Tower Blog

A blog about smart POS software for independent small businesses.

Month: February 2005

New positions and interviews

We’ve just hired someone for a new position with our development team. It’s what I’d call a human interface design position. But it’s more than that. Anyway, Richard Zabilski applied for a totally different position in a new area of our business and we got talking and next thing I offered him a position I created more or less on the spot. I cannot imagine why it’s taken me 24 years to work out that it’s the look and feel more than just about anything else. Richard’s website is what won me. See it here.
This leads me to the interview process. You always find nuggets of gold a bit to the left or right of what you are looking for and need and the temptation to hire is strong even if unjustified.

We’ve just advertised a new position for our Brisbane office so the interview process starts again. This time we have 7 interview candidates and if they’re doing their homework on us they’ll read this entry and mention it in the interview on Thursday. (17/2) Let’s call it a challenge. They’re a diverse bunch of people with a couple in the mix because of the out of the norm experience they can bring to our team.

Our failure rate on new hires is about 15%. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I’m not happy with it because of the stress on the new hire when you say, after some time, we’re not a good match. Also there is the upheaval of the workplace and the cost. But every time we learn something.

This Brisbane position is interesting and says something about speed. We placed the ad at 5.30 am today (15/2) and will interview in 2 days time. Today we received over 30 applications.

I guess it proves the early bird/worm theory.



I spent last night and half today in Cairns (far north Queensland).

I’ve been working with newsagents for 23 years and it amazes me how different newsagencies can be.

Take Cairns. There at 10PM the streets are buzzing with tourists and it’s not even high season. Opal shops were open as were some fashion stores and tour guide places.

The two newsagencies I visited were busy too. Selling all sorts of things.

It struck me comparing this to my own shop in Neighbors territory in Melbourne and how far our businesses are apart. Our challenges are quite different in so many ways yet similar in others. In Cairns, for example, the demands of tourism are HUGE. Language issues, product range, opening hours. It all makes for very different newsagencies.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. But I was. I felt like I was in a foreign place walking the streets last night – not because of the tourists but because of the significant cultural, climate and economic differences to the places I am used to.

I was last in Cairns 6 months ago but this didn’t register then. Maybe my eyes weren’t open.



Listen to any politician and they’ll show you how statistics can be used to support any argument. We’ve been experiencing that first hand this week in our efforts to help newsagents to understand sell through rates.

One of the magazine distributors in unhappy with our approach which, while technically incorrect, provided a more real life view of magazine category performance than what they wanted.

Magazine distributors want to group magazines in a segment or category together to determine a sell through percentage. In the women’s weeklies category, for example, this could show a high sell through when half the titles perform below par.

While we could do what the supplier wants, the result would provide newsagents with a false sense of performance. However, to average averages also provides a false view of the world. So, we’re navigating a complex road in search of an ideal outcome for newsagents – one which accurately reports on the performance of each category and segment in their shop.

We’re also determining a goal sell through rate to justify a title taking a pocket. Having looked at data from 50 newsagencies now this is proving to be challenging. Our sense at the moment is that more than 50% of product received in most newsagencies does not pay its way. And it will be no surprise that it has been thus for years yet no one has actually fixed the problem.

Watch this space.


Stopping the conveyer belt.

In this business we deal with independently owned small business people. In each of their markets they’re at the end of the food chain when it comes to supplier relationships, access to deals, negotiating strength and business acumen. Not in all cases but certainly most.

While it may seem harsh to talk of clients in this way, I’m not making the comments to offend but rather recognize a core challenge of small and even micro business. We are at the end of the food chain. And many of us are slipping away.

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