16 Business acumen learned from Suits

Suits was like a box of chocolates. You had your favorites and then the ones you love to loathe. Mike Ross, Harvey Specter, Rachel Zane, Louis Litt, Donna Pulson, and Jessica Pierson made us believe there’s always happily ever after. Let’s see what else we learn from the hit series.

Number one: Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.

Harvey Specter has imparted some solid advice through his time on Suits. One quote attributed to him is “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.” This quote was originally said by Desmond Tutu. The quote continues with: “Good sense does not always lie with the loudest shouters. Nor can we say that a large, unruly crowd is always the best arbiter of what is right.” Tutu was a South African Anglican archbishop known for his opposition to apartheid in South Africa, for which he got a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. And it was his father that shared this beautiful advice.

Number two: There’s always a choice.

There will always come a time when you feel like you’ve run out of options, or you can’t see the wood from the trees, and you don’t know which way is the right way. Harvey Specter says, “When someone points a gun at your face, you take the gun, or you pull out a bigger one, or you call their bluff, or you do any of 146 other things. There are always options.” It’s up to you to hustle and find them, even if at that point you’re mowing the lawn next door to get some extra cash, get out there and do something. But only you can make that choice. And if you think doing something unethical is your only way out, rethink things pretty quickly and see how crappy you’ll feel behind bars.

Number three: Mistakes are fine.

Everybody makes mistakes. They’re part of the course, but it’s how you handle those mistakes that make the world of difference. Let’s take Mike Ross, for example. He makes mistakes all the time. The first thing you’ll notice is he doesn’t point fingers and play the blame game. He acknowledges that he screwed up, and then he goes about fixing the problem. We are living in a time where we believe we need to be perfect, and mistakes are frowned upon instead of being a learning curve. Throughout history, highly intelligent people have made the most ridiculous mistakes, like the time Russia sold Alaska to the US for $0.02 an acre, thinking it was useless tundra. Or how about twelve publishing houses turning down J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter? Like author, keynote speaker, angel investor, and entrepreneur Tim Fargo said, “Success is normally found in a pile of mistakes.”

Number four: Anyone can do my job, but no one can be me.

Anyone can do your job, obviously, if qualified. I mean, we wouldn’t want to be sitting in a restaurant eating a supposed gourmet meal prepared by someone who’s never set foot in a kitchen before. Your role in your job is replaceable, but you are not. So believe in yourself and know your worth. Bring your real self to the table and don’t change because you believe circumstances force you to. If that’s the case, you’re not where you need to be.

Number five: Mentorship is important.

We are led to believe that upon graduation, we are ready for the working world, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, we have the book of knowledge and a little practical experience under severely controlled environments, but what we don’t have is real-world working experience. And that’s when being an apprentice to a mentor like Harvey Specter made all the difference to young Mike. Thankfully, in law, mentorship is still alive and well. Law graduates enter as associates before they have to handle cases on their own. However, take a page from the cheat notes of Suits and embrace mentorship no matter what career you’re in.

Number six: Appearance matters a lot.

First impressions count, and even before you’ve opened your mouth to say something groundbreakingly profound, most people have already decided whether you’re worth listening to or not. While you might not judge a book by its cover, every one of us makes subtle judgments based on outward appearances. One thing Suits certainly drives home is how gosh darn sexy being dressed to the nines really is. The grooming of everyone in the office is completely on point. And while we ogle their outfits, we also have a whole bunch more respect for what they’re saying because of it. Take it from Suits and win the respect of the room before you even open your mouth.

Number seven: If you do something unethical, it’s always going to bite you in the future.

You might feel like you got away with something right now, but somewhere down the line, you can be sure your bad deed will come back to haunt you. Sure, it’s not uncommon in high-pressure, competitive environments for people to take liberties when it comes to ethics, but that doesn’t mean they don’t lose sleep over it and aren’t in constant fear it’s going to come out with the laundry.

Number eight: Sometimes you need to try the unexpected angle.

The best approach isn’t always the obvious one. Mike has a real knack for tackling problems he encounters in cases through creative means. He will look for exceptions in the law, examples in other cases that he can line up to his benefit, or witness testimonies no one else would have considered. Sometimes before you take the first solution to a problem, circle back around and see if there aren’t any other angles to pursue. Then you can also take your opponent with the element of surprise.

