Are You Pretty Enough to Work Here?

Welcome to the World of Startups

The tee in question. Really, is it that bad?

“And Kathy, please get rid of that t-shirt.”

That’s how the Skype call with my client just ended. I work with startups all over the country, so I Skype with clients a lot. This particular client seems to have some kind of phone allergy, so every conversation we have is via Skype.

Today, my client was also allergic to my t-shirt.

“Is that an old t-shirt,” he asked. Ah, I guess.

Work stuff, work stuff, blah, blah.

“Where are you going in that t-shirt?” Ah, just got back from the car wash. I plan to change later. I justified for some reason.

Work stuff, work stuff, blah, blah.

“It’s really pink, isn’t it?” Ah, yes. I think that’s what the kids call it these days.

It’s a perfect example of the difference between working in a corporate environment and working in a startup. What kind of field day would the HR department at P&G have with a boss telling an employee that they thought their clothes were ugly?

It wouldn’t be a good day for that boss.

For me, it’s a typical Wednesday.

Granted, I was wearing a t-shirt while talking to a client. And granted, I can’t actually recall buying the t-shirt, which is probably a testament to its age. But in my defense, this client tends to Skype without notice. Would it be better not to answer? No. I’m here for my clients. Even when I’m not so pretty in pink.

Was I offended? No.

Did he mean to be offensive? No.

He just didn’t like my t-shirt.

Welcome to a startup.

(Okay, so be honest….is the tee that bad?)

About the author: Kathy Ver Eecke works with startups in the early stages, where the good stuff happens. Download a free copy of her ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Getting Any Startup Job, if you’re trying to break into a startup or if you’re hiring employees for your startup.

48 Comments

  • Sam Smith

    Reply Reply April 26, 2012

    I got no issue with it.

  • Michelle Rundell

    Reply Reply April 26, 2012

    Do his button ups really make him that much more money?

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply April 26, 2012

      Ha! Very good question. From the state of his business, I’m gonna have say a resounding yes. Though he’s perfectly happy to work with this t-shirt wearing consultant. As long as it’s a different t-shirt. :) The real question is, can I bill him for a new t-shirt?

      • Michelle Rundell

        Reply Reply April 26, 2012

        Maybe not bill him for the t-shirt but for your time he wasted commenting on a petty insignificant observation that was not at all relevant to the issue at hand? :D

  • Bryce Christiansen

    Reply Reply April 26, 2012

    That’s a hilarious story. It’s also a testament to the difference between startups and corporates that you were able to comment openly about it on your blog.

    If I shared a story about one of our corporate clients doing the same thing, I’m sure I’d get a talking to.

    Very funny stuff.

    Bryce

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply April 26, 2012

      SUCH a good point Bryce. You’re exactly right. He’ll think it’s hysterical.

      Though it did just occur to me that maybe I am too casual with clients. This same client, who happens to be a foreigner, just wrote “what mean yup” in response to something I texted to him. Oops. Time to up the game maybe.

  • head_exposed

    Reply Reply April 26, 2012

    First of all, I like the shirt. I don’t have issues with bold prints and colors as long as you carry it well. Wearing shirts like that in your own business/work environment can really be liberating. It’s finally realizing that you’re your own boss now. Corporate life is full of people who tell you what you should wear at work. If you’re comfortable with that kind of work set up, then go with the flow. But if you believe that there’s more to it, by all means, wear your favorite short and start your own business.

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply April 26, 2012

      Exactly. On your thoughts on business, not the shirt. Really not that attached to the shirt.

      In my client’s defense, he doesn’t actually care what I wear. I’m pretty sure we’d happily work together even if I was wearing a clown suit on our Skype calls. Which I might try tomorrow just to see the reaction.

      On a side note, he didn’t like my tee today either, and I thought it was a good one.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
      Kathy

  • Corinne Edwards

    Reply Reply April 27, 2012

    Yup, the T shirt looks like most of mine. We need to go shopping.

    I consider it dress up.

    I never answer a video skype call without notice.

    I need an hour to wash my hair, put on makeup and change my pajamas.

  • Amy

    Reply Reply April 28, 2012

    I thought start-ups were all about casual.I guess you have to have a thick skin to work at one. But then again, I’d rather someone tell me the hard truth. Straight up. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that your t-shirt is ugly.

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply May 25, 2012

      I’m with you! I’d rather know what you’re thinking. Can’t say it means I won’t wear the t-shirt again, but I might not wear it in front of you. (well, not YOU exactly.)

