Preparing POS software users for a confidential trial

Tower Systems has started contacting customers to invite them to be part of a trial group to play with something completely different. In return for confidentiality, early adoption and detailed feedback, participating retailers will be given free access to software that breaks with tradition.

Two years in the making, this project is another example of Tower Systems investing in software for small businesses. Leadership in action will be clear when the software steps into the public eye, soon.

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Raising money for the Pancare Foundation

lunchWe took a break in the office today to enjoy a pot-luck lunch to raise funds for the Pancare Foundation. Everyone in the office brought in a dish to share from soup to salad to sushi to delicious cakes.

Once we were full of delicious food we shared some happy stories that reflected on the importance of family and the value friendship from work colleagues.

This was a very special lunch.

The Pancare Foundation raises awareness of and funds for research into pancreatic cancer.

We are grateful to the patience of our clients as the took a break for today’s lunch.

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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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Ways small business retailers can refresh their view of their business

WARNING: This blog post has some crazy ideas you’d not expect from a POS software company.

In our work with small business retailers we often hear about burnout, retailers being tired and over the grind of opening the shop working all day, closing, getting little sleep and doing it all again. They are often too tired to be innovative in their approach to business.

Call us crazy but we have some ideas designed to help small business retailers reconnect with their businesses. They are unconventional. They are free. They are fun. They are designed to get you looking, hearing and smelling your business differently. They are designed to open your eyes to opportunities you may be missing.

Are you ready? Here are our unconventional ideas for refreshing your views of your small retail business – in the hope that you find opportunities you were not seeing.

  1. Go to your shop at night time. Leave the lights off. Put a chair on the middle of the shop floor. Sit down. Take your shoes and socks or stockings off. Put a blindfold on. Soak it up. What do you smell? What do you hear? Is there any sense of place that you get from being there.  Be still for fifteen minutes or so thinking about this. Breathe deeply. How does your shop smell? Does it have a smell? If not, why not? Then take the blindfold off and look around you for another fifteen minutes. Finally, get up – with your shoes and socks or stockings still off – and walk around the shop. Take in the environment you are in control of. Let the ideas flow. If you want to take it to a deeper level, lie down on the floor on your back and look up and around – kind of up-skirt your own shop while it’s empty!
  2. Get a stool or fold up chair, pack a lunch and spend at least three lunchtimes in a week sitting opposite the entrance to your shop watching customers. Don’t write anything down, just watch. Preferably do this without people noticing you. Wear a disguise if necessary. Watch intently. See where people go, what they pick up, what they buy if possible. Try and predict what they will do. Watch and think. Watch and think.
  3. Get a small desk and a sign for the desk that says CUSTOMER SERVICE. Place the desk near the front door of your shop. Set yourself up at the desk, sitting behind it. Dress formally, old school. Like in a 1950s movie preferably. Sit up straight. Look the part. Sit and wait and see what comes your way. Have fun interactive with customers. The desk should look out of place but it should also look fun. The idea is that your customers, your staff and you will be a bit shaken up by the change. See what comes your way.

We have more crazy ideas. These barely scratch the surface of the crazy idea cupboard. Just ask.

We’re here to help small business retailers create and run successful independent small local retail businesses. Our help goes beyond our software. Were retailers too and love being able to talk retail with anyone.

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Why we believe in small business retail here at Tower Systems

We are often asked why our Point of Sale software company prefers to deal with small business retailers rather than big groups.

To focus only on small and independent retailers is a decision we made when we started this business.  It is a decision we are happy we continue to embrace today.

Here at Tower Systems we have made and continue to make a conscious choice to serve small business retailers.  While our Point of Sale software can be used by retail businesses of any size, it is in the small business retailer community where we are most comfortable.

So, why do we like small business retailers?

This is a question we confronted recently in a business review where we took some time for introspection about who we are, what we do and why we do what we do.

We believe in small business.

Small business retailers play a vital economic role, often punching above their weight in terms of economic contribution.

Small business retailers play an even more important social role, holding, sharing and even adding to the narrative of communities around the world as well as providing practical support for community based endeavours.

Small business retailers help local shoppers with a level of personal service which leads to better buying decisions.

Small businesses support the community and uphold what is important locally.

Small businesses are more likely to share valuable knowledge with shoppers and even browsers than a much bigger competitor.

It is this community connection and support which we feel is vital to the contribution small businesses make to Australia.

