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3 ways successful startups solve consumers’ problems

(Business) Startups that succeed have some commonalities that can be duplicated at any sized new brand, or one looking to expand.





The secret ingredient to startup success

Starting and growing a business is easier now than ever. With a global, digital audience and a vast array of consumer needs, virtually any aspiring entrepreneur can identify and implement a brilliant new idea while pulling in legendary profits.

Although no secret strategy exists to guarantee one company’s success over another, a distinguishing factor of the most successful startups over the past few years has been their ability to solve problems. By identifying a point of pain in a consumer’s life and presenting a solution, these businesses have carved out niches for themselves in the marketplace that previously didn’t exist.

What is More Compelling to a Consumer: A Want or a Need?

Many entrepreneurs spend a great deal of time trying to decide what “next big thing” they can bring to the table. They think of products they already know and enjoy and believe they can create their own versions. However, they fail to consider whether the market for such an item is already saturated. The result is often a product that never gains the traction it needs.

The mistake centers on the faulty premise that most consumers are simply looking for “cool stuff” to buy. However, the sheer volume of available brands presents confusion and indecision among individuals who only have so much time and money to spend.

This is why the businesses with the best chance of succeeding are those that focus on the problems customers need solved rather than which products they might like to have. By focusing on needs currently not being met in the market, companies differentiate themselves from competitors and become heroes to their customers.

How to Identify the Problem You Want to Solve

Consumers face countless problems on a daily basis; how do you know which one your company could potentially solve? For some, identifying a need to meet is a no-brainer. Others may remain deep in thought for months or years before discovering their calling.

As you begin your business, consider ways you or your product could:

  • Save time. A gadget or service that creates a shortcut for the user is a valuable way to solve a problem in today’s busy society.
  • Save money. Combining two or more products into one, devising a less expensive way to produce an existing product, or otherwise helping consumers save resources makes a product a worthwhile proposition for potential buyers.
  • Perform a difficult task. Household appliances are a perfect example of ways entrepreneurs have helped consumers make their lives easier and more convenient. More modern examples include fitness applications and mobile point-of-sale systems, which make previously complicated record-keeping processes simple and instantaneous.

The key is to understand what is happening in the market – particularly in the industry your current or prospective business seeks to serve. Explore new technologies, developments, and philosophies to determine how you might harness them to address a problem.

Characteristics Successful Startup Products or Services Share

Among the many entrepreneurial ventures that have achieved a sustained foothold in their markets, several common factors exist. This is no coincidence; rather, these individuals have discovered and tapped into the power and multiple facets of problem solving.

Beyond simply unleashing products and services on customers, successful startups exhibit additional qualities:

  1. They reflect the passions of their inventors. To create a truly effective and attractive product, an inventor must identify with the needs and desires of those who would purchase it. Orchestrate an item you would (and do) use on a regular basis and – as sources often state – “you won’t work a day in your life.”
  2. They tackle a problem from a different angle. Standout startups don’t present the same solutions as their predecessors and contemporaries. If another company is already using your idea, consider what they haven’t considered. Look for where a need still isn’t being met and decide you’ll be the one to meet it.
  3. They add to what has already been done. Google, Microsoft, Nike, and other highly successful companies don’t rest on their laurels, and neither should small business owners. Continuing to push the boundaries of what can be accomplished in one’s industry is how good companies become great leaders.
  4. They keep what works and improve what doesn’t. Customer feedback, lackluster sales, and low profits should be a warning sign to entrepreneurs that something isn’t working. Although one product or sector of your business may be running swimmingly, continually look for where pruning or adjustments are needed to keep the company profitable.

Although the current marketplace offers unlimited potential for entrepreneurs, identifying where their expertise is most needed is crucial to lasting profitability and success. It is no longer enough to create a novelty item and hope it sells; products must detect a critical void and fill it.

By paying close attention to the pain points of potential customers, businesses unlock the power of problem solving in entrepreneurialism.

Which of your customers’ problems do you hope to solve?

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Business News

What COVID-19 measures do workplaces have to take to reopen?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Employers can’t usually do medical screenings – but it’s a little different during a pandemic.



COVID-19 temp gun

Employers bringing personnel back to work are faced with the challenge of protecting their workforce from COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued guidelines on how to do so safely and legally.

Employee health and examinations are usually a matter of personal privacy by design through the American’s with Disabilities Act. However, after the World Health Organization declaration of the coronavirus as a pandemic in March, the U.S. EEOC revised its guidance to allow employers to screen for possible infections in order to protect employees.

Employers are now allowed to conduct temperature screenings and check for symptoms of the coronavirus. They can also exclude from the workplace those they suspect of having symptoms. The recommendations from the CDC also include mandatory masks, distant desks, and closing common areas. As the pandemic and US response evolves, it is important for employers to continue to monitor any changes in guidance from these agencies.

Employers are encouraged to have consistent thresholds for symptoms and temperature requirements and communicate those with transparency. Though guidance suggests that COVID-19 screenings at work are allowed by law, employers should be mindful of the way they are conducted and the impact it may have on employer-employee relations.

Stanford Health Care is taking a bold approach by performing COVID-19 testing on each of its 14,000 employees that have any patient contact. They implemented temperature scanning stations at each entrance, operated by nurses and clinicians. The President and CEO of Sanford Health Care said, “For our patients to trust the clinical procedures and trials, it was important for them to know that we were safe.”

Technology is adapting to meet the needs of employers and identify symptoms of COVID-19. Contactless thermometers that can check the temperature of up to 1,500 people per hour using thermal imaging technology are now on the market; they show an error margin of less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit. COVID-19 screening is being integrated into some company time-clocks used by employees at the start and end of each shift. The clocks are being equipped with a way to record employee temperatures and answers to a health questionnaire. Apple and Google even collaborated to bring contact tracing to smart phones which could help contain potential outbreaks.

Fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing are the three most common symptoms of COVID-19. Transmission is still possible from a person who is asymptomatic, but taking the precautions to identify these symptoms can help minimize workplace spread. This guidance may change in the future as the pandemic evolves, but for now, temperature checks are a part of back to work for many.

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Business News

Technology that may help you put the “human” back in Human Resources

(BUSINESS NEWS) Complicated application processes and disorganized on-boarding practices often dissuade the best candidates and cause new hires to leave. Sora promises to help with this.



employee hiring

Even in a booming economy, finding the right applicant for a role can be a drawn-out, frustrating experience for both the candidate and the hiring manager. Candidates submitting their resume to an automated HR system, designed to “seamlessly” integrate candidates into their HRIS accounts, face the interminable waiting game for feedback on whether they’re going to be contacted at all.

Ironically, this lack of feedback on where a candidate stands (or even if the resume was received at all) and a propensity for organizations to list roles as “Open Until Filled”, overwhelms the hiring manager under a mountain of resumes, most of which will not be reviewed unless there is a keyword match for the role. And if they do somehow manage to see the resume, studies indicate that in less than 10 seconds, they’ll have moved on to the next one.

The problems don’t end there, however. Once the candidate and hiring manager have found one another, and the HR team has completed the hire, the dreaded phase of onboarding begins. During the first few days of a new job, a lack of effective onboarding procedures—ranging from simple tasks like arranging for technology or introductions to a workplace mentor—can be the cause of a significant amount of employee turnover. Forbes notes that 17% of all newly hired employees leave their job during the first 90 days, and 20% of all staff turnover happens within the first 45 days.

The reason, according to Laura Del Beccaro, Founder of startup Sora, is that overworked HR teams simply don’t have the bandwidth to follow up with all of those who are supposed to interact with the new employee to ensure a seamless transition experience. Focusing on building a template-based system that can be integrated within the frameworks of multiple HRIS systems, Sora’s focus is to set up adaptable workflow processes that don’t require the end-user to code, and can be adjusted to meet the needs of one or many employee roles.

In a workplace that is becoming increasingly virtual, out of practicality or necessity, having the ability to put the “human” back in Human Resources is a focus that can’t be ignored. From the perspective of establishing and expanding your team, it’s important to ensure that potential employees have an application experience that respects their time and talent and feedback is provided along the way, even when they might not be a fit for the role.

Take for example the organization who asked for an upload of a resume, then required the candidate to re-type everything into their HRIS, asked for three survey responses, an open-ended writing task, a virtual face-to-face interview, *and* three letters of reference—all for an entry-level role. If you were actually selected for an in-person interview, the candidate was then presented with another task that could take up to two hours of prep time to do—again, all for an entry level role.

Is that wrong? Is it right? The importance of selecting the right staff for your team can’t be overstated. But there should be a line between taking necessary precautions to ensure the best fit for your role and understanding that many of the best candidates you might find simply don’t want to participate in such a grueling process and just decide to move on. There’s a caveat that says that companies will never treat an employee better than in the interview process and in the first few weeks on the job—and that’s where Sora’s work comes in, to make certain that an employee is fully supported from day one.

Bringing on the best to leave them without necessary support and equipment, wondering at the dysfunction that they find, and shuffled from department to department once they get there creates the reality and the perception that they just don’t matter—which causes that churn and disconnect. Having your employees know that they matter and that they’ll be respected from day one is a basic right—or it should be.

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Business News

Trader Joe’s doesn’t want to change its controversial brand names

(BUSINESS NEWS) Branding has gone through a major change recently and many companies are agreeing to shifts, but Trader Joe’s thinks its names are fine.



trader joes branding

In the last few months our country has gone through a complete re-evaluation of their societal impact with their branding names. Companies that have been strong for neigh on a century are changing their names to accommodate more socio-intelligent content. Whether its from real change or from following the societal trends, the gambit of following the socio-economic climate is becoming a common theme. However the world turns next, the changes we are seeing now is creating a new world of products and status quo.

One company, though, is standing strong with their branding. Trader Joe’s, a grocery store chain, is sticking to its guns, despite some rather vocal push back. A petition aimed at the stores “racist” branding name habit has started making its way through the internet. Currently the petition has crossed the 5000-signature threshold and is getting close to its 7500 goal on

The habit of using phrases like “Trader Jose” or “Trader Ming’s” in their international food products is the main point of contention. The people behind the petition state that using names like this makes those items appear to be exotic or out of the norm like the original/traditional brand Joe – which at its very basic definition is truthful. The branding technique brands something as different than the original.

Initially a company spokesperson stated that the names were in the process of being changed, but less than a week later their tone changed. Trader Joe’s now states that while they “want to be clear; we disagree that any of these labels are racist.” They will not be changing things based on petitions. Also they report that “decades ago, our Buying Team started using product names, like Trader Giotto’s, Trader Jose’s, Trader Ming’s, etc.

We thought then – and still do – that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures”. According to their current reporting they have also reached out to their customer base and supposedly many customers reaffirmed “that these name variations are largely viewed in exactly the way they were intended – as an attempt to have fun with our product marketing”.

Personally, I see two major issues here. First, they are literally talking about a branding that is decades old; habits that were comedic then are now seen in a very different light. Just like an organism, society grows and changes too. If they can’t come up with new gimmicks to make themselves more popular and fresher, then they’ll most likely fall by the wayside as it is. The other issue is that their polling was specifically geared towards their current buyers; they asked their own customers whether they found this offensive. Can we all just take a collective deep breath and say biased please? Whether or not they decide to stick to their guns here is going to lay some groundwork in the future.

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