The visual deck helps small business retailers see business data differently

vdeckA couple of months ago we announced the launch of the Visual Deck, a cloud based business intelligence platform we developed here at Tower Systems for small business retailers. The visual deck gives small business retailers a visual insight into business performance and from this flows a brighter future based on data evidence from the business itself.

The visual deck is a game changer in the small business POS space as it delivers to small business retailers a set of tools that provide easy access from anywhere to elegant representation of business performance data.

This new platform is a completely new product from the Tower development team. It leveraged data cultivated by the Tower Point of Sale software and makes it available anywhere, in a stimulating visual form and in a way than encourages the discovery of business performance insights.

Introducing the Retailer Visual Deck.

Retail business performance, seen differently.

The Visual Deck is a platform through which you can see the performance of your business, visually. Graphs replace reports, making trends obvious and a path ahead clearer to follow. Graphs that change with time and through which you can dive deeper into what is happening in your business.

Why did we call it the Visual deck? It is visual because, well, your business data is presented in a visual way. It is a deck because it is a platform off of which you can see far and wide. It is a perfect place to see what you cannot see when you are on the ground.

Retailers can access the Visual deck from anywhere, anytime, and through this access their business data in a way not previously accessible ninth small business retail world. You can compare periods, graph using a broad selection of formats, dive deep into the data as well as focus on data points that matter including transactions, revenue, grow profit and more.

Better still, the visual insights can easily be shared with colleagues.

The Retail Visual Deck is a fresh approach to sharing business intelligence and business performance insights with small business retailers. It is mass retailer computing in a small business retailer’s hands. This is the tool join which you can rely to grow your business.

This is 100% Tower Systems innovation.

Having been tested with data from a range of businesses and trialled for months on many different platforms, the Visual deck is ready for small business retailers to engage, to use it to better manage and grow their businesses.

Footnote: If things go as usual, at least on competitor will claim they had this before us and that we copied them. Such a claim is not true. Prior to our launched last week we checked all our competitors in each specialty marketplace in which we live and not one has a product like this.

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WE LOVE POS SOFTWARE SUCCESS STORIES

IMG_7492We love hearing POS software stories, stories from our small business retailer customers on how they are using our Point of Sale software to help their businesses in the service of their customers.

We heard one such success story from the folks at Tourist House recently, at one of our user meetings, on their use of our proprietary discount voucher loyalty software facilities to help their customers save on purchases tourist items from them.

Using the software in four retail locations in four cities, the POS software sits at the heart of the operation. The discount voucher facilities have proved to be terrific in helping with employee and customer engagement.

The stories of engagement have helped us understand from a real world perspective how our software can be used in a  range of situations to drive better business outcomes. Every feedback story adds to our knowledge and the narrative of Tower Systems.

We are grateful for customer engagement like this. It puts wind in our sales, a spring in our step.

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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: HOW TO KEEP YOUR BUSINESS MORE SECURE

Security is important in any business but especially in a small independent retail business. Here is a list of actions we recommend you consider to ensure your business is secure.

  1. Know how many keys there are to your premises and who has them.
  2. Keep a spare key in a safe place away from the business.
  3. Keep a current data backup off site. Regularly check that you can restore the data from your backup and that the data is current.
  4. Regularly check the use of your business software for the deletion or alternation of sales as this could indicate employee fraud.
  5. Have current reputable virus protection on all your computers.
  6. Have current reputable firewall installed on your network.
  7. Never open a zip file sent by email.
  8. Never open an email from a bank, the ATO or the police.
  9. Change the most powerful / valuable password for your computer software monthly and share it sparingly. Passwords should be complex. Check the strength of your password here: https://howsecureismypassword.net
  10. Be discrete when talking about the business and its performance.
  11. Do not do the banking at the same time every day or every few days. Do not follow the same route. Do not carry the same bag.
  12. Have a camera system installed to get a good shot of the faces of everyone entering and leaving the business.
  13. Consider registering your CCTV with the local police – this is an option in some jurisdictions.
  14. Ensure customers can see they are being filmed.
  15. Train employees to make eye contact with customers.
  16. Train employees on emergency procedures for handling: theft, aggressive people, shoplifters.
  17. Use the full stock control facilities of your software to understand the financial cost of shoplifting.
  18. When doing magazine returns, check discrepancies weekly to understand magazine theft.
  19. Ensure your windows are not cluttered. The police advise cluttered windows are a security risk because of what they can hide.
  20. Ensure there is good lighting outside if the store is locked up when it is dark.
  21. Ensure you have the best possible sight lines of the shop from the counter.
  22. Have a no personal items at the counter policy.
  23. If you catch someone in the act of shoplifting ask them to wait in the store, and call the Police. Also (advice from NSW govt. Crime prevention):
    1. Tell them who you are.
    2. Tell them why they have been asked to stay in the store. o Advise them that Police have been called
    3. Ask the person to surrender any property that doesn’t belong to them. Remember, retailers and other citizens have no legal right to search a person.
    4. Most importantly, do not put yourself at risk.
  24. Have a clear refund processing policy and ensure all employees are trained on this.
  25. Track all sales by employee code.
  26. When hiring: ask if applicants agree to a police check, check their references, do not hire friends of employees, explain your commitment to zero tolerance re employee theft.
  27. Have an employee theft policy in full view.
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HOW TO FIND OPTIMISM IN SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL

Every day can be tough in small business. You can feel like the big competitors are winning and that you can’t climb the mountain to compete. You may not know where to start.