  • Mellissa Thomas

    Reply Reply April 28, 2012

    Nothing wrong with the tee at all, though I wouldn’t personally do Skype meetings in one myself. I usually don a button-up blouse or some other business casual top for my Skype meetings, just to be safe.

    As for your client, and possibly for future clients, draw a line about that kind of thing. He may not typically care, but for this shirt and the one you wore on April 26th to bother him is a bit odd.

    It’s a business meeting, sir – I’m gonna need you to not comment on my clothes. Seriously. And multiple times during the conversation, at that.

    That’s time spent that can never be recovered once lost – and since you’re his consultant, time is money.

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply April 29, 2012

      Amy & Melissa –
      Thanks for sharing your opinions. I think Amy’s nailed it though, startups are casual environments. A good way to scare off an entrepreneur (client or potential employer) is to appear too corporate. That includes dressing too formally, not being available at a moment’s notice and most importantly taking yourself too seriously.

      My client wouldn’t have made the comment if he didn’t know I’d laugh at it, and probably wear the offensive tee for the next week’s worth of calls in retaliation. Or maybe I’d write a post about him. :)

      But if that kind of situation would make you uncomfortable, you might not be a good fit for a startup. It really not that unusual. In a startup you’ll work harder than any other job you’ll find, but it is usually in an environment that feels more like a group of friends. The kind of friends who’ll call you on an old, ratty t-shirt.

      Kathy

  • Joseph Mills

    Reply Reply April 29, 2012

    That’s fine but for me, it’s better to wear semi-formal clothes even if I’m working at home. There are some people; they’re very particular with some ‘ones attire. Just for formality, especially you’re dealing with business, its better wearing proper attire.

    • Lizzie

      Reply Reply May 9, 2012

      Yiiiiiiikes. She’s working with a startup over SKYPE.

      I think they threw formality out the window. Also – formality is dead, bro. I haven’t worn anything but jeans in almost two years – at my office or at a client’s … and they haven’t either.

  • Kari DePhillips

    Reply Reply April 30, 2012

    This is why I tell clients my camera is broken and video chat is not a possibility – if he thinks that shirt is a problem, he’d really hate my ratty ponytail and yoga pants. It’s a good day if I have time to put on a real bra.

    Buy a new shirt and write that shizz off ;)

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply April 30, 2012

      Ha! I hear ya on the yoga pants. I’ve done the news anchor thing a couple times…nice clothes above the desk, scare yo momma below. Of course, whenever I do this I inevitably have to stand up to get something. You can imagine the conversation that follows.

      BTW – I’m a huge fan of your blog and have read the How the Pitch the Media Like a Pro post. Great stuff!

      K

  • lenin

    Reply Reply April 30, 2012

    surely his focus should´ve been on the nature of your business together not the t.shirt, dont think much of this guy! i also happen to like that t.shirt.

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply April 30, 2012

      Lenin – glad you like the shirt. Wish you liked the client. I do.
      K

  • Kathy

    Reply Reply May 1, 2012

    Ok, my most embarrassing skype happened when my husband quietly snuck into the room to get something while I was talking to a friend, she burst out laughing and said I can see your husband in his underwear – its reflecting in the glass of the picture behind you. I can’t decide whether to quit using skype or stop letting my husband wander freely in the house. It adds all kinds of new considerations to working from home.

  • Ashvini

    Reply Reply May 8, 2012

    Hi Kathy,

    T shirt does not look bad at all. I wondered why he was so insistent on it. But it is funny :).

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply May 8, 2012

      :) I think he simply couldn’t get past the whole pinkness of it all. Who knows? Just didn’t strike his fancy. S’all good though.

      Kathy

  • Lizzie

    Reply Reply May 9, 2012

    Kathy! That’s terrible! I would have LOST my shit!

    I’m glad you’re much calmer than I am. Although I wonder if maybe it looked a little brighter than it was because Skype has been SUPER light for me lately. Yeah?

    Either way … I would have lost it.

    “Your face is about to be as pink as my shirt, guy.”

