The trade mission

We have been invited on a trade mission to explore the possibility of exporting our software to one or two countries in the Asian region.  While we have had some export experience, the results of the mission could considerably expand our horizons.

The export opportunity which could be opened by the trade mission is something we have to consider carefully since plans are well advanced to establish a Tower Systems office in another country and since we are experiencing considerable growth here.

I have seen other software companies fall into trouble for expanding too quickly and undercapitalised.  This is why we will take our time to consider trade mission.  The overseas office is an easier decision for circumstances I will not go into here.

In the meantime, we have now completed hiring for our expanded software development team and are advanced on expansion of our support team.  These back office moves will stand us in good stead here and abroad regardless of the decisions we make re the trade mission.

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The Tower Systems team

anf_dinner.JPGWe have a wonderful team at Tower Systems, right across the country. That was evident this week when six of us spent Sunday through Wednesday at the ANF newsagent’s convention on the Gold Coast. Too many small businesses are built around one person. Thanks to our great team I could fall under the proverbial bus and the business would continue to prosper.

I missed the closing dinner as I had to get back to Melbourne late Wednesday The remaining five team members acquitted themselves well. In the photo we have Tim Batt, Nathan Morrison, Andrew Halpern and Luke La. Gavin William, our General Manager, was on the head table as we were a Gold Sponsor. Each of these chaps represented us on the night with good cheer through the night.

Several times through the conference suppliers and newsagents complimented me on the Tower team, their professionalism and their positive approach in the way they mix with newsagents. These comments make me feel proud, not only of the five others at the conference but the whole team in the company. Their commitment to our customers and our ideals is absolute.

While I am disappointed I missed the dinner on the last night, I am thrilled that we were so well represented.

Replacing MYOB

We are having some success at replacing the MYOB point of sale software in several businesses.  While the MYOB solution is okay, it does not offer the industry specific facilities some small businesses need.  Hence our recent success at replacing them in several locations.  Unlike our experience replacing other industry specific point of sale software, MYOB users tend to know their software well and want to go further.  We like this because users pushing what they can get from the software challenge us and all software companies need to be challenged by their users.

Excitement around mobile inventory software

We are excited to be in the final testing stages of Retailer Mobile, a portable version of the software which enables our customers to perform various tasks on a supported portable device:

  • stock take
  • price look up
  • create orders
  • arrive stock
  • process stock returns
  • price changes

Retailer Mobile is a very powerful and valuable extension of the Retailer product suite. The feedback from our national user meeting tour has been wonderful when we have demonstrated its facilities. The feedback has also helped us tweak the software prior to release.

User meeting home stretch

Next week sees the final two user meetings from the current series.  These free training / feedback sessions are open to anyone.  The remaining dates are:

  • Darwin – Tuesday, June 3 – 10am
  • Perth – Wednesday, June 4 – 10am

Bookings can be made on bookings@towersystems.com.au.  We will announce the next round of free online training in the next day or so.

Pre sales support role vacancy

We have had an excellent run at employing new team members over the past year with plenty of high caliber candidates from which to choose – except for the pre sales support role we have just created.  We have received a small number of applications from skilled people but none have the pre sales experience we need.  If you know someone who has experience supporting a growing sales team please get them to make contact with us at sales@towersystems.com.au.

Newsagent suppliers moving forward

Our team of six at the ANF newsagent convention on the Gold Coast has been busy over the last three days. With several newsagent suppliers making significant technology moves, it has been good to have face to face discussions about how to make the most of these for the Tower Newsagent community. We have also had an opportunity with some suppliers to talk about plans beyond what they are currently implementing, to influence their view of what they can achieve with newsagents through a tighter IT relationship.

What is especially encouraging is the extent to which some suppliers plan to use their technology relationship with newsagents as a competitive difference.

Smart technology shared between newsagents and their suppliers has the potential to significantly reduce operating costs for newsagents. This is where our interest lies. Newsagents must have the right tools and supplier links to achieve genuine back office costs.

The contact with suppliers over the three days in Queensland has been most helpful.  Being the only software company present over the three days is an unexpected advantage we are happy to have.

Newsagents happy selling subscriptions

Thank you for giving us magazine subscriptions to sell.  Just having the option for give giving occasions means I can sell more rather than lose a customer to a website.  Being able to do this in the software is fantastic.

