Tower Systems is proud to support small business retailers in Australia with collateral they can use on social media and elsewhere to pitch the value of small businesses to the economy.
For years, we have gratefully em braced opportunities to support community groups by providing POS software at no cost or low cost to enable the community enterprises to do their good works more efficiently.
The donations of software, time and event hardware by us is part of our social responsibility commitment program where we seek to work with those we see helping to make Australia a better place.
We are able to do this thanks to the support of our customers.
Seeing the benefits community groups to individuals and their local communities is a joy, especially at this Christmas time of the year.
The federal parliamentarian dual citizenship mess in which we have found ourselves here in Australia for months now shows how politicians treat themselves as elite, special, compared to common folk, the voters who vote them in.
While we in small business are highly regulated, subject to audit and penalised for even simple honest oversight, politicians refuse to permit themselves to be subject to the same.
While individuals are highly regulated, subject to audit and penalised for even simple honest oversight, politicians refuse to permit themselves to be subject to the same.
The moment the first dual citizenship question was raised, an ethical leader keen for democracy would have ordered an immediate full audit of the status of all politicians.
We are bereft of leadership for everyday Australians in Australia.
For months major party politicians have spun their wheels on the issue of dual citizenship and refused to agree to the type of audit that is regular for us in small business. For months they have said politicians should self regulate on this issue while at the same time imposing challenging and enforced regulation on small businesses and on individuals.
Shame on us for allowing your politicians to get away with them setting a standard for their own behaviour that is lower than standards they vote to impose on regular people.
The one party that has provided leadership on this issue is the Greens. From the outset they called for an audit. The are right. Yet their call has been mocked, especially by the government side of the parliament. This side of the parliament that is in control, in leadership, has eschewed leadership and instead engaged in puerile games.
They must think we are fools.
There ought be an audit of all federal politicians immediately, no matter the disruption or the cost.
Section 44 of the Constitution is not new. Its provision have been known for decades. It is easy for anyone to determine their status. Whether they do this comes down to how they see themselves compared to how they see the peril they serve.
We the people deserve honest leadership, leadership that is transparent and for all people, leadership that submits itself to the same standards and level of regulation as they impose on those they serve. We do not have this in Australia at the moment.
Every day, we see small business retailers squeezed by regulation, while at the same time right now seeing politicians refuse even basic regulation. This double standard has to stop, for the good of our country and democracy.
Tower Systems has been engaged with representatives of a federal government agency as it contemplates new legislation that could impact some areas of retail business operation in which our POS software serves.
We have been engaged in discussions, sharing insights and explaining how parts of our software work, so those drafting the legislation can be better informed about the practicalities in retail business operation.
This work with government departments is not new for us. We have been engaged previously in other areas of business operating, helping to inform legislators to their focus remains on a path appropriate to the needs of the small business retail community.
Our first engagement helping government regulators was mack in the early 1990s when several arms of government were investigating fraud facilitated by the use of POS software developed to make such fraud easy. While our software never had such facilities, we were aware of software that did.
As employers, as retailers and as small business owners, mental health issues are often not far away from any small business retailer. The challenges confronting our newsagency businesses add to the challenges already there.
Sometimes, we don’t know we are experiencing a mental health challenge while other times it’s obvious and on show for all to see.
How we confront mental health challenges is important for us, our business and those presenting with issues.
While we are not trained professionals in the area, our years of working with small business owners confronted by challenges to their mental health have helped us develop some guiding principles.
Your GP is an excellent person to speak with. Explain to them how you feel and how this impacts on your life. Ask them to prepare a Mental Health Treatment Plan. This is a government recognised plan. It can usually be prepared in a single double visit to the GP. This plan is the trigger to you gaining Medicare supported access to a psychologist for an initial number of visits, which can be extended depending on your situation.
Some people can feel a visit to a GP or psychologist is not warranted in their situation. While the medical professionals are the best to determine this, there are other resources you could explore:
Beyond Blue has published Business In Mind, a useful resource for small businesses on issues relating to mental health in the workplace. This is a good starting point for learning more. In the resource there are links to other resources that can help.
Finding mental health resources for small business owners dealing with mental health issues is not as easy as it is finding resources for managing the workplace for better mental health. It’s tough running any business and sometimes things can feel overwhelming. This is where networking can help as a first step, talking with others.
Small business retailers feeling challenges within themselves need to treat themselves as employees and use the resources available such as:
We at Tower Systems will help in any way possible.
Small and independent retailers often feel helpless when a big national retailer opens up nearby. There is no match for their range, buying power, advertising coverage or even news coverage.
The sheer size of a national competitor is what scares many smaller retailers. This is often enough for them to give up and close the business.
Giving up and running is the easy way out. There is no lesson learned, just an escape from the fear.
The alternative is to find out how to deal with the national retailer.
Here are five tips for small businesses on how to face and deal with a national retailer moving into the area:
Not competing should include not advertising price comparisons, not focusing on the competitor at staff meetings, not expanding your range to sell more of what they sell and not obsessing about them.
