In the world of startup entrepreneurship, competition is a major problem. If there’s another business offering a product like yours — to a market like yours — it’s treated as an existential threat, and rightly so. If a competent competitor is capable of offering superior exchanges for consumers, they’re going to leave your company for theirs (no matter how loyal your customers may seem).
Accordingly, a major strategic element for any startup is figuring out a way to deal with competition. For the most part, this involves a series of strategies that can be broadly classified as self-improvement or avoidance.
In self-improvement strategies, a startup seeks to improve itself such that a competitor can no longer contend with it. For example, you may attempt to cut your prices dramatically so your product is more objectively favored by the logic-driven customers you share. You might also improve customer service, expand your offerings, or make things more convenient for your customers.
In avoidance strategies, a startup attempts to minimize competition altogether. For example, you might tap into marketing strategies that your competitor has never considered or target a completely different niche to avoid direct conflict.
In rarer cases, a startup may seek to undermine or attack a competitor in a sabotage-style attack. But aside from being borderline unethical, these tactics are often nowhere near as cost-efficient as straightforward improvement or avoidance strategies.
But what if there was another option? What if you could use your competition as a source of development and improvement?
Let’s start with an outline of the basic premise.
Your competitors are powerful forces in the industry. As an illustrative metaphor, let’s consider them a powerful fighter in the ring. Traditional approaches encourage you, another fighter in the ring, to confront them head on, train to improve yourself as a fighter, or increase your agility so you can avoid their attacks.
But there are other ways to approach this situation, which derive their power from the strength of your opponent. For starters, you can use the opposing fighter’s momentum and strength against them; the “bigger they are, the harder they fall” style approach. You can also work together with your competing fighter against a bigger, even more powerful enemy.
One straightforward, if rarely appealing, option here is a merger. If you and your competitor have a similar business model and you’ve split the market down the middle, why not join together and multiply both your strengths?
Mergers aren’t always possible, nor are they always preferable. In some cases, joining together can make you much more powerful than the sum of your parts. In some cases, a merger is the first step on the fast track to collapse.
And of course, there’s always the possibility that your competitor won’t want to consider a merger in the first place. But it’s worth considering – especially if you’re tired of trying to make the conventional paths of competition work in your favor.
Research and Understanding
Before you even launch your business, you should be using your competitors as a source of research, information and understanding. Competitors are your biggest lenses into the world of your industry, and they have much to tell you about how you should be structuring and supporting your business.
For example, consider:
- Satisfied customers. How many customers does this company have? Are they satisfied? Why are they satisfied? What is it that this company does that makes people keep coming back to them? You can use this information to refine your own products, services, and customer offerings.
- Unsatisfied customers. Even more importantly, why does this company have unsatisfied customers? When people leave this brand, what is their primary motivation? Are they looking for lower prices? Are they unhappy with the level of customer service? You can use this information to develop a better offer for your shared audience.
- Sources of innovation. What are the biggest areas of innovation for this competitor? Where does their product or service out-compete other businesses in this industry? What are their areas of specialty?
- Weaknesses. What are the biggest weaknesses of this competitor? Is it possible to exploit these weaknesses in the course of your business’s development?
Brand Equity and Brand Jacking
Let’s say you have a competitor who’s already well-established in the industry. They have 10 times as many customers as you have and they’re practically a household name. What if you could use the power of their existing brand name for your own benefit?
Brand names have power, which we’ll call “equity.” And that equity can be tapped into. Consider brand jacking, a strategy that relies on your ability to derive power from someone else’s brand.
For example, by using the power of search engine optimization (SEO), you can write content optimized for brand-specific keywords belonging to your competitors. When a potential customer searches for the brand, they’ll likely see your competitor in the top position in search engine results pages (SERPs).
But in the second position, they may see an article you’ve written titled something like, “The Top X Alternatives to [Brand Name].” It’s an easy way to leech traffic from a competitor, using their own brand equity against them.
You can also practice this strategy by utilizing pay per click (PPC) ads based on your competitors’ brand name keywords and phrases.
Lifting the Industry
Oftentimes, good PR and marketing isn’t just about improving the reputation or visibility of your company – it’s also about improving the reputation and visibility of your entire industry.
If this is the case, consider looking for opportunities where you and your competitors will mutually benefit (and take advantage of them). For example, if a competitor announces expansion into new territory, that could mean increased exposure for the entire industry.
Even if the expansion is likely a threat to your brand, it also presents new opportunities – which you can find and tap into if you’re willing to lean into the new publicity.
