Les Patterson??Ÿ?¦Ÿ??s Monday Morning Boost: Solving problems the Overstock.com way


“Businesses succeed when they solve problems.”

Nothing fancy, but that was the core advice shared by Jonathan Johnson, chairman of Overstock.com. Johnson was the keynote speaker at the Cache Chamber of Commerce annual awards dinner last month. Elisa and I enjoyed getting to know Johnson and his wife a little bit, and picking up a few business tidbits he was gracious enough to share.

When businesses focus on solving problems, as Johnson suggested, then they’re on the path for success. Leftover inventory was the problem Overstock was attempting to solve 15 years ago as a startup company. Manufacturers and retail businesses are often stuck with small quantities and odd lots of excess inventory. The team at Overstock figured out an effective system of moving that challenging combination of excess inventory via the internet, a novel idea at the time.

Problem solving opportunities are different for every company, and even different today for Overstock.com, but the principle remains the same. The problem now Overstock.com is attempting to solve is speedy deliveries for customers ordering online. Their solution was the creation of Supplier Oasis, a partnering company utilizing Overstock’s natural areas of strength, namely warehousing and order fulfillment. They figured out an effective solution not only for themselves, according to Johnson, but also for competing companies such as eBay and Amazon.

Johnson outlined five key areas businesses can focus on to help them succeed:

  • Solve problems
  • Breakthrough inertia of how things have “always been done”
  • Hire and empower the right people
  • Innovate into areas of natural strength
  • Be a fair business partner

Interestingly, with just a little imagination you may see how these business success principles apply to managing a household, raising kids, and running a volunteer organization. Perhaps the same philosophies will help Johnson if he get serious, ashe’s already indicated, about running for governor of Utah.

Have a great Monday! Thanks for letting me share.

Les Patterson

p.s. Take 15 minutes today to explore how solving problems can help you succeed in your life.



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