters, making the
really hard decisions, based on what they look like and how they dress is
silly. But what is even more silly is
that many people still do that. They
care what school the person went to, they care about the person’s sex, the
person’s skin color, the person’s facial hair.

Not me. I care about the results, the character, the
drive, the passion, the experience, and the commitment. If they wear a suit, that’s fine with
me. As long as its not empty.