There may be areas where you and your competitor directly compete, but there may also be areas where you have complementary offerings. If this is the case, you may be able to work together to provide your mutual customers with a more comprehensive, singular experience.
For example, you can use your competitor as a third-party vendor for a service you may be unable to provide on your own. It’s a risky maneuver if you stand to lose the customer to a competitive offer, but you may also be able to arrange a white label provision of service to minimize this possibility.
Collaboration and Cross-Promotion
Have you ever considered working directly with your competitor on a new piece of content or a new marketing campaign? By combining your data sets, your resources, and your pool of experts, you can likely create something more interesting and more valuable than either of you could by yourselves.
Consider working together on an industry whitepaper, an eBook, or even a podcast or video series designed to support the industry. It’s the perfect opportunity for shared cross-promotion.
Referrals and Trading
Referrals have enormous power to grow your business. But prior customers don’t have to be your only source of referrals. You could set up a dynamic cross-referral program with a competitor, trading leads and referrals on an as-warranted basis; for example, you could forward excess customers to your competitor if your backlog begins to get unwieldy. In exchange, they could pay you a referral fee and/or send you referrals when the tides turn.
Your competition is always going to be a threat – but it doesn’t have to be a threat exclusively. In addition to adjusting your business to minimize the peril of direct competition and improving your business overall through innovation and development, consider making use of your top competitors. It’s a counter-intuitive strategy, but can be quite a powerful one if used properly.
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10 Blockchain Speakers Who Make It Easy to Understand
The blockchain and Bitcoin. Decentralized finance and smart contracts. Non-fungible tokens and play-to-earn gaming. The new world of Web 3 is a lot of things — but simple isn’t one of them. A few speakers manage to turn the complexity of the blockchain into concepts that are easy to understand and quick to grasp.
These men and women take questions from the audience — and have a coherent and logical explanation for anyone who knows enough to frame a good question. If you are creating an event and you want a great keynote speaker — whether in person or virtual — choose from this list.
Blockchain, Bitcoin, Decentralized Finance, Smart Contract, Non-Fungible Tokens, Play-to-Earn Gaming — Think of the Possibilities
When I study, listen, attend conferences, and get lists like this one ready — it’s a difficult process (no doubt, those of you in this business can relate).
I have listened to most of these individuals speak and usually put Joel Comm at the top of my lists because he’s so dang funny — although these speakers are listed here in no particular order.
- Joel Comm (@joelcomm)
Joel Comm reached the blockchain world after selling a games company to Yahoo!, revealing the secrets of Google’s AdSense system, and explaining how to market on Twitter as soon as the “microblogging” platform was launched. With Travis Wright, he presents both The Bad Crypto Podcast and The Nifty Show, two podcasts that interview blockchain leaders and entrepreneurs, explaining their activities to a non-technical audience.
- Igor Pejic (@IgorPejic9)
Igor Pejic is the author of Blockchain Babel. He’s the former head of marketing at BNP Paribas Personal Finance Austria and a teacher at the University of Vienna. His experience in both the finance industry and in education has enabled him to translate blockchain technology’s jargon into understandable language and to explain why it matters. He’s seen how finance is responding to the rise of digital currencies and distributed networks, and he can explain it.
- Andre de Castro (@AndreTechExec)
Andre de Castro is a software engineer and a Bitcoin pioneer. He works with Fortune 500 clients, helping them to understand and prepare for the development of cryptocurrencies. He also contributed to a 2014 administrative ruling that enabled corporations and startups to trade cryptocurrencies in the US. He is an expert on the opportunities available in the blockchain world and, in particular, the possibility of earning through arbitrage across different trading platforms.
- Anne Lise Kjaer (@kjaerglobal)
Anne Lise Kjaer is an expert on trends. She’s the author of The Trend Management Toolkit and has talked to companies, including IKEA and Swarovski, about changing consumer fashions. The trends she’s discussed have included health tech and digitalization, but she also talks about fintech, how it’s changing, and what effect those changes will have on consumers and the companies that serve them.
- Lisa Short (@lisagshort)
Professor Lisa Short’s emphasis is on education. She’s the founder of Mind Shifting and the Frontier TechED Accelerator uses education to bring together small and medium-sized businesses and cutting-edge technologies. Lisa Short is also the director of Learning and Ecosystems for the United Africa Blockchain Association, which delivers blockchain and artificial intelligence education across Africa.
