How to be successful at Threads, and how to make Threads successful
A modern-day manifesto
Threads is a high-context culture, with many of our ways of working implied. We are agile and entrepreneurial, but we do not often explain to people how to be either because it is so deep in our DNA. I have written this document to help to make some of the implicit, explicit, and to share some personal projections on how we make Threads successful together, and how to bring our values statements to life in our day-to-day.
To be the new face of luxury, building the largest luxury shopping platform.
How to be successful at Threads
A startup or a scale-up, and the difference between other companies and Threads
Threads is a scale-up with a start-up mentality. Does that sound like jargon? It’s not. A start-up is a business that is a bunch of hypotheses and is trying to prove a business model. A start-up doesn’t need a big clunky strategy, because it’s still learning how to monetise its value proposition. A scale up, on the other hand, has proved the hypothesis and is now scaling it quickly to make it profitable.
Threads is both a start-up on the growth side, with many exciting and unproven concepts and a scale up, on the white glove side. The joy of Threads is that opportunity is endless if you’re entrepreneurial because there is still lots of space to pivot and try new hypotheses, we’re not bound by a rigid business model. Often people who don’t understand this will say things like “Threads has no vision” or “it changes its mind” but that is the very essence that makes us exciting and a growth business, so strap in because you’re now on that roller coaster. To be successful, learn to be comfortable with reactivity and the value of a good hypothesis.
The second very important term for you to know is “Minimum Viable Product”.(MVP) the MVP is what is put in front of clients to see if the concept would work. Often technical MVPs look like they are automated, like a website, but they have a person behind them doing the actions, whilst the concept and features are ironed out fully. You’ll find a lot of MVPs in Threads.
The culture we have
We have an international team spread across multiple time zones, locations, and nationalities. However, our cultural philosophy has always been one of low power distance (Sophie’s door is always metaphorically open, anyone can book time in her diary). We strongly believe in task-related confrontation and conflict because it challenges us to innovate, and if we all leverage radical candour, the challenge of colleagues in meetings becomes expected and very valuable because it is about the work, not the person.
We’re here for the best solution, not the most popular one and to be successful, you need to push until the best solution is found, either through experimentation or through challenging each other's ideas, do not fall into consensus-seeking behaviour, and do not label others “aggressive” or “difficult” when they take the care to challenge directly, remember, that’s your bias talking!
We’re not an asynchronous business, because we are still using many MVPs across the organisation, which means we require time together and allotted hours in most departments. Remote work is designed for asynchronous businesses, so with our client focus, we will never be a fully remote business. Research shows that collaboration, innovation and trust increases when you spend some time together. The research also shows being physically with people helps you to build trust, and to spark serendipitous innovation across teams. We need collaboration, trust and innovation (show me a company that doesn’t), so we have anchor days in our offices to facilitate, and because we have activity based working, each team has their own agreement outside of the anchor days as to what is required for them. As someone awesome was once overheard saying “you never regret a day in the office”. It’s not about monitoring people, it’s about helping you have a better time at work and for us to be a successful business (which helps you too). For all of these reasons stated above we also require training to be in person where possible, and for new joiners to have more in person contact time so that they can get up to speed quicker. The simplest way to train someone is to sit next to them, and for them to ask questions as they go. A lot of the reasons for people not making it through their probation, is because they didn’t get enough help learning how things worked, and enough time shadowing. If you want to be successful at Threads, in person time is critical.
What we value most when we work together
First and foremost, we do not waste time (because we do not have time to waste!). If we come together, we have purpose. The purpose can be to socialise and build trust, or it can be to solve a problem, but we are up front about that and we do not waste time meeting to align or report back, that is what transparent trackers and backlogs are for. Do not set up a meeting without an agenda, do not join a meeting without an agenda. Own your time, and use your peers’ time as if it were finite and precious (which it is).