I was working with an independent retailer recently who decided to offer a product they sold which is also available in a nearby national retailer for 10% less than the sale price in the national retailer. This move gave the independent retailer a margin of 15%. In discussion I discovered that most of the customers who visited the independent retailer were unlikely to shop in the national retailer. So why compete on price?
If you know why customers shop with you, you have the opportunity of not giving up margin out of fear.
Too often, independent retailers wait until the national retailer is open to react. This is probably a year or two too late.
Being smaller and independent you are better able to personally engage with the community. You and your team are the business whereas a national chain will always be the corporate. They can throw money around locally, you can throw time, knowledge and more flexible assistance.
Your stories could be about local community connection, convenience of shopping, commitment to range, personal customer service, product niche knowledge … there are many different narratives with which an independent retailer can connect. It is important that one you have your narrative you stick to is, that it inhabits your decisions, marketing and public presentation.
By acting early and in advance of a national retailer opening, you better position your business to weather their advertising and PR onslaught. Get in early, build a stronger business and understand that through this the new business in town will not be your competitor.
We have agreed to be part of a working group with the Australian taxation Office to help our customers meet compliance requirements. Here are the details of the ATO invitation:
Local small business retailers are asked to support local schools, community groups and charities on an almost daily basis. While community groups and charitable organisations beat a path to the doors of local businesses, so do individuals engaged on personal fundraising of their own for a cause or for an other individual.
It is tough making the call about which organisation to support or not for there is a real fear that declining will hurt the business. Often, small business retailers do not look for an uptick in business from a charity support decision but they do worry about a decline.
So how do you choose which local business you support?
Requests from schools, charities and other community for donations can be a challenge for any size business. If you do not take a structured approach to this you will find yourself giving away plenty for little or no return.
Requests are often loaded with guilt. People can be passive aggressive in their approach. Often, people requesting help leverage pester power. It can be hard to say no. There are too many stories of retailers giving a gift as a prize, receiving the Thank You poster and achieving no benefit for the business.
Our advice is to manage your philanthropy as you would any business activity.
THE PRIZE / GIFT
Decide the amount in cash or product value or both that you are prepared to donate in a full year, calendar year or financial year.
Our recommendation is you give away cash, but in the form of a voucher to spend in your business. This ensures that value of the gift or prize is greater than the cost of it to your business.
The best mechanism for giving away cash or an amount to spend in-store is to do it by way of a gift voucher. Use your software to manage this as any manual approach is dangerous and time-consuming.
YOUR PITCH, NOT THEIRS
Get on the front foot and write to local community groups outlining that you budget a year in advance. Seek their submissions. With this advice sheet we have included the text of a suggested letter. Please read the letter as it outlines the approach we suggest and why. It is important you communicate this with all community groups.
On the page after the letter is a suggested notice for use in-store when you are asked for donations.
HOW TO PICK GROUPS TO SUPPORT
Focus on community groups that support you. That is, groups with members who support you. The more they support you the better you are able to support the community.
Be prepared to ask where people shop for the items you sell in your business. Ask if they will change in return for your support.
Asking these questions underscores to you the importance of approaching the decision as a business decision.
Be thoughtful and deliberate. Support the groups that support you. This is important as it helps you stay within a budget.
LET YOUR SHOPPERS CHOOSE
If you run discount vouchers and if customers say they don’t want the voucher, invite them to contribute the voucher to a local group – one of three you setup for in the business. Every month, two months or three months, tote up the vouchers and give the group a parentage of the total voucher value ‘voted’ for them.
This idea could be in addition to any giving program you run in the business. It offers a daily reminder of your commitment to local giving.
Grill’d burgers run a program kind of like this where each shopper is given a bottle cap, which they place in a tub to vote on a group to receive a cash donation for the month. The process of groups submitting to be considered is onerous. You can find out more about that program with this link – it is a good place to research what others do: https://www.grilld.com.au/localmatters/
In addition to any direct gift, consider an offer whereby anyone who is a member of the group who shops with you accrues an amount you donate to the group. You could manage this through your software. It could be you offer a discount to the shopper as well as accruing a value for the group.
This type of program could also be in addition to your core giving program as the value here is driven by sales – hopefully, incremental sales.
EDUCATE GROUPS ABOUT GOOD ENGAGEMENT
Here are things groups you support can do to help your business. You should ask them to do these things:
WRITE ABOUT YOUR ENGAGEMENT
Once you have a decision on which groups you will support, write about this in your newsletter and on Facebook. Not just once but multiple times. Invite them to provide you with content to publish too. Talk about their good works.
Ask them to write about you too.
Your giving has to serve your heart and serve your business. Going about it in a structured way will ensure you meet your objectives.
With more than 3,500 small business retail customers using our POS software we have had to be on top of the push program engaged by Microsoft in the roll out of their Windows 10 upgrade.
