I have designed some awful t-shirts in my life. In fact, I’ve started 3 different t-shirt companies in my life, my first at 16 (featuring some stupid quip about my virtual pet eating my family that even I don’t get anymore). I realized today how much I have learned about business – and technology – in the eighteen years since I started out, and how different the relationship between the two is now. In fact, I posit that business and I.T. are now so intertwined that the companies treating them separately – with I.T. still viewed as a cost center, or perhaps as an execution arm – will get left behind, if they haven’t already. Hear me out.
When I started, the entire t-shirt business was pretty old-school. Yes, I sketched my artwork with a computer. But that’s where technology ended. Everything else, from the printshop to the retailers I sold my designs through, were pretty much offline. Digital schmigital. People still paid by check. I still drove to the bank. My shirts were still sold in something called stores. The kind people actually drove to.
Today? A few years back I built a new t-shirt business from the ground up. I built an ecommerce site. I developed my own order and inventory management system, and a rudimentary CRM system to track my wholesale relationships. I integrated to shipping company API’s, built online order tracking systems, and drove visitors to my site through a tireless arsenal of paid search, social media, and press relations. I processed returns and customer service requests in a basic help system. My marketing database was tied to my customer order history and my email marketing system. All by myself, and all from behind a computer.
Whooptee freaking doo, right? Why does any of this matter?