Shared focus and direction prioritised above all other work
“If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together”
And we have FAR to go, in a quick time! When we talk about shared vision, we mean everyone in the company pulling in the same direction. We set three annual focuses every year. Some teams work toward these using OKRs, others have SLAs or goals depending on the type of team they are. In an entrepreneurial environment like Threads, it’s very easy to get caught up in your own, or other people’s side projects. We commit to always challenging ourselves to understand what the true value is of what we’re working on, and whether it really maps back to the annual focus areas.
A shared vision is only possible when we are transparent about what we work on, and brave enough to challenge our peers and our leaders to help us understand the value of the work. Radical candor helps us to do just that. As do transparent backlogs and caring enough to take the time to learn about the company mission, vision, values and focus areas off by heart, and how you can contribute to them. You have to be in it to win it, and if you’re not helping to drive the focus areas forward, you’re not helping the team.
Putting the experience of our clients first, over and above everything else
Threads was ultimately started by someone (Sophie) dedicated/obsessed with client satisfaction and meeting the client where they were (social channels), and Threads was successful because that person did their utmost to put the client front and centre. Clients don’t want to hear no, they don’t want you to make it sound hard, they want effortless service, for you to send them things they didn’t know they needed until they saw it. Clients want to be delighted. Client focus is in the Threads DNA. It manifests in hand delivering to places across the world, organising beautiful parties and surprise gifts, and it means delighting the client is prioritised above all else. It’s not easy to do this, and it’s often this client delight that fuels the passion our shoppers have. When things go wrong and the client has a bad experience, expect it to feel like we let them down, because we did. We’re not so big that we can afford to lose a client or a sale, so it really matters that we get to a yes whenever we can, and every part of that client experience from inspo to acquire is delightful.
Accountability of delivery as well as decision making. Not being afraid of putting a stake in the ground irrespective of popular consensus.
Accountability has so many layers. In short, it is doing what you said you’d do. In a business like Threads it’s living up to the commitment of continuous improvement, and not walking past something that isn’t working. Watching something fail and saying after “well I knew it was going to fail but whatever” is toxic behaviour. If you don’t care enough to flag it up front and try to fix it, or to give feedback in the moment to make something better, then you don’t care enough to be here.
If you want to be successful at Threads, start with accountability for yourself. It takes courage to be upfront about things that aren’t working, and requires a commitment to proactively seek out the training you need/the contact time with your manager and so on. There is space in the world for venting to colleagues, but remember a vent or a rant doesn’t fix problems, it just lets off steam. To fix it you have to courageously tell someone. We want you to be successful, sometimes we get things wrong and we’re not mind readers so tell us how to help you. Accountability is also finishing what you started even when it gets hard.
Be Daring | Innovate
Be comfortable challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries. Stay one step ahead of the competition at the cost of the perfect solution. We would rather try things and fail fast and often than get it right every single time. Be bold. Act fearlessly. Not being afraid to fail
If everyone thinks the same, you will never move forward. In order to really commit to innovation, we have to commit to being uncomfortable and embracing challenges from our peers. We shouldn’t shy away from conflict if it’s about the task at hand, because it forces us to think differently and from other perspectives. A simple way to get comfortable with challenges is to allocate someone to always play devil’s advocate in your meeting, and to see what difference it makes to your outcomes.
Challenge welcome from all levels over and above hierarchical structures
Inclusivity can mean many things. For us, it means everyone has a voice, and because we value the benefits of radical candour, we also value the commitment everyone makes to share feedback and challenge each other to create bigger and better solutions. When we come together to collaborate, we do it so we can make something greater than we would have done by ourselves, because we bring our multidisciplinary skills and experiences. Collaboration is not the same as consensus. We do not believe you need consensus to be inclusive, and we also value our people's expertise in their fields. We use the RAPID framework for decision-making, so it's really clear that there is only one “decision maker” and many voices that input. We’re not afraid to put our trust in experts, but that doesn’t mean we don’t embrace the devil’s advocate and the dissenting voices in the discussion.