The moment we saw the inevitability of the Microsoft roll out, we adjusted our customer service resource allocation to ensure the needs of our customers were well met.
Here is what we did to confront the Windows 10 challenge:
Even though many Windows 10 issues are outside providing support for our POS software, we have taken the calls and provided the advice, at no cost.
Indeed, we have processed close to 2,000 Windows 10 calls. That we have done this at no cost to our customers has collectively saved them a considerable sum.
We are proud of how we have handled this and are grateful to our customers for the opportunity to serve them in this Microsoft caused action.
Now if only Microsoft approached their own update roll out with the level of customer care we have shown through our actions.
The part about the Windows 10 update (malware) that has angered people the most is that they have had little or no control over the timing.
Tower Systems does not use automatic updates nor will we do this. Indeed, this commitment to our users is a valuable selling feature for us.
We believe small business retailers need to be able to decide for themselves when to update based on the facts relevant to them.
As an authorised partner of respected hardware company, we are thrilled to have been able to show off the HP RP9 all in one POS terminal to prospects at several events recently.
While we have an RP9 exclusively for an event last week, we filmed this short clip showing it in all its glory.
Not all POS software companies selling HP branded hardware are authorised resellers, not all sell new equipment backed by the respected HP warranty. At Tower Systems you ave access to the real thing.
With the growing number of retailer supplier relationships passing through our POS software, we can see the value of these increasing in the businesses run by our customers.
Whereas for years the electronic data flow was about invoices, now it is about much more. We are grateful to suppliers for working with us to deliver more value to retailers.
From small wholesalers to large, suppliers are keen to help independent small business retailers improve productivity, data accuracy and other commercial outcomes as they know from these achievements will flow more commercially valuable relationships.
We bring a better understanding that other POS software companies to these discussions as we are retailers too on many years standing. We are able to bring a practical element to the consideration, to help suppliers better understand the value to their businesses of engaging beyond electronic invoices and stock files.
In the last two weeks we have been able to participate in several meetings with key suppliers that will take relationships a step further and thereby help drive more value for our customers.
The strategic work we are doing with suppliers is differentiating for us in several retail channels. We are excited for the enhancements coming.
Cheap POS hardware pitched to small business retailers rarely turns out to be cheap. While the initial purchase price may be lower, the breakdowns, slow speed and other issues along the way can make clean no-name brand computer hardware more expensive.
Our advice is to choose a brand name that backs its hardware with an on-site manufacturer’s warranty. This offers peace of mind. It demonstrates the brand itself standing behind what it sells.
In one business recently, we discovered computer hardware that was sold a new to a small business owner was, in fact, second hand, three years old. The unsuspecting retailer was ripped off by a POS software company through unethical representations. The quote and invoice indicated the computer was new when it was not.
We urge any retailer to do their homework, trust brands, get a second opinion from a professional. The risk to the business from cheap hardware is too great.
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.
We recently invested in a quality defibrillator for our office and registered this so emergency services know its location should it be needed to assist in a health crisis.
While we purchased the defib unit for our busy head office, we welcomed the opportunity to be on a register of publicly available defib units.
Coupled with the installation of the unit was training for team members and our first aid officers.
Thursday November 26, 2015 is Thanksgiving in the US and while this is part of the cultural heritage of the US, it is an opportunity for us to reflect and be thankful.
We are thankful for our customers who use our software for this not only benefits us commercially, it fulfils us as we enjoy seeing our creative efforts being of use to others.
Tower Systems is thrilled with the use small business retailers are making of the free small business marketing resources we have made available in our website.
These free resources are another practical way Tower Systems helps small business retailers beyond our terrific POS software.
Our development and free access to these resources demonstrates are acre for and commitment to the small business retail channels in which we serve. It is easy for a business to say they support their customers in a variety of ways. This investment by us is us being true to our words – walking the walk if you will.
We have happy for these and other free downloads we place on the site to be used widely.
Note we have not included our branding as we don;t want to get in the way of the businesses using the materials.
Tower Systems CEO Mark Fletcher supports small business newsagents for equitable magazine supply. In this latest video he explains the comprehensive data available through the Tower software, data magazine distributors ignore.
The importance of talking about mental health in small business newsagencies is an article by me, Mark Fletcher owner of Tower Systems, at my Newsagency Blog – a place where he write about small business retail. This is an important article dealing with personal and often unspoken off challenges dot small business owners and their employees.
Owning and running a small business can be tough – on families, relationships, finances and your mental health. The ABC published a terrific report about mental illness and small business. I urge you to read this and share it. At the bottom of the ABC article is an excellent list of resources including:
Other national information and support services contacts available during business hours:
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.
Tower Systems earlier this week contributed to Oxfam’s Nepal earthquake appeal. This financial contribution is outside our usual giving commitment through the year. We selected Oxfam for their low operating overheads (10%) and the nature of the work they undertake.
In another part of our business, outside of software development activities, we help support a family in Nepal.