We like these points, especially that small businesses and small business retailers in particular are more likely to uphold and carry forward local customs, beliefs and stories.  Small businesses support the local voice.

Small businesses are important because they push back on globalisation and the risk of dilution of the local voice to a whisper.

Whereas with big business retailers shoppers are dealing with a person representing a corporation and focused on the goals of the corporation, in small business you are dealing with the owner or someone very close to the owner, reflecting the personal and connected nature of the business and the local community in which its serves.

We also feel that we can contribute more by working with small business retailers.  We are happy with our track record in this regard since starting in business in 1981.

As of today, we serve in excess of 2,500 small business retailers.  Each is as important to us as the other.  We love their differences, characters and what they teach us about many different retail businesses.

We enjoy serving small businesses and remaining a small business ourselves – yes, we are a small software company when you consider the likes of MYOB.

Being small and focused on small and independent retailers is where we think we can actively contribute and do the most good.

The value of a business is not only about financial performance.  It is also about the social contribution of the business.  In our view, this is more important as it is the foundation of communities.

There was a time when small was almost considered a dirty word in business.  Not anymore.  This is the time of small business.  It is a niche in which many of us choose to remain and make a difference.  It is a place of profitable businesses and businesses making a genuinely valuable economic and social contribution.

In addition to our passion for small businesses, we have a passion for helping retail channels benefit from technology.  We feel that we can help create greater success and enjoyment … but we will leave that sales pitch for another day.

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Reaching out to severe weather affected small business retailers in Queenssland

We have reached out today to our customers in the severe weather affected areas of Queensland.  While many were uncontactable, those we did speak with were offered help as soon as conditions permit and if they need it to get the business operating again.

For many retailers, other businesses and individuals the worst is yet to come.  As we do in times of significant natural disaster, we give priority to affected businesses.

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Continuing to support Make A Wish

We renewed our support for the Make A Wish Foundation this year as part of our corporate giving program. While our Make A Wish support is in the form of a cash donation, our other giving is often more practical … helping small businesses in their times of need in more practical ways.

We are grateful to the support of our customers who enable us to be sufficiently strong as a company to be in a position to support Make A Wish.

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Roadmap for handling GST issue on imported online purchases

On Thursday, the federal government released the report from the Low Value Parcel Processing Taskforce. The taskforce was a government initiative as a result of  from last year’s Productivity Commission report on the Australian retail sector recommending that while the low value threshold should be lowered or removed, it shouldn’t happen while the costs compliance outweighed revenue gained.

This taskforce report identifies how the government can make the collection of revenue more cost effective and provides a roadmap for getting there.

We like the recommendations put forward. They make sense. They will, if implemented, benefit the Tower retailers using our Point of Sale software who have online stores locally. They will also benefit our retail partners who lose business every day to online businesses trading from offshore. However, there is a long road ahead if they are to be implemented.

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Helping community groups with POS software

We are pleased to have been able to help several community groups recently to install our Point of Sale software and hardware solution.  Provided through our community support program, these systems help community groups that provide employment to people who might otherwise not be able to find work.

The latest group we are supporting is ConnectGV.

At ConnectGV we see the possibility, not the disAbility and therefore seek partnerships that allows us to offer many of these options within the local community.

Since its inception in 1954, ConnectGV has continually evolved and now offers day options, supported employment, residential options and outreach services and is now seen as a leading disability provider in the Goulburn Valley.

This community engagement work helps us learn more about community groups and the valuable work they do.

The most recent work for us has been in the nursery and garden centre area.  We have helped a regional organisation in Victoria with a solution for their wholesale nursery business as well as their retail operation.

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No Carbon Tax price rise from Tower Systems

We have taken time to consider the impact of the Carbon Tax on our software development and sales business, to determine how our operating costs will increase and when. There is no doubt that we face some cost pressure.

We will not be increasing our prices and fees as a result of the Carbon Tax.

Retailers using our Point of Sale software now and those who contemplating the purchase of our software can rest assured that our pricing will not alter because of the Carbon Tax.

We are making this announcement to provide the 2,000+ small businesses we serve with certainty and to reflect our confidence that we can manage the financial impact of the Carbon Tax on our business in a way which serves our needs and the needs of our customers.

There is plenty of negative noise from some politicians and certain sections of the media about the Carbon Tax. Our view is that this talks down consumer and business confidence. This is unfortunate since we should be focused on the considerable good news in the marketplace at the moment.