- John Biggs (@johnbiggs)
John Biggs is a journalist. Biggs has been an editor-at-large for TechCrunch.com and has written for publications including Wired, the New York Times, Linux Journal, and Popular Science. He is now news editor at CoinDesk, the world’s leading source of blockchain news, and has written books about blogging and online scams. He was also the CEO of fintech startup Freemit.com, adding real-world experience to his research and writing.
- Sam Wouters (@SDWouters)
Sam Wouters is a consultant at Duval Union Consulting, a consultancy firm, and is a co-author of the Digital Transformation Book, a guide to bringing digital workflows to large companies. He now focuses on Bitcoin and the blockchain, helping companies to understand how the technology works and what they can do with it.
- Laura Shin (@laurashin)
Laura Shin is the host of Unchained, one of the Web’s leading blockchain podcasts. She was senior editor at Forbes and the first mainstream journalist to take crypto as her full-time beat. She is also the author of the recent investigation of crypto’s early days: The Cryptopians: Idealism, Greed, Lies, and the Making of the First Big Cryptocurrency Craze. Her talks focus on the blockchain’s effects on ownership, online organization, and earning potential.
- Tony Scott (@tonyscottcio)
Tony Scott was President Barack Obama’s Chief Information Officer. He launched a 30-day Cybersecurity Sprint and directed the government’s cyber defense efforts. He also managed the net neutrality policy and oversaw the privacy issues that emerged from Apple’s suit against the FBI. He now runs the TonyScottGroup, where he gives enterprise-sized firms strategies to cope with and make the most of changing IT infrastructure and new technologies.
- Elias Ahonen (@eahonen)
Elias Ahonen’s 2016 book, Physical Bitcoins and Crypto-Currencies, was one of the first histories of digital currency. He is also the author of Blockland, a collection of stories about Bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrency. He’s been active in the blockchain space since 2012 and runs a blockchain consulting company called Token Valley.
Here are a few articles for your reading pleasure and information — about these topics.
Blockchain, Bitcoin, Decentralized Finance, Smart Contract, Non-Fungible Tokens, Play-to-Earn Gaming
Most of these images were taken from the Speakers Linkedin Profiles; Thank you!
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Pressmaster; Pexels; Thank you!
How to Efficiently Onboard and Train Your New Hires
Quality employee onboarding is one of the most important things you can do for your business. You want your new hires to feel welcome and wanted as soon as they walk in. You need to give them an excellent first impression of your business and show that they matter. For many new employees, it’s essential to feel that there is a well-defined role and a clear career path.
Not only that, but a good onboarding process can make a massive difference to your retention rates and your revenue. Onboarding can also improve employee productivity and morale. And you save time and money when you don’t have to keep replacing employees.
Great onboarding starts with excellent planning. You really can’t wing it when it comes to training your new hires. Having planned training and processes for dealing with new employees is important.
Before hiring any new employees, plan out what they need to know and how you deliver it. This will also make it easier for you. For example, you’re not having to scramble to find something for them to do while trying to balance your own work.
You could also create an onboarding checklist for you and one for your new hires. This allows you to quickly know what to teach next and see clear progress and tick off what they’ve learned. It’s motivating for both parties. Even better if you have training software that allows for gamification. New hires can tick off modules as they finish them, see what’s next, achieve rewards, and more.
Once you have your onboarding training prepared, you can then use your calendar to plan it out and ensure success.
1. Set up a dedicated onboarding calendar
Many calendar apps will allow you to set up multiple calendars. So, for example, you can set up a calendar just for onboarding training, showing the full schedule.
This allows you and your new hires to look at your full calendar view with all your tasks and appointments and to look at just the training schedule on its own calendar when you need to.
It’s helpful to have both views. With the main calendar view, you can ensure no clashes and time to get to training sessions. And with the onboarding calendar, you clearly know the training and what comes next.
2. Share your calendars
You can coordinate together more efficiently by sharing your calendars. Your new employee will have other items on their calendar in addition to their onboarding training. For example, they may have previously booked medical appointments scheduled or a holiday that was already booked before they got the job. And there’s the work that they need to be involved in.
If you both share your calendars, you can easily be more flexible, if needed, and quickly rearrange sessions if something else comes up. In addition, your new hire will be able to see when you’re free, so they can book time if they need more help.
Encouraging your new employees to start, regularly use, and share their calendars is good practice for the future.
3. Set up your to-do list
Unless your only job is employee onboarding, you will have other work to fill your time. With your time split between onboarding your new hires and your everyday work, staying organized is essential. You can add a task/to-do list and make notes on many calendars to easily keep track.
