Threadless ["The Customer Is the Company," June] is clearly an extremely innovative company. It sounds as if its next venture will be bigger and more exciting. I have one issue, however. MIT's Eric von Hippel implied Threadless spells the end of traditional market research and large R&D departments.
You can call it crowdsourcing or customer-driven design, but what Threadless does is essentially
market research. I think of Threadless's user base
as one large consumer panel. Threadless's business model immediately implements the findings from this market intelligence. What traditional market
research does is similar. It provides the framework, methodology, and discipline to solicit feedback from customers. The rise of Threadless does not mean the end of market research but a transformation in the way companies implement it. That's what's changing.
founder and CEO
Sentient Services, Austin
Threadless is one of my favorite companies. But I've never thought of what it does as crowdsourcing. I guess I never took a step back and looked at the business model. Part of the charm of buying Threadless shirts is that they represent something unique. If you wear one, you won't see anyone else wearing the same shirt. As the company grows, I wonder if it will become too watered-down and generic. When
everyone and his 50-year-old uncle are wearing a Threadless shirt, the company could very well lose what made it popular in the first place.
Airfoil Public Relations
Palo Alto, California
I was particularly struck by your recent articles on innovation, especially "Making Inspiration Routine" [June]. I run a small company that specializes in creating wholesome activities for children. We started with greeting cards, but that market stalled. When we reexamined our company goal, we found a new market niche without overhauling our entire business philosophy. Creativity and thinking outside the box have been crucial to our growth, as they are in any company. It was reassuring to see that Inc. felt the same way.
Rocking Chair Studio
A Cause for Concern
In describing the Grant Thornton global survey on private companies ["The Best Cause of All," June], you ask why American business owners are the least likely to be motivated by "saving the earth." Perhaps it's because we are practical and realistic and know that saving anything begins in our own community. Add up all the local efforts of small companies, and they amount to a lot. Maybe American business owners couldn't relate to the vague objective of "saving the earth." But many of us are sincerely doing what we can.
Matthews, North Carolina
Am I the only business owner who
reacts viscerally to the politically
motivated phrase "saving the earth"?
Certainly, we all should be adopting
behaviors that lead to a sustainable
future. But for many Americans, a
sustainable future is a concept that
generates an entirely different emotional meaning and suggests significantly
less governmental intrusion into our
lives than "saving the earth."
Chairman and CEO
Spolsky's New Digs
I would imagine that Joel Spolsky's exhaustive search for a new office [How Hard Could It Be? June] could signal the beginning of the end for his company. When your CEO starts worrying more about the brand of faucets in the bathroom than anything else, you know that your company's creativity has run its course. You can't imagine how silly this article sounds to people outside the Big Apple.
Cary, North Carolina
I was saddened to see Norm Brodsky had finally sold his company [Street Smarts, May] and changed his day-to-day routine. Please, Norm, start another company. I dream of starting my own business someday, and I live vicariously through Inc.'s articles, especially Norm's. Keep the adventures coming.
Aiming Too High?
I was astounded by one small aspect of the Judgment Group's business [Elevator Pitch, June] and its search to raise $5 million. Susan Wilson, the company's founder, projected $10 million in revenue for 2008, which is nearly 2,000 percent more than the company brought in during 2007.
If this number is real, why should she have any problems getting financing? And if the Judgment Group will be making that kind of money, why would she even want outside financing? With six employees, that comes to more than $1.5 million per employee, which is just an incredible figure.
Blue Chip Films
The Health in Health Plans
In your article "How to Choose a Health Care Plan for Your Company" [June], you missed a key opportunity. You mention wellness only in one sidebar paragraph. Given that as much as 75 percent of total U.S. health care costs are spent for the care of preventable illnesses, wellness should be everyone's prime focus.
Because today's employers pay most of the costs of health care for their employees, it would behoove employers to learn a little more about the value of promoting healthful lifestyles. The medical industry gets paid most when we're ill and has little incentive to promote wellness.
Health Benefits Design Group
Walnut Creek, California
A Morale Makeover
I definitely agree that slow growth is a drag on morale [Ask Inc., June]. But so is firing the very people you hired to get your company where it is today. After all, any kind of growth is a lot better than the alternative. So keep those employees interested. Their business knowledge is likely your most valuable asset.
Many employees just need something to make their jobs a little more interesting and get headed back in the right direction -- and it isn't just about money. An employee incentive program based on measurable growth factors can do wonders for your bottom line. We have the research to prove it.
Incentive Marketing Association
The Price Is Wrong
The $2.85 million asking price for the Deer Valley Racquet Club in Boone, North Carolina [Business for Sale, June], could be a bit high. It should be noted that there are few appraisers who have expertise in the valuation of tennis and health clubs. The asking price is much less than the real estate appraisal of $6 million, but I'm wary of these types of assessments. Typically, local assessors create wildly inflated values based on erroneous assumptions. In the end, tennis and health clubs are service businesses -- their success is directly related to the local market conditions. The accepted method of valuation in this industry is based on income, not real estate. There may be inadequate demand to support any tennis club in Boone, regardless of the quality of the facilities. Perhaps the owners should consider more residential development on the property.
Richard M. Caro Jr.
New York City