The 300 electronic products we can sell from within our software are making newsagents happy.  That we have this platform exclusive is a tremendous commercial advantage – but we are not abusing that.  We continue to pursue additional products for the platform.  We love notes like the one above which I received overnight – they prove that we really are adding value to the businesses owned by our newsagent partners.

Software support costs for newsagents

At the ANF newsagents’ convention here on the Gold Coast this week, the cost of software support has been raised with us many times – by newsagents using other software.  $3,500 seems to be the benchmark this other company charges.  As their market share has fallen, what they charge foir support has increased.  Well, not everyone – they charge less for close mates in return for favourable comments.

Companies growing ought to leverage that growth to hold back fee increases.  We have done this.  We have had one fee increase in six years.  Our fees are close to half, sometimes less, thanthose charged by this ailing competitor.

One reason newsagents start looking at shifting to us is that over two or three years they are saving money with us using better and more capable software.

Convenience Store software

We have booked to exhibit at C-Store 2008, the Convenience Store trade show in Melbourne in July this year.  While this is our first Convenience Store channel trade show, we have our point of sale software running in c-stores with good success.  The trade show will provide us with an opportunity to tap into a wider marketplace.

Our recent electronic voucher integrations have helped us further in the convenience marketplace as well as some of our newsagency specific facilities which are useful in the convenience channel.

Convenience says it all when it comes to software for these businesses.  If we do not make it convenient behind the counter then the consumer experience will not be convenient either. We have focused considerable attention on speed, accuracy and convenience – we’re proud of our implementation.  certainly, feedback from c-store owners is wonderful.

Meeting software users in Cairns

We try and host free training sessions for our large Cairns user community twice a year.   Tomorrow we have more than twenty booked.  To properly service this turn out we are flying three of our team in – two from Brisbane and one from Melbourne.  Like with all of our user meetings, access is free regardless of whether it’s in a city close by or Cairns which is a flight and overnight stay away.

POS software for gift shops

gift_s.JPGOur POS (point of sale) software for gift shops has further evolved with the latest release. Beyond the traditional technology function one finds in POS software, for gist shops we have delivered a package which improves business enjoyment.

Gift shop owners lover their business, more so than many other retailers we encounter. Gift shop owners love the products they sell and the customers they attract – they are a delight to meet. It has been important, therefore, for our gift shop software to connect with that enjoyment and help gift shop owners without getting too technical or business like.

Owning several gift shops ourselves has provided us with an insight which we have used to our commercial advantage in the latest enhancements – delivering facilities we know sore managers and owners will want which help them further share the enjoyment they have for their businesses.

Tim, one of our sales team, says after just abut every demonstration to a gift shop owner: I love gift shops. His beaming smile tells me he means it. Tim goes on to explain that he loves how much they enjoy their businesses. This frame of mind is helping us see even more opportunities for our POSsoftware for gift shops to go beynd the traditional and really connect with the culture of gift retailing.

Meeting with the sales team

One of the benefits being at the Newsagent’s Convention on the Gold Coast this week has been the opportunity to meet with the sales team.  This morning over two hours we have briefed them on some significant enhancements to be released over the next few months, provided an up to date competitor analysis and demonstrated the new exclusive supplier links we are field testing.

Our sales meeting also provided an opportunity for sharing war stories – stories collected while out in the field representing our business.  Because our team meet so many they become a conduit for information and this can help other businesses as well as our own.

We are grateful to have today as an opportunity to work on our own processes and improve how we go about business.

The truth about competitors

We are asked from time to time how many systems we have installed in newsagencies compared to our competitors.  Until now we have provided a best guess of competitor numbers.  That changes this week because we have just received the results from a professionally conducted survey of newsagents to determine exactly who has what computer software.  The results are fascinating.  At least two competitors have fewer locations than we thought.

Considering software enhancements

We have been collating the changes requested by users at the series of user meetings currently under way.  Each meeting results in between three and five suggestions which make it beyond the meeting and onto a list for more considered appraisal.  It is good to have an opportunity to discuss the detail of the suggestion face to face – to better understand the context and thereby assess if it is something we put forward.

Some suggestions become a real asset since they are enhancements which our users want and are therefore likely to crow about to their colleagues when we deliver.

With our expanded development team we will be even better geared to leverage these user suggestions to our benefit.

Meeting with newsagents

I am on the Gold Coast with six of our team foir the next three days at the Newsagent’s Convention.  It will be a busy three days with a good mix of social and business activity.  We have a trade stand, a couple of presentations as well as a private meeting room for several important demonstrations to newsagents looking to make the move to Tower Systems.

