The Way I Work: Karmaloop's Greg Selkoe
Moment of SilenceKeeping up With the Message(s)Picture of GrowthOpen-Door PolicyKeeping Company Culture RealCreative LicenseShort and SweetKeeping FocusedBehind the Scenes
Greg Selkoe is the 36-year-old CEO of Karmaloop, a Boston-based burgeoning hipster media empire, encompassing music, television, and Japanese animation as well as apparel and footwear from more than 500 brands. Revenue last year topped $130 million, up 81 percent from 2010. Karmaloop's edge: The vast majority of the company's 220 employees, including Selkoe, are DJs, artists, designers, or otherwise active participants in the verge culture to which the site sells. He told Liz Welch how he gets it all done.
Most people don't arrive at the office until 10 or 10:30. I try to get there by 9 to have time to go through e-mails and think about what I want to do that day. I concentrate best if I have really loud music playing-I have playlists on Pandora, Spotify, and iTunes. It's always eclectic: like Serge Gainsbourg and Kanye West. I like music that pumps me up.
I get 500 to 600 e-mails daily. Most are from customers, the rest from brands, designers, business partners, and other entrepreneurs. My assistant Lauren triages them: If it's a business decision, she'll flag it. If it's something someone else in the company can answer, she forwards it. She generally keeps on top of everything and keeps me posted on what's going on. The ones from customers are my priority.
I oversee all of the company's departments. Karmaloop.com is the regular site; Kazbah is our marketplace where we sell up-and-coming designers; PLNDR is a flash-sale site, which is growing like gangbusters; Boylston Trading is our higher-end men's site; Brick Harbor, a skate site, just launched; Monark Box is a subscription-based model in which we get exclusive deals with brands for subscribers. And then MissKL, for women, is coming soon.
People come in and out of my office all day long. People don't have to make an appointment; they'll just pop in and say, "Hey, dude, can we talk? I'm so-and-so in customer service and have this idea for a promotion, or I have a clothing line." I won't tell them to get out of my office. I listen to everyone.
Part of the fun of working at Karmaloop is that employees have creative outlets. But it can't affect their job performance. That's one of the things I drill into people: If you're not doing your job, you can't stay.
Many of our employees have their own clothing lines, which we'll sell if it's the right fit. We encourage people to do that-but we don't do any favors. We'll look at their stuff because they're here, but that doesn't mean we'll buy it.
I have a biweekly meeting with my senior team, which consists of Dina and Chris plus our CFO and various other department heads, like merchandising and marketing. We go over detailed financial numbers, and people update me on what's going on. That's the only formal meeting I have.
I was diagnosed with ADHD in elementary school and actually got kicked out of several schools before landing in one for kids with learning issues. What made me not do well in school has actually been very beneficial in business, because I can focus on something very intensely for a short while and then move on to the next thing.
My commute is one minute and 20 seconds. I live two blocks from work, which is why I chose this office. The building was slated for demolition, but then the economy tanked, so I contacted the landlord, and he gave us a great deal. I wanted to stay in Boston. It's my hometown; plus, there are a lot of really smart kids coming out of the universities here, so we grab them before they go anywhere else.
—As told to Liz Welch