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From the Back Office of Threadless.com

April 13, 2010

A Conversation with Bill Courtright, Controller, Threadless.com

Our Business

Artists from all over the world submit their designs.  Our fans get to vote on them, and the best designs are made into t-shirts and hoodies for girls, guys, kids, babies (basically everyone) which we then sell.  We compensate the artists when their designs are selected, and then each time the design is reprinted.  We also have monthly “Bestee” competitions where the best of the best are rewarded with more money and prizes.  It’s a great business, especially for oversea artists who have fewer opportunities in their own countries.  On top of the earning power, it is very empowering for an artist to be able to display his or her art and gather a worldwide fan base through Threadless.

We are very close to being a cash business, being a mostly virtual company and a credit card heavy business.  We have virtually no receivables.  E-commerce is really the way to go.  We do not even man phone lines, because it’s cheaper and more effective to serve customers over the internet.

My Style

I love to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty, which is one of the reasons I prefer to work with smaller companies.  I like to know everything that’s going on in my area, and be personally involved in everything that comes out of my office.  But that is also a drawback.  Since I’m so involved, it’s difficult sometimes to review my own work.

What I Bring to the Table

Infrastructure is a top priority.  Coming from a large, mature public company, I think establishing repeatable processes and strengthening internal controls are good focus areas in young and growing companies.  Also, expenses are something I monitor closely even though we are growing very fast.  In my first year, I insourced all of our accounting which generated some substantial savings.  I am constantly looking for ways to control cost without sacrificing value, whether it’s the big stuff like driving down shipping costs or the little things like saving on groceries (we stock the fridge for employees).  So far, I estimate that I’ve saved over $1 million for the company.

A Typical Day

In a given day, anything can happen.  During the close, I leave my schedule open because I get buried as soon as I walk in.  Some days are uneventful.  Other days can be complete surprises, like a few days ago on April 1, when ADP failed to process payroll due to a glitch.  Some people thought it was an April Fool’s joke, but not so.  There was a lot of running around (for me) that day.  Eventually, I had to issue and pass out paper checks to everyone.  Then a few folks threw out the envelopes not realizing that they were “real” checks.

Last Words

Look for our pride parade float on June 27.  The float will be modeled after one of our designs.  There will be freebies.

Bill Courtright

And speaking of freebies, here is the design of the shirt Bill got for my baby–2,055 votes.  I subsequently went on the site and bought three more.

FAIL - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

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The Back Office Mechanics Blog by Nancy Wu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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