We are ending the 2011/12 financial year on a strong footing and are happy to share the fruits of this with this announcement about the carbon tax and our announcement at the start of the year that for the fourth year in a row we will not increase our software support fees.

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Making a community contribution

As part of our company giving program, we are thrilled to have been able to help a community owned business install our system at below cost. The package included a considerable amout of hardware, a week of time on site and our software. The community group works with people who might otherwise not be able to find work. In the organisation they are able to develop careers of which they can be proud.

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While Coles and Woolworths fight over customers, small business delivers value

We are fascinated by the money supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles are spending in their latest price and loyalty war. Each is trying to outdo the other with their claims of discounts and loyal shopper benefits.

Smart shoppers who price and service compare an independently owned retail business with Coles or Woolworths will often find that the independent retailer offers better value, value in the form of price, service, social responsibility and even respected brand range.

Small and independent retailers and the lifeblood of the Australian economy and they are our customers here at Tower Systems.

We recently compared prices charged by some retailers using our Point of sale software with nearby major supermarkets. Yes, our customers were cheaper on everyday items despite the advertising by the supermarkets.

Australian consumers need to look beyond the advertising campaigns and check for themselves. Often, the genuine value offered by a business is the inverse of what it spends in advertising its claimed value proposition.

We support our community of small and independent retailers by delivering retail management software while helps them to operate efficiently, transact accurately, order with reduced waste, reward loyal shoppers and manage employees for business growth and personal reward.

We help small and independent retailers compete in an economy dominated by large retailers.

Thanks to smart tools in our software, our retail partners can communicate the benefits of their business through several touch points during and after sales processed by our system.

By empowering small and independent retailers with outcome-focused competitive tools, oyr partners can bank terrific results.

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Making sure you get what you pay for with computer hardware

Retailers need to check that they receive what they actually pay for when taking delivery of a new Point of sale system, especially if it involved hardware as well as software. Too often we have found retailers have been provided something less than quoted, less than they paid for. Here’s what should come with new hardware:

  • The original box from the manufacturer.
  • A written warranty.
  • A licence for any operating software including any CDs and keys to enable the software to be installed on the computer again.
  • Components inside the computer which match what you have been sold.
  • Any other confirmation that this is a new computer.
  • Details of whom to call should there be a warranty claim.

Being supplied second-hand hardware when you order new hardware or being supplied no name hardware when you have been told it is a trusted brand could mean you have been ripped off. The time to check this is when you are supplied.

Tower Systems supplies new hardware from brand name companies. All hardware is supplied in original boxes with manufacturer paperwork. All of our computers are from HP and come with an on site HP-backed warranty.

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Tower Systems facilitates free work health checks

We have organised free work health checks for the team working out of our head office today. The state government in Victoria offers the service and we are providing the private room as well as time off for team members to engage.

We encourage all employers to consider offering this work health focused service.

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Small business retailers vital to local towns and the Australian economy

Small business retailers punch above their weight in terms of the economic and social benefits they deliver the communities in which they serve. They are vital to their local communities and those who live nearby. This is what Australians must support small business retailers.

Small business retailers more than their big business competitors…

  • Employ locally.
  • Support the local community.
  • Pump profits back into local spending.
  • Often source products locally.
  • Reduce carbon emissions by saving people from having to drive.

Often in the cut and thrust of day to day trade small business retailers miss the opportunity to pitch the social and economic value they bring to the local community. This is why we are happy to add our voice to their cause, to pitch that small business retailers are being good for local communities.

With well over 2,000 small business retailers using our Tower Systems Point of Sale software, we know a bit about what they do and how they serve their communities. We are thrilled to support their cause as remind all Australians that small business retailers are vital to town and cities across our country.

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Hey small business retailers, if you don’t love yourself how can anyone love you?

Self-esteem about your retail business is just as important as self esteem for an individual.

If you don’t love your business how can you care for it?

This is a question that needs to be asked of small business retailers. It is a question which demands a personal and heartfelt answer.

Too often in our work here at Tower Systems we encounter retail business owners (and employees) who do not love their businesses. Indeed, we sometimes see retailers who hate their businesses. Some have lost their way, others are tired and others are over-geared and too worried about money to love their businesses.

We try and help where we can and where help is wanted. This begins by understanding the business, where it is at and where it could be. We look for opportunities, positive shoots around which we can work with the business owners and employees on addressing the factors that have caused them to lose passion for what they do.

This is not the type of work you would often see being undertaken by a software company. Tower Systems is not your average software company.