This helps you balance your work with your onboarding duties. It also gives you a heads up if you’re going to have a busy week that may need extra organization and planning.
Another benefit of adding your to-do list to your calendar is seeing how much you’ve achieved. Ticking off completed tasks gives a nice hit of dopamine and is highly motivating.
4. Use time blocking to ensure you get everything done
When trying to learn something new, it can be easier to spend a solid block of time on it, rather than jump around over several sessions. Time blocking can be helpful to facilitate that.
However, time blocking involves splitting your day and week into blocks for specific tasks. This is a great way to combine your to-do list with your calendar. This can be a beneficial technique for ensuring you can fit in onboarding training and your regular tasks and meetings.
You can choose what works best for you with so many options and techniques. For example, time blocking could be one more helpful tool in your organizing arsenal.
5. Set up reminders
One of the best things about using a calendar and task lists is that you can add reminders to keep yourself on track.
When you are setting up your onboarding calendar, ensure you add in reminders where it’s helpful. This ensures that you don’t miss any meetings or tasks or your trainees.
When you’re busy, it can be easy to miss breaks and lunches. Adding reminders for these can ensure you take a breather when you should. It also provides that you don’t set yourself up for burnout.
6. Integrate with Trello
Some calendars integrate with Trello, a simple but effective project management app.
You can add tasks, checklists, and processes to Trello. It’s helpful to break down more significant tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. It’s possible to tick them off when you’re done, which can help to motivate you and your trainees.
One other great thing about Trello is that you can set up boards and processes as a template. Then when you need it again, copy the template, rename it, and you’re ready to go.
Integrating this option with your calendar could help you manage your training better. You can also add team members and work on tasks together, aiding your trainees.
7. Bear in mind remote working
So many companies now allow remote working since the pandemic that you need to consider it. In addition, you may be training both in-office workers and remote workers to onboard them.
It’s important that your onboarding training includes your company culture and expectations, but it’s particularly important that remote workers feel part of your company.
Of course, you need to organize your time and calendar to ensure you can onboard everyone, remote or not. In addition to planning tasks and meetings, you’ll need to consider what technology you need, including cameras, Zoom, and more. Then, organize your tech in plenty of time for each meeting for success.
8. Start with a welcome pack
Once you know the start date of your next hire, add a task and a reminder on your calendar. Then send them a welcome email a few days before they start. You could even save time by writing a template for this email if you’re going to need it more than once. Then, you could set it up, keep it, and just hit send on the day.
If they’re based in-house, include practical information your new employee needs to know. Include directions, parking information, and a building map marked by their office or area. Add in where they can find vending machines or a kitchen for snacks and drinks. Include any local shops, such as bakeries or sandwich shops for food.
You’re starting them on the right foot before they’ve even walked through the door. And they will appreciate it.
Don’t forget your remote workers here. They will also appreciate a friendly, welcoming email with helpful information on start times and what to expect.
9. Use your analytics
Many calendars have excellent analytics. Office 365, for example, includes MyAnalytics, which provides information on various tasks and events. For example, you can see how many meetings you’ve had and how you spend your time.
This is helpful because you can see an overview of your onboarding training. You can check if you’re offering balanced training or leaning too heavily toward one subject. You can see whether you have covered everything or if there are any gaps.
Calendar analytics are equally helpful for improving your general productivity. You can ensure you still have the time to work on your own tasks as well as fit in onboarding.
10. Assess your onboarding regularly
Use your calendar to schedule follow-up meetings with new employees to get feedback on your onboarding processes.
Diarize time every year, at least once, to review your onboarding, look at feedback, and see how you can improve.
With quality onboarding so crucial for every business, it is vital to stay organized and on top of it. The right calendar apps can help you deliver onboarding well and keep improving.
Published First on Calendar. Read Here.
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What Are Automated Guided Vehicles?
Steam engines and conveyor belts are arguably two of the most important inventions of the industrial age. Moving water and coal by machine sparked groundbreaking changes in manufacturing. They allowed businesses to scale their production while saving time and resources. Many believe that automated guided vehicles represent the next logical step.
After all, without these innovations, the world as it is today would be impossible. The ability to move materials with ease contributed powerfully to the industrial revolution.
As time has marched on, more technologies have been invented to improve transportation, thus benefiting the manufacturing process. Many experts believe that the automated guided vehicle is the most noteworthy innovation as of late.
