In business and in life, what you are wearing matters a lot less than what you are saying.
A while back I flew to San Francisco to attend a pitch competition hosted by Plug and Play Tech Center, one of the largest startup incubators in the country. When I arrived, I realized I had not brought suitable clothes for a business presentation.
I had to improvise. I ran to the nearest Nordstrom, with five minutes to find something. I ended up with jeans so baggy they looked like hand-me-downs. I was still wearing the same wrinkled shirt from the plane, and it was absolutely not presentation attire. I looked like a mess. At the competition, I gave my pitch regardless. It was a presentation I had reviewed briefly that morning. I then retired to a private area, to handle company affairs.
To my relative surprise, we were named one of the winners of the pitch competition. As I came off the stage, everyone from Forbes to the Silicon Valley Business Journal awaited, ready to interview me. Strategic investors from General Motors to State Farm to Yahoo all approached, pitching ideas and asking about investing. I was still wearing those ridiculous baggy pants.
No One Cares How You Look
I was not particularly proud of my showing that day. I felt rushed. I did not look my best and I could have prepared better for my pitch. In the end, it did not matter. I was not the focus, the accomplishments of our company were.
Experts across the industry saw the problem our company is tackling and believed in our solution and our results. It was a testament to what our team at The Mobile Majority had built over the past twelve months. We did not win the event last year, while today our work speaks for itself.
Along the way, it is fun to remember that this is what success looks like. It is not just the final product. It is the interim work, the relentless hustle, the impromptu meeting requests, and the random introductions to people, you do not think will turn into anything fruitful. All the craziness that happens along the way that adds up, even if you are not looking your best.
No one cares what you look like. Identify what you have to do, to accomplish the goals you have set. Outline your steps and create a plan. If it does not work, throw it away. You can blaze a new trail, if you are not afraid to move forward when it gets messy.
Entrepreneurs walk a very thin line between success and failure. Ideas and efforts do not always work. They do not always produce the solutions you expected them to. Do not fight it. Do not try to make what you are doing look perfect. Instead, focus on what is working and build on that. Tackle big enough problems with a clear differentiated strategy. From that, there is enough serendipity to make big things happen, even if you are not completely put together. At the end of the day, entrepreneurship is about focusing on the objectives, not the obstacles.