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply May 9, 2012

      “Skype has been SUPER light for me lately. Yeah?” If you mean that it looks like I’m working on the surface of the sun, then yes. Skype has been light here as well. :)

  • ahhaha I suppose you can wear what you want and he’s entitled to his opinion too
    :)
    I think it’s a nice t-shirt
    Noch Noch

  • dayana

    Reply Reply May 10, 2012

    does it really matter what clothes we wear? this has shown though the difference between startups and corporates…thanks for the good laugh, i like your attitude

  • Deborah Hymes

    Reply Reply May 12, 2012

    Wow, that’s astonishing yet TOTALLY believable! Three times (?!!) over the course of my career — once at my first start-up job, once at an established small company and once as a consultant — I’ve had employers/clients tell me that I was hired because, when my qualifications equalled other candidates’, they found me better-looking. Which is where I thought you were going with this post. =)

    All three essentially made passing comments to the effect that they didn’t want to look at someone “ugly” while they were working. The start-up boss also said it to me directly when she noticed that I had gained a few pounds, by way of letting me know that I had entered into an implied bargain and wasn’t keeping up my end.

    BTW, these were all women! This type of thing is handled more gracefully at big companies. But by the same token, they’re less concerned with some “objective” standard of beauty than they are with how well you mesh with their culture in a multitude of ways.

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply May 25, 2012

      Deborah – your story too is astonishing yet TOTALLY believable. :) Though I was a bit more astonished when you said they were all women. Jeesh, ladies.

      • linda

        Reply Reply May 24, 2013

        I’ve seen similar. I worked someplace where the elites – mostly women – berated your clothing because you didn’t shop at the same high-end boutiques where they shopped. Never mind you were being paid $20/hour part time. Or they didn’t like your hair color (uhh, brown) or the fact that you walked down the hall without a jacket.

        Which is why I now work for myself.

  • mery

    Reply Reply May 14, 2012

    Ya know, if that was me,I’d laugh and then wear that t.shirt for the next 3 weeks or so tee hee

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply May 25, 2012

      What’s that? Sorry, I’m wearing a blindingly pink t-shirt that makes it hard to read my computer. :)

  • Justin Lee

    Reply Reply May 17, 2012

    I wonder what was going through his mind when he went after your T-Shirt.

    By the way… this is a cool blog… I am definitely going to read more.

    Regards,
    Justin,
    SEO Manager,
    http://www.joblisting.sg

  • Derek Maak

    Reply Reply July 10, 2012

    Hey Kathy,

    I have no problem with the tee. Looks perfectly fine to me. I have to laugh at Kathy’s (the other Kathy) comment above. Only because I’d be the husband in the underwear. And if my wife ever reads this, “I love you hunny!” :)

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply July 11, 2012

      Ha! But would your t-shirt match your underwear? That is the question.

  • Astro Gremlin

    Reply Reply July 11, 2012

    I don’t like any T-shirt a pretty girl is wearing. Is that wrong to say? I’m new to Earth.

  • Dan

    Reply Reply October 24, 2012

    What’s wrong with that t-shirt? I actually like it… I also love to wear my old t-shirts, I get so attached to my clothes sometimes, I even try to wear my old clothes as often as I can, I feel very comfortable wearing them. And this client is just immature…

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply October 24, 2012

      :) thanks Dan.
      (and…last defense of client….he really wasn’t trying to be rude, just sharing a little fashion advice, that he was probably right about!!)

  • Joseph Bonos

    Reply Reply January 1, 2013

    Through my experience I can say that whatever you accept can’t bother you. Being tolerant of your client’s point of view is the key in this case and I think you did a good job.

  • Heather

    Reply Reply April 9, 2013

    Ok, so I own that same shirt. I bought it at Target a few years ago. It’s definitely been relegated to car washing-gardening-cleaning status, though occasionally its nice and comfy with pajama pants on the weekend. It’s been replace by other (often bright) pink shirts.

    I discovered your blog very recently, and I love it! Thank you for sharing your experiences and providing a guiding light for those of us interested in working with a startup.

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply April 10, 2013

      Ha! Yes, Target sounds about right. It also makes a nice yoga shirt….. :)

      Glad you discovered the blog and are finding it helpful Heather.

  • linda

    Reply Reply May 24, 2013

    It’s fine. Maybe he just has an issue with the color pink. Everybody’s got an opinion, and a lot of them are happy to share it with you even when you didn’t ask.

  • Jorjette Celestine

    Reply Reply June 14, 2013

    Nice story :)) It would have been funny to ask him “What color do you prefer me to wear today?”

    With these kind of clients it’s better to have fun and not to get upset. They have an idea and we’re not able to understand it…that’s it! :

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