These machines are automatic vehicles with a guidance system that can use a variety of technologies to get from point A to point B without the need for a driver or human supervision. This invention has benefited quite a number of operations when it comes to manufacturing. AGVs can routinely and reliably transport materials from one place to another.
How Automated Guided Vehicles Work
Of course, the future of manufacturing is unknown, but it is constantly seeing upgrades from technological advancements. An automated guided vehicle (AGV) is a robotic solution to many industrial problems. It is a portable robot that moves along marked lines or wires on factory floors. It achieves this by using radio waves, cameras, magnets, or lasers for navigation.
The technologies used by each AGV differ based on design. Technologies such as LIDAR help AGVs in routing, navigation, and traffic management. Cameras help in monitoring obstacles and optimizing the path. Sensors also help in mapping the space and navigation.
Automated guided vehicles run on optimized technologies such as laser-based navigation systems and camera-based navigation systems. Both of these enhance the operation and help with better routing, traffic management, load balancing, and battery management.
These advances help make the systems safer for humans on the factory floor, as AGVs can stop if they sense someone or something is within their set path.
Laser-based navigation systems are one of the most popular types of routing and mapping systems in the industry today. Engineers pair camera-based technology with laser technology as an add-on feature. Cameras can detect the presence of traffic and easily identify obstacles better than lasers.
Camera-mounted automated guided vehicles are also extremely useful when humans are operating the system. It provides a much better view when users take the vehicle for new routines or a manned operation.
Industries Utilizing Automated Guided Vehicles
AI and self-driving cars are predicted to be the future, even in industries such as construction. However, some industries are experiencing success with automated options, and others are still adapting to AGVs. Most companies use automated guided vehicles in industrial applications. They transport heavy materials around large factories or warehouses.
For example, they help factories move raw materials or pellet goods. These are made ready to be shipped or sent off to a warehouse. Techs automate their routes and schedules in a way that they carry out operations a specific number of times within specified time increments.
While industrial applications are most common, other industries use AGVs on a smaller scale. AGVs can be applied to move materials in food processing, automotive assembly plants, and the healthcare industry.
Within hospitals, AGVs are becoming increasingly popular. Technicians program them to move linens, trash, medical waste, and even patient meals. In recent years, the theme park industry has even begun using AGVs for rides.
Benefits of Using Automated Guided Vehicle
The world of production is moving forward. There are so many benefits of incorporating an automated guided vehicle. Here are some of the most notable perks.
1. Time Management
Most notably, automated guided vehicles help cut down on human resources. Otherwise, companies spend additional resources on transporting materials back and forth. This, in turn, reduces the manual errors that occur when lifting large loads.
AGVs also improve time management by automating the routines. A simple memory chip with a navigation system and an automated routine can help the users to save time throughout pickup and transport schedules.
The incorporation of more automated systems has also been shown to save money and add more leisure time for employees. When companies don’t burden employees with simple, repetitive tasks, they can focus on more important agenda items.
AGVs prove to be extremely useful as they can transport items to a certain location without the guidance of humans. Without the need for human guidance, AGVs cut down on human error.
2. Optimizing Transport
Transporting materials through robot-enabled machines helps in automating the transport of materials, withdrawing the need for other machines, forklifts, and techniques for load management. Delegating transport to an AGV can also protect workers.
Injuries from lifting heavy items or operating forklifts incorrectly are some of the most common injuries within the workplace. Having AGVs take on this responsibility could mean avoiding workplace comp claims and potentially losing good employees.
Somewhat ironically, self-driving vehicles become simpler and safer when humans aren’t around. Separating human tasks and automated guided vehicles can optimize the transport process in multiple ways.
Incorporating AGVs benefits the overall manufacturing process, as it involves fewer man hours on simple tasks, such as transport, and it diverts them to more useful operations. An automated guided vehicle cuts down on the number of staff hours or labor required to safely handle payload and take it from one point to another. This is easily done once the load is set up on the automated guided vehicle.
Companies know that these machines are sturdy, stable, and more efficient than humans, who can carry less and usually take longer. AGVs make the transportation process both cost and time efficient.
Automated guided vehicles are a simple solution to solve transportation issues, and their application has broadened during the late 20th century. As more industries look to incorporate technology to optimize their processes and improve efficiency, they may take advantage of AGVs.
Looking at how the manufacturing industries have been utilizing this technology for years can help industries that are choosing to incorporate this technology now learn best practices. Knowing what AGVs are and recognizing their benefits can help businesses decide if they’re right for them.
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