What do skateboards, beards, tattoos and punk music all have in common? Most people would use a slew of negative words to describe the comparison. They might suggest a lack of professionalism, a predilection for an inability to conform to authority or a tendency towards laziness. That’s been the professional world’s view on these things for the last 50 years. You can’t work in an office if your arms are covered in tattoos. You can’t work front facing retail if you have a big beard. You will never be an executive if you skateboard to work and you’ll never drive a BMW while listening to NOFX. Let’s talk a little about each of these four “qualities”.

So you’ve grown yourself a beard. This is not an overnight decision. Do you know how long it takes to grow a beard? Do you know how uncomfortable it is to grow a beard? I compare it to starting your own business. In the beginning, a whole bunch of people are going to tell you that it’s a terrible idea. It will never work and you’re going to look like an idiot. And along the way, you might look like an idiot. There will be some growing pains. Trust me. But then you’re going to come out the other side. And here’s what’s going to happen. People will compliment you. They’ll tell you how fantastic you look. And here’s the big one. They’ll tell you that secretly, they really want to grow their own.

Fine. So maybe a beard is not that bad. But tattoos. Come on. Nobody reputable has tattoos. Here’s what I’ll tell you about tattoos. Tattoos are expensive. They’re painful. And they require a lot of work to make sure that they’re cohesive. Sound familiar again? That’s right. Getting (a lot) of tattoos is a lot like starting your own business. It requires an extensive investment of time and money. People will secretly be impressed. When we get to talk about tattoos we get to talk about bartering as well and this can be a key to starting your own business. Not everyone pays for every single tattoos they get. Often, individuals will trade tattoo work for other work they need done. You need a website built? Well, I need a tattoo of a knight wrestling an alligator on my ribcage. Let’s make a deal. When you start building your own business, you’re going to find a lot of situations where you can’t afford the products or services that you require to move forward. Remember that YOU are a commodity. How about a trade?

The other day I was watching a skateboarder make his way through downtown Halifax. My first thought wasn’t “look at that hooligan” or “that young man is certainly unemployable”. My first thought was, “boy that looks hard”. Skateboarding is hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s also about community building. Sure, sometimes you’re working on kick flips on your own, but a lot of the time you’re working with a team, cheering each other on, giving each other pointers and learning from each other’s experiences. THIS is an entrepreneurial community if I’ve ever seen one. Skateboarders don’t buy new boards every coupe of weeks. They beat that board down until it’s a twig. They don’t take a cab to work. They push with everything they’re worth. Tony Hawk didn’t get to do a 1080 by reading a couple of books and watching some YouTube videos. He busted his ass to perfect his craft.

So maybe I got you on board about beards. Maybe you thought I had a point about tattoos. And maybe back in the day, you were boss on a skateboard. But punk music? Surely there is nothing of worth in punk music. Punk music is a startup if there ever was one. Little to no resources. Minimal outward support. Crazy ideas. And then they started scaling. The growth of the punk rock scene is parallel to the growth of any startup. You have an idea (sound) and you think that if you can just get it in the right hands, you’ll succeed. You’re not in it to make a million dollars this week. You’re in it because you want to do something remarkable and you’re not willing to let other people tell you that you can’t. This is your song.

So what does all this mean? For me it means that when I hire, I’m not willing to overlook people based on big beards, funky tattoos, riding skateboards and listening to punk music. I’m looking for people that work their ass off and know how to work for it. I’ll take a strong work ethic over a shirt and tie any day. I’d rather you know how to hustle than know what a french cuff shirt is. Recognize your audience. I’m not suggesting that looking the part isn’t a huge part of job interviews. And when you’re meeting with the bank or investors or potential partners, pull out all the stops. But when you’re looking for people to partner with, don’t just look for fancy clothes and trimmed sideburns. Look for quality of character.

And if you have tattoos or a beard or a skateboard or The Ramones on cassette and are sick and tired of working 9-5 to make somebody else a bunch of money, comes see me and let me talk to you about your plans for the future.