There are green shoots of good news and opportunities in every small and independent retail business. The key is to find these and to leverage them for more success.

A green shoot is a product or a category of products or a supplier performing above average in the business. Often, these successes have gone unnoticed.

We were working with a retailer recently who said business was down by 20% and they did not know what to do. It turned out that the best performing product category in their business was ‘failing’ for six months because they had not replenished stock.

They invested, instead, on new lines that had not gone as well as the successful product.

They, in part, created their own downward spiral and had not looked at their business data to understand that contributed to the problems they were confronting.

Once they realised the situation, they re-stocked the successful range of products and numbers started to improve. More important, their confidence level grew and with this their business decisions improved.

There are opportunities for optimism in every business.

Finding optimism is like mining, you have to look for it, sometimes for a long time. It is there, though, in every retail business.

As soon as you hear yourself talking your business down, STOP. Look at your data, look for the good news. That is what you need to think and talk about.

By looking at your data, we mean looking at year on year, quarter on quarter or month on month comparison data for departments, categories, suppliers or even individual products. Look for growth and once you see growth, think about what you can do with and around the products achieving growth so that you can achieve other growth.

Any product achieving year on year increases in unit sales is a product to be appreciated, nurtured and used to help grow other products that can sell to the same customer.

This is how you grow optimism. Find those small green shoots, leverage them with some small steps and, over time, build more success for your business.

While overall revenue, traffic count and profitability may be down, growth even at the smallest data point, such as for one or two products, could be enough to get you looking at your business differently.

In the Tower Systems POS software, the best initial reports for good news are: Monthly Sales Comparison (department level, category level and / or supplier level), the 10×10 Report, Ranked Sales Report (by units) for one period and then for the comparative period.

We’re here to help you find the good news in your business. Your business data is the key.

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SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

Small business retailers often state the point of different their small business offers but too many do not live the point of difference.

Take customer service, for example.

Many small and independent retail business owners I know say they offer a better and more personal service than big retailers.

Retail shoppers often judge service by ease of doing business, the returns policy and any barriers along the way. Too often, small and independent retailers have barriers that get in the way of their goal of better customer service. Barriers such as hand written signs about eating in the shop, a notice about a credit card surcharge or an inconsistent returns policy.

If you say your customer service is better than your bigger competitors, live it every day. Believe in yourself by doing what you say.

Small and independent retailers who do this – who carry through with actions the words they pitch about their business – tend to be more successful.

Tower Systems helps small business specialty retailers to live their belief in their business through business processes, platforms and tools that drive consistency and deliver better quality and more personal customer service. These and other benefits are at the core of the Tower Systems POS software.

While we are a POS software company, we play an important role in helping small business retailers believe in themselves.

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Sunday retail management advice: how to act local in your independent retail business

Independent retail businesses often seek local shopper support. This Lismore easily achieved if these businesses themselves act locally and love locally. Here are some of the many act local suggestions we have developed over years of supporting local small and independent retail businesses:

  1. Support local community groups through raising awareness and funds.
  2. Use your retail space to attract locals on local issues.
  3. Leverage your communication channels to support local issues and groups.
  4. Offer practical help to local school.
  5. Be engaged in local representation on councils and committees.
  6. Preference hiring local people.
  7. Seek out local suppliers.
  8. Offer local training opportunities to local school students.
  9. If appropriate to your business, seek out local artists.
  10. Participate in local markets.
  11. Welcome local groups to raise funds from out the front of your shop.
  12. Get your business name on local sports team clothing.
  13. Learn and tell local stories.

We have many other suggestions to help independent local retailers to better connect with their local community … helping our customers way beyond our software.

Tower Systems serves close to 3,000 retailers using our smart POS software.

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Sunday retail management advice: helping small business retailers love their businesses

I hate going into work. These words from a friend reflected a long-held feeling, a feeling held with some shame.

Here was a retail business owner who hated going into his own business.  He had fallen out of love with what he had created. The bitterness he felt towards his business had soured to hatred.

Why do some retailers hate going to work? It is an interesting question which needs exploration before we look at strategies for countering this.

There is usually a trigger – supplier fatigue, tough economic conditions, personal challenges away from the business, a partner dispute, tiredness… there could be any combination of reasons.

If you have reached the point where you hate going into work each day it is important to take time away from the business for an honest assessment as to why you hate the business. Until you can answer the question – why do you hate going into work? – you cannot begin to work on resolution.

Once you know the reasons, think about a series of small and achievable steps you could take to turn the situation around. No matter how challenging the situation, there are always steps you could take. Focus on these, start work on them and in some instances that alone will be enough to move you through the fog of anger and ill-feeling toward the business.

If finding small steps to take does not work, get together with a trusted friend and tell them how you feel toward the business. Ask them to talk with you about the business. Reminisce about why you started or purchased the newsagency. Remember your dreams and hopes. Use the conversation to explore your emotion at the moment you decided to open or purchase the retail business.

