Since its founding in 1881, the Sealy Mattress Company has become synonymous with comfortable, well-crafted mattresses. But its line of Posturepedic mattresses, designed especially to help people in need of back support, has long been in the grips of faltering sales since is 1950s glory days; in a mattress showroom, the more expensive Posturepedic model simply failed to stand out. Which is why Sealy brought in Ideo to revitalize and reinvigorate the brand.

Ideo focused on two main areas when it approached the Posturepedic: the design, and the features of the mattress. They made the mattress stand out among the others in a showroom by making the foundation light blue and the top white. Ideo added extra support to the hip area of the mattress, making it even more beneficial for people with back issues. And with the addition of a lightly-gripping rubber layer to keep sheets in place, and a set of handles along the sides for easy transport, Ideo took the mattress to the next level.

It’s just the thing to help Sealy move its Posturepedic mattresses, and after a disastrous fourth quarter in 2011, it may be just the thing to make the company profitable again.

Formed in 1986 by Arkansas government and business leaders, Southern Bancorp has been instrumental in addressing the problem of rural poverty. By focusing on development within fifty miles of each Southern branch, the bank ensures that its investments are going to help the communities it serves. With forty-five branches in Arkansas and Mississippi, and more than $1 billion in assets, Southern Bancorp is often the only banking option in rural areas as more and more banks desert small towns and other under-served areas. Every Southern branch, meanwhile, is locally managed and serves a town or county with fewer than 15,000 people.

The relationship forged between Southern Bancorp and its communities is invaluable in the bank’s goal for rural development. Not only does such a relationship create trust, it makes the foundation for economic development that much more solid and secure. Southern works to build on that foundation by encouraging tighter community development, in leadership as well as in infrastructure.

Beyond banking, Southern has a number of projects to help rural communities. The Delta Bridge Project is dedicated to developing the struggling Phillips County through strategic community planning and investment. Of the $74 million already committed to the project, Southern Bancorp has invested over $9.3 million in grants and loans. Similar projects are underway in Clark County in Arkansas, and Drew and Ruleville Counties in Mississippi.

Additionally, Southern targets rural educational and health care needs. Because rural areas are some of the most-overlooked by health professionals, Southern Bancorp provides incentives for health care services to move into these areas. Thanks to Southern and its partners, Phillips County is now home to the Helena Health Foundation, a $4.5 million health care facility that provides its members not only with access to physicians, but also with exercise equipment, an exercise and wellness library, and other health resources.

As it continues to expand, Southern Bancorp’s positive influence will likely be felt in the Delta region for years to come.

The relationship between Coldwater Cattle Company President Joe Batson and the Amarillo, Texas business community extends over a lifetime involved in ranching, oil and gas development, and media production. Born into a prominent cattle and ranching family with more than a century of history in the Texas Panhandle, Joe Batson began working for Coldwater Cattle Company as a teenager in the 1960s. He initially fulfilled cowboy responsibilities traditional to ranching on the high plains. He also earned pilot licenses for helicopter and fixed wing aircraft at an early age, allowing him to take the position of Chief Pilot. He later undertook the role of Vice President.

Today, Joe Batson is well-recognized in the Amarillo community as President of Coldwater Cattle Company and as an Officer of the Grid Oil Company. He also has executive experience in the financial industry, having chaired the First National Bank of Dumas in Amarillo prior to its 1986 sale.

In addition to his background in ranching and banking, Mr. Batson has enjoyed a distinguished career in advertising and media production. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Communication and Radio-Television-Film, he worked for several years as a Purchaser at the Amarillo advertising firm Monte Rosenwald and Associates. In 1981, he established Berneta Communications, Inc., a film company that produced nationally recognized films for nonprofit groups such as the United Way. Joe Batson maintains longstanding involvement in annual productions of TEXAS, the Official Play of the State of Texas, by the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation, of which he is a founding lifetime member.

With the rising cost and dwindling supply of fossil fuels, alternative energy sources like solar and wind power become more popular and, more importantly, more competitive cost- and output-wise. And although it’s not unusual to see solar panels dotting rooftops across the United States, it is unusual for individual consumers to sign the same sort of contract that a business would sign for solar panel use: building owners sign contracts with solar developers for long-term maintenance and the power supply. When Lynn Jurich founded SunRun in 2007, she did exactly that.