We are passionate about small and independent retail businesses. Our passion is reflected in our software, our regular suite of customer services and in helping retailers deal with bigger-picture issues such as how they feel about their businesses.

We are able to work with retailers because of our understanding of business performance data and because we are retailers too. We understand that retail can be challenging and that some days the obstacles to happiness in retail can be considerable. We draw on the practical and the personal to help the retailers we work with find ways fall in love with their businesses again.

So much about a business changes when those who work in it love the business. There is a commercial imperative to retailers and their employees loving the business.

Our most senior managers do this work within Tower Systems on a pro bono basis, helping retailers fall in love with their businesses again. We love doing it.

This post is part of a series of communications, by this blog, face to face and through other media in support of retail businesses, their owners and their employees … in pursuit of a more positive and proactive approach around building business success.

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The impact of flooding is a waiting game

We have many customers who have been affected by flooding in recent weeks.  If there is warning and the business prepares by protecting their computer equipment, it becomes a waiting games as to the damage caused by the flooding.  We have published and well established disaster planning and response advice and regularly refresh this for our customers.

Right now, for many of our customers, it’s a waiting game, waiting to see is flood levees hold. Waiting to see if shops using our software are inundated. Once we know we can respond accordingly.

We are giving assistance priority through our help desk to flood affected businesses, just as we do in any natural disaster situation affecting our customers.

It’s at times like these that businesses are tested in terms of their own disaster planning including their commitment to regular and accessible backups.

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Helping newsagents get more form IT

We have been holding meetings over the last week with several suppliers to newsagents in pursuit of better outcomes for newsagents through their use of our newsagency software. With most newsagency suppliers this is a mutually pursued and respected road and we appreciate that.

With 2012 already off to a disruptive start for a small group of newsagents and their software company which is closing, the most important thing we can do here at Tower Systems is to continue to provide leadership not only to our newsagent customers but to the channel more widely.  This is a role we are comfortable with as the supplier of software to more newsagents than all other software companies. Our business is structured to leverage our market share and our infrastructure to help newsagents in this way.

Given our position and our approach to business we are often involved in discussions which are confidential until details are more widely released. We respect such confidentiality and use the information to better prepare our teams to help newsagents navigate change as well as one opportunities which are forecast to us in advance.

While we will serve our customers first, we will serve the broader newsagent population where we feel we can assist. That’s where supplier discussions like we have been having over the last week can be beneficial.

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The flow-on impact of Murray Darling deliberations

We are finding that the deliberations over the Murray Darling rescue plan are impacting business decisions of some retailers using our Point of Sale software and some considering partnering with us.  I makes sense with access to water so vital for rural communities connected to this water system.

As a city based company our people have noticed Murray Darling stories covered in the news but have not taken that much notice.

Now that we have a context for understanding the impact of decisions connected with the rescue plan we are more aware and therefore more informed.

We are watching the community meetings and negotiations with deep and personal interest.  Beyond the farms and rural businesses directly affected by the decisions related to the rescue of the Murray Darling Basin, there are many other businesses and people relying on strong rural communities.

Watching recent debates from a more informed perspective has highlighted our ignorance and that of many in the city over importance of a healthy Murray Darling Basin.

Our hope is that those in control get this right for local communities directly affected and all who rely on these communities.

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The importance of competition among Point of Sale software vendors

We operate in a range of small business retail channels and have competitors in each.  Competition between software companies is good for each retail channel as it keeps the respective software companies focused on delivering better products and backing this with point-of-difference support.

We take our obligation to engage in genuine competition seriously. This means that we reject any invitation to collude on price, functionality or anything which would compromise competition.  Besides being illegal, it would do a disservice to retailers.

We build competitive advantage into our software and into our customer service.  It is important for us to talk about this, to leverage our investment in competitive advantage.  Current and prospective customers benefit from this.

Software companies have nothing to fear from robust competition as long as it is truthful and transparent.  The winners from this are the customers and isn’t that why we are all here?

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Poor decision by Qantas impacts small business

We rely on access to air travel to deliver the services we offer our customers, especially new customers where we visit to deliver on site training.  The decision by Qantas yesterday to ground all their aircraft has hit the travel plans of some of our employees.  We are doing what we can to work around this blockade by Qantas management and will contact any of our customers who may be directly affected.

In the meantime we record here our disgust that Qantas would make such a selfish and ill-considered decision which will have a considerable knock-on costs for businesses and individuals.  This is not what we expect from a company which claims to be the airline of choice for Australians.

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