Number nine: When you’re backed against the wall, break the goddamn thing down.

Nothing stops Harvey, not even a lead-lined brick wall. You might think you have to overcome challenges in your way or solve problems, but Harvey just bulldozes right through them. Harvey Specter doesn’t like things that limit him, so when something restricts him, he breaks it down, and down it goes in a blaze of glory. He doesn’t let anything stand in the way of his smart and creative approaches to problem-solving. So next time you’re backed into a corner, turn around and make your own emergency exit out of there. The Specter way.

Number ten: If you cannot convince, provide something better.

Sometimes success doesn’t mean having exactly what your customer is looking for. Sometimes it just means showing them you understand their needs and you are willing to find a solution that addresses their concerns. Do your homework and find out what actually matters more to your client. You might assume that price is important, but in fact, they would pay anything to get their problem solved. Or perhaps you think that delivery time is critical when they will wait for quality. Whatever it is, if you don’t know what they need, you can’t help them out. And once you know what they expect, you might be able to offer them so much more. Sometimes, just the fact you’re willing to try to meet their needs is enough to win them over.

Number eleven: Just go out there and act like you know what you’re doing.

Fake it till you make it is still a real part of success. Anyone on the up and up will be a little out of their depth at times, and there will always be an element of faking it. No one epitomizes this trait more than Mike. Without a formal law degree, he continues to own it in and out of the courtroom with his mix of zealous confidence and cool approach. The truth is, with or without the degree, on a daily basis, most of us have no idea what we’re doing or what the next challenge is going to be. We’re all faking it for the most part and winging it for the rest.

Number twelve: Have fun and enjoy the ride.

We all have those moments when the overwhelm sets in and we can’t think of anything but the problems we are facing. Draw inspiration here from Mike. He always sets out to win. Losing just isn’t an option. But however the chips fall, he’s still enjoying the journey. He celebrates the victory, but doesn’t bemoan his failures. He loses, learns, and moves on with the knowledge of how to do it better next time. He gets that life is a balance of some easy and some tough stuff, and enjoying it all is what makes the process manageable.

Number thirteen: Love thyself.

In the words of Harvey, “Ever loved someone so much you would do anything for them? Yeah, well, make that someone yourself. And do whatever the hell you want.” Harvey Specter is unashamedly number one to Harvey Specter, and there is really no shame in this kind of mentality. It doesn’t assume you’ll be selfish. It just assumes that with the right faith and confidence in yourself, you can overcome any obstacle. And nothing can take that hunger away from you. That hunger could just be the thing that solves world hunger or cures cancer. So go forth and Harvey it up.

Number fourteen: Screw meetings. Just go find the person.

If Suits were based in your office, it would probably be the most boring show on Earth because most of the communication would happen via email and instant messaging. Thank God it’s not because the kick-down-the-door approach that Mike, Harvey, and the gang use makes it far more exciting. The truth is that it’s actually a far better way of doing things. Okay, maybe not kicking the door down. The Suits characters show no regard for the airs and graces of respecting people’s personal time and space, but rather walk in and get to the point rather than scheduling a meeting. It leads to far more candid and robust discussions that actually get to a point compared to endless group meetings that seem to always require follow-up emails to conclude. Next time you need an answer, maybe a little office ambush is worth a try.

Number fifteen: We go down together.

Loyalty and trust are at the heart of everything the Suits gang do. While their time is mainly spent trying to screw over opponents, there’s no doubt they would all lay down their lives for each other. The workplace politics might say otherwise, but the message here is clear. You have to be in it together to win it together. So make sure your team knows you have their back and know they have yours.

Number sixteen: Never give up.

Last, but certainly not least, is the message that has underscored every season of Suits. When it feels like you’re right at the end of your tether, like you have no way out, like you just can’t continue, don’t give up. Dig in deep and find that last nugget of hope and hold on. You never know what curveball of luck might come your way at the last minute. So just keep swimming.

There we go, top life lessons from Suits. We hope you’re a little more inspired and ready to take on the world, Harvey Specter style!




































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