Five years later, and, remarkably, SunRun has relatively little competition, is more stable and is seeing more growth than ever before. Shortly after its founding, the San Francisco-based company grew quickly thanks to $12 million in venture capital funding. Thanks to their business model, SunRun lowers the cost hurdle that faces most consumers who want to switch to solar power. Rather than consumers buying the panels outright — which can cost upwards of $30,000 — SunRun owns the panels and maintains them, the consumer pays a fixed rate for a set period of time for the electricity generated. The cost of SunRun’s solar power runs about the same as traditional power, but in some markets the cost is lower; no matter where you are, the environmental benefits are higher than traditional power sources.

Now the nation’s leading residential solar company, SunRun installs more than $1 million in solar equipment every day. Currently, the company services only nine states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania — but with its continued growth, it hopes to add more. With SunRun plans starting with no money down, and a fixed, twenty-year rate immune to the volatile energy market, it’s easy to see why SunRun is number one.

If you’re like one of the more than 900 million people in the world who was curious or concerned about a possible medical condition, you probably used one of WebMD’s health tools. Its network of websites, headed by WebMD.com, has become a valuable tool for consumers and professionals as the world becomes increasingly focused in online markets.

As popular as its services have become, the company, which was founded in 1996, is on rockier ground than it has been in the past. A failed sales attempt earlier this year has made its investors restless and sent its stock plummeting thirty-two percent. WebMD is expected to post lower profits than projected, another factor making its investors uneasy.

But the fact remains that the people who use WebMD are, in all likelihood, unaware of its financial woes. And due to its staff of professional journalists and board certified physicians, the information remains as reliable as ever.

An indie film, the new album by one of your favorite artists, technology, and a delicious foodstuff. What do they all have in common? That their funding came through the website Kickstarter. Founded in 2008, Kickstarter is one of the leading platforms for crowdfunding, which is funding provided by a group of people who pool their money rather than funding provided by a single entity. Since its inception, Kickstarter has helped to crowdfund more than 15,000 successful projects with $125 million pledged.

Unlike some crowdfunding models, Kickstarter institutes a threshold amount that must be met or surpassed in a set amount of time or else the project will not receive any money. This threshold amount is set by the project leaders, who often offer other incentives to entice donors to pledge. Kickstarter itself receives five percent of the total funds raised, and its payment collection partner, Amazon Payments, receives another three to five percent.

Whther or not Kickstarter is truly the future of small-scale project funding, remains to be seen. But for the project leaders who have used it successfully, it is an indispensable tool to help make their dreams a reality.

If you are involved with business, especially if you work for a global, multinational company, chances are good you are already familiar with the social networking site LinkedIn. With 100 million members and growing, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. And unlike a social network like Facebook or Myspace, LinkedIn’s usefulness extends beyond finding that kid you knew in high school (although you can do that too). It focuses on professional relationships and connections, making it nearly indispensable for jobseekers or employers or just someone looking for advice.

LinkedIn helps you to sort contacts into a number of different groups, with the ability to message all or some members of a specific group at once; so that not only can you stay in contact with former and present colleges, you can see the patterns that connect them. And, for companies looking to hire, its usefulness extends beyond message board-type capabilities.

Say you’re a recruiter working at a large company. Your last hire was a huge success, and, wanting to replicate that success, you take a glance at the hire’s LinkedIn profile for other contacts with job histories and experience that match the new opening. Already the company has saved time by finding people who are truly qualified for the position rather than wading through a sea of non- or under-qualified applicants. There is the added bonus that employee referrals have a higher success rate than cold hires.

LinkedIn, which went public in May of 2011, has been as much of a success for its investors as it is for the companies who use its service. After initial estimates predicted a loss in its first quarter of trading, the company posted a surprise profit. LinkedIn’s CEO, Jeff Weiner, plans to build on that forward momentum and further invest in the business — a similar strategy to the one that gave the company its profits — and continue to encourage growth in LinkedIn through programs liked LinkedIn Today, which shares information through “Share on LinkedIn” buttons.