The best advice to to get professional help from a psychologist or professionally qualified counsellor to explore your feelings for the business. Your doctor could help you access a government funded mental health plan.

Understanding your hatred for your retail business is the first step. This will usually, of itself, reveal the first steps you can take to turn the hatred around. Be open to that. Take small steps and see where they lead. The change in feeling toward the business may not be immediate so do not expect too much too soon.

If you do nothing, the hatred will be more and more reflected in the business and in your own person. Neither benefits from this.

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POS software helps family businesses nurture and share intellectual property

The Tower Systems Point of Sale software helps business owners encode and share information about how the business operates. recording intellectual property about the operation of a business and making it accessible to those working in the business makes it easier for family members to grow into the business and stay close to how the family has done business over the years.

Family businesses are different to non-family businesses. They are often run on a different basis and with different goals. Having software that enables to recording of business rules and processes makes it easier for these businesses to track and manage how things are done and thereby to continue family traditions if important to the business.

The Tower software offers a range of mechanisms through which business processes are recorded – guiding those coming into roles and needing to follow tradition.

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Cloud based roster software for small business moves to beta release

rostercloudTower Systems is thrilled that its new stand-alone cloud based roster software is performing well in first-round beta release. This entirely new product is a welcome addition to the cloud based solutions tower Systems has already delivered. It extends the reach of the company and shows off facilities and flexibility that is cutting edge.

The limited beta release will continue as we settle the the software into the retail businesses currently using it. This is our usual approach with new software – walking slowly through the launch phase to ensure we have useful and stable software prior to wide release.

Being cloud based and offered on subscription only, this new software provides to retailers flexibility of access as well as expense.

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Small retailer POS software users love transparency on software enhancement suggestions

software-ideasMany small business retailers using the POS software from Tower Systems actively engage in suggesting enhancements for the software and many of these suggestions make their way into the software.

Retailers regularly thank Tower for the opportunity to publicly make suggestions and for the transparency of voting by and feedback from others about the suggested enhancements. Indeed, the level of transparency Tower Systems has offered in this area for years now is rare. Some claim user engagement but it is hard to find another software company living the transparency claim like Tower.

The real test of the exclusive Software Ideas facility from tower Systems is the enhancements that make their way into the software. Hundreds of enhancements including new facilities, large and small, exist in the software today thanks to user engagement in making suggestions and voting on these suggestions. It is proving to be a valuable process for tower Systems and its retail business customers.

It is a measure of the company’s confidence that the facility is promoted on its website home page and that the list can be accessed by anyone including competitors.

Software Ideas is managed by a senior member of the software development management team within the company and the overall Tower leadership team makes final decisions about ideas it embraces. All ideas receive feedback from the company.

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Helping retailers understand their Christmas business performance

Tower Systems offers retailers using its POS software a business performance analysis service whereby we analyse business sales and other data and provide a fresh-eyes assessment on the performance of the business.

The service is free to Tower AdvantageTM customers and involves a thorough year on year comparison of business performance.

Christmas is an ideal time for such an assessment since it’s the busiest time of the year, the time a business should be at its best. The higher volume of trade through Christmas enables an even more meaningful assessment of business performance.

Many retailers have appreciated this free service and taken on opportunities to change their businesses as a result.

Tower Systems is proud to offer this and other non-traditional POS software support services to its customers.

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C-Store group chooses Tower

A convenience store group with 150 locations has just selected Tower Systems as an IT supplier for its retail outlets.

Tower Systems Point of Sale software will go into more convenience store locations and further strengthen our position in this marketplace as a result of this new deal.

The synergy between convenience store and our newsagency marketplace is considerable and each will benefit from our work with the other.

We are grateful for the opportunity to help another group strengthen the independent businesses which make up their network.

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A week of interviews

I was interviewed yesterday for a business magazine feature on our software. This was the third interview of the week, each involving different aspects of our business. Two were for trade journals and one for a business magazine. The business magazine interview was the most interesting since the journalist came to the interview with a view which was contradicted during the interview.

Interviews are an excellent opportunity to check in with what you really think – beyond the politically correct or corporately focused answers, it is good to be challenged and to have to dig deep inside to speak to a vision for the future of your business and the markets in which you operate. The business journalist and I had a good chat about politicians and how they manipulate interviews – this was a preamble to his interview of me. Damn, he didn’t let me get away with anything!

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Founders At Work

founders.JPGJessica Livingston has written an excellent book based around interviews with founders of famous technology companies. Founders At Work documents what happened in the very earliest days. It takes us back to the challenges of startup life in an accessible way. Every company story has learning – certainly I found that to be the case.

For those of us who have been in our IT businesses long enough the interviews are fascinating because we recall being around at the time and watching companies like Apple grow from nothing.

Some interviews are personally revealing and wonderfully motivating. Reading the decisions people made and why they made them will help any business owner and especially tech startup owners.

Founders At Work is not your traditional business book in that it is primarily stories from tech people – in their own words. No froth and bubble. No rev-up motivation.

I highly recommend this book.

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