We focus our resources on driving Threads’ three focus areas forward over and above anything else. Value delivered over effort at all times.
Threads is designed for people who want to accelerate their career. Our Employee value proposition is very clear “Do you one year what you would do in three elsewhere” It’s for shoppers who want to act like business owners, operations people who want to solve the unsolvable (for Threads that would be the OMS 🤣). We’re not here to tell you when to switch off. We’re business leaders, not your parents, and you’re ambitious, driven and need to be given the freedom to drive your career at whatever pace you want. That means you are in control of your boundaries. yes, you probably won’t get a promotion if you don’t put your hand up to solve something or appear to be open to new challenges. You will probably sell less if you don’t set up a handover for your clients when you’re on holiday, or work your hours around their hours. It’s business, not school, you don’t get marks for turning up, that’s what the pay is for. We’re proud to be an organisation that rewards exceptional talent and initiative. If it feels too intimidating, we get it. But we prefer to push people than hold their hand. So if that’s not for you, we’ll give you support to find a new job and all the hugs and high fives on your way. In a very practical way, to do in one year what takes three elsewhere is going to feel like a lot of work, because it is.
Understanding the expectation
As a business, we have big ambitious goals which can only be reached if everyone does their part, and knows what results they should be working toward. Do not turn up to a meeting without an agenda. Do not create a meeting without an agenda. Do not allow yourself to work on projects or tasks that you do not fully understand the purpose of (and therefore the value). Know what you are accountable for, and be curious about the company vision values and focuses. You must know what the expectations are of you in your role, and ensure you know exactly what KPI’s link to your role and your success. You will have a role profile, an annual performance review, a probation review and regular 1:1s with your manager, use these to know what you should be working on, and if you’re not having them, be accountable for your own workload and challenge them directly as to why you do not have them.
Some people like time at the start of a session to socialise and catch up. If your team or you need this, build it in as an agenda item.
Threads Alumni, Always in the Threads community
It happens to everyone eventually. The work loses its shine, you’re not committed any more, something happened (usually your boss) and doing your work isn’t giving you that same adrenalin rush it was before. We ask one thing of you- tell us. There is nothing worse than pushing yourself to hit your accelerated career goals and drive a business than to have a teammate who isn’t mentally on your team any more and is letting you down. We care about all of you, not just the employee bit of you, so when you get to that feeling, speak to your manager, to Amy our wellbeing specialist, to someone from people support and let’s figure out where we go from there. Maybe you need some extra support right now because you have a lot going on outside of work, or if it’s time to move on, perhaps we know someone who knows someone who can get you that next job of your dreams.
A final word on intrapreneurship
Threads is an entrepreneurial place, and we value intrapreneurship. We have an intrapreneurship program which has spawned Threads Buy and Threads Gen. However people often mistake our commitment to intrapreneurship to mean “just do whatever you want, and we’ll support you”. Unfortunately, we can’t do this, we have a finite amount of resources, and we are pretty clear on what we need to do to be successful. If you have an idea that you think will help, great! You can pitch it to Sophie. What you can’t do is wake up one day, decide you’re bored in your job and start doing something else that is a passion project, that’s not intrapreneurship, that is just not doing what you signed up to do (accountability).
In Summary: How to be successful and to help Threads be successful
We’re a majority female growth business with a female founder operating in the male-dominated world of fashion (and business in general). Being a female-led business is one of the top reasons many of you give for choosing Threads as is the excitement and freedom of a growth business compared to the traditional inflexible structure many of our competitors have. Both of these USP’s come with extra work, but the experience of contributing to a business not led by the majority, and making your mark on a business still forming are the upside. Being successful starts with embracing both of these aspects of Threads and being sure you are on the right journey because it will be challenging and not without setbacks, but as another awesome person has said many times, “The road to success is not a straight line” Now it's over to you, ask yourself if you’re a rollercoaster type of person or you prefer to walk. Both are great, but we know what we are.