As LinkedIn becomes a more throughly integrated part of professional life, it will likely grow from being simply a helpful tool to an essential component of the workplace.

When Groupon was founded in 2008 by Andrew Mason, it was unique, and put a tech-savvy spin on the traditional coupon. Groupon allowed merchants to offer coupons through its website; customers would then purchase and use the coupon in the merchant’s physical store. It quickly became one of the internet’s fastest-growing companies, and in 2011 was valued at about $10.5 billion.

But as Groupon enters 2012, the marketplace has changed. Where once Groupon stood alone, it now must compete with a flood of competitors; along with the waning novelty of daily deals and purchased coupons, a declining customer base, and restless merchants complaining of profit-loss from the coupons, the company is on shaky ground.

However, Andrew Mason is confident that if Groupon maintains its focus on its customers, it will be able not only to differentiate itself from its competitors, but to affirm that its meteoric rise will not end in a flameout.

You may not know the company Alstom by name, but chances are good you at least know of its technology. One in four light bulbs in the world are powered by technology derived from Alstom, whose focus is innovative power generation, rail transportation, and power grid management. Founded in 1928, the French company first became involved in transportation in 1932, when it acquired a electric locomotive and electric and hydraulic company. Today, Alstom has provided major equipment for a quarter of the world’s power plants.

Alstom’s transportation focus is in the field of high-speed rail and very high speed rail, where it is ranked number one worldwide. Recently, it delivered new high-speed trains to Virgin Train’s United Kingdom line and a very high-speed train to Italian rail operator Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori. In January 2012, Alstom was granted a €50 million contract to increase commuter train capacity and efficiency in the UK.

As rail lines require a great deal of power, Alstom’s endeavors in the global energy field are only natural. But Alstom is not all coal-based power plants — though they manufacture a fair number of those — it has options ranging from gas and coal to solar and wind energy. Alstom’s biggest power project is the largest commercial-scale geothermal plant in the world, which is located in New Zealand and has been under continuous use for over fifty years.

Of course, all of those power-producing projects would mean little without the means to deliver their product. For that reason, Alstom’s third focus is the power grids themselves. From pioneering double motion circuit breaker technology to providing some of the most stable power grids in the world, Alstom’s 125 years of experience is extremely valuable. Now on the cusp of smart grid technology, changing the staid power grids of the past to intelligent, adjustable infrastructures, the company is poised to keep building on its expertise long into the future.

As it always has, Alstom looks to the future in its three focus areas. By constantly developing new and better technology, the company continues to innovate, a quality which ensures it will remain one of the world’s top-ranked companies well into the twenty-first century.

The Interpublic Group of Companies is one of the four biggest global advertising holding companies in America, with a full-year revenue of $6.5 million and over 41,000 employees. With lineage that goes back to the 1870s, this institution is one of the United States’ earliest advertising agencies. It wasn’t until a century later that the company went public. Since then, the Interpublic Group of Companies has continued to be a leader in its respective industry.

During the 2009 economic recession, a lot of major companies felt threatened. Despite longevity and stability, their stocks fell, costing them millions of dollars of possible returns. While their competitors were on the brink of bankruptcy, the Interpublic Group of Companies remained strong. It was business as usual for them, as well as nine other companies that stayed strong during the recession. Their services, which include consumer advertising, interactive marketing, media planning, and public relations, became an asset for other institutions that struggled with rapidly declining economic conditions. The company was not invincible to the effects of the market plunge, but damage to their business was so minimal that they were able to rise above others.

The company’s story of success, however, was not without a hint of controversy. In the mid-2000s, their oldest and largest subsidiary, McCann-Erickson, became embroiled in an accounting scandal. Inflated income worth $600 million was uncovered, consequently leaving the company with sanctions from the Securities and Exchange Commission and a lawsuit from its shareholders. These events led the Board of Directors to get a new management team – the same team that brought the company success during trying economic times.

The ups and downs of the Interpublic Group of Companies serve as a model for thriving businesses. They have suffered losses, but they were able to learn from these experiences to bring forth a foolproof business model few companies can match.