While we are seeing plenty of newsagents switch, the ones we have scheduled for the next three days are most interesting.

We are proud to be a Gold Sponsore of the ANF Convention – it is another way of putting something back into the newsagency channel.

Breach of copyright

A new customer of ours told us about a user meeting they attended not long when they were using software from another company.  At the meeting a Director this other software company demonstrated our software, making it look bad.  This is the same Director who refuses every opportunity for a function by function comparison of our two systems.  It seems he only wants to compare his software to ours if he can control the demonstration.

Beyond the breach of copyright is his breach of the Trade Practices Act through false and misleading conduct.

How desperate is he to misrepresent our software in this way?

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Just read: Flip by Peter Sheehan

flip.JPGFlip by Peter Sheehan is a book about how businesses are using counter-intuition to change the way they operate and, in some cases, break free from the competitive pack. It speaks as much to the small business constituency of Tower Systems as it does big business. Sheehan challenges the reader into action by looking at our current business model and considering how we would react if it all went pear shaped tomorrow. He tries to get us into the mindset of a world where all the rules we operate under today are gone – for it is through the freedom of such a scenario that we are likely to find decisions we might otherwise ignore and opportunities we might not otherwise see.  Flip is a book worth reading.

Newsagent user meetings this week

Newsagent user meetings this week

We have venues for newsagent user meetings this week on the Gold Coast and in Cairns. 

  • Gold Coast: Marriott Hotel, Veranda Room (This is the same hotel as the ANF Convention)
  • Cairns: Holiday Inn, Cns Esplanade and Florence Street

While both meetings are heavily booked with between 25 and 30 newsagent attendees confirmed, it is not too late to book at place at either: bookings@towersystems.com.au.

More gifts for gift shops

We are about to introduce a range of electronic voucher based gifts through our software for gift shops.  Having new products on offer without any inventory or retail space costs makes this innovation valuable for gift shops.

While gift shop owners naturally prefer to sell the items they personally pick to fill their shops, there are occasions when a customer cannot find what they want.  This is where an electronic product – a voucher, subscription or ticket – can be the perfect gift.

We have integrated the platform for dispensing electronic products into our point of sale software and made it easy for anyone to sell the items. 

This is another way we are delivering even better value for our gift shop owner partners.

And another software programmer

I am thrilled to announce the successful recruitment of another highly skilled programmer to our development team. This is the second such position we have added this week and the fourth this year. Yes, we are significantly expanding out software development team. This team makes what we sell so expect some major moves later this year.

While we have always had a good team, this latest expansion provides with a resource unparalleled in our history. It broadens the scope of our technical expertise and brings world stage maturity to our business plans.

2008 is proving to be a very exciting year.

Publishing support advice

Our support management team has completed their QA review of the first batch of structured advice which will be managed by our Sage CRM software.  This advice, for around fifty common support call topics, is now available to everyone in the company. 

While we have had this knowledge for years, this is the first time we have encoded the knowledge and built structure around it in a way others can easily access.

Preparing, testing and approving this advice results in improved consistency and easier access to user advice.  The outcome for our users is being felt already.  Here is an example of how the advice is structured within CRM

Description: Motherboard Reset

Solution: There are many simple issues that can be resolved quickly by restarting the computer. However modern computers are like TV’s in that when they turned off they are actually in standby mode so the system does not get fully reset.
This advice explains how to reset your computers motherboard which can fix the following issues.
•  Computer won’t turn on
•  Hard drive not detecting
•  Screen not working
•  Printer (lpt port) not working
•  Network card (net port) not working
•  Network card not getting IP addresses
•  Customer display (serial/com port) not working
PLEASE NOTE: If you need to reset the motherboard on a weekly basis, please contact Tower Systems Support as your hardware may be failing.
To reset the motherboard on the computer,
1.  Shut down the computer
2.  Turn the computer off at the power point
a.  If you start hearing a beeping sound the computer is connected to a Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS).
b.  Disconnect the computer from the UPS
3.  Press the power button on the computer (The computer should not start up)
4.  Turn the power back on at the power point
a.  Connect the computer to the UPS if you disconnected it.
5.  Turn the computer on.

Soon, access to our advice database will be directly available to our supported users by accessing a private area of our website.

In love with business again

For the first time since we opened our doors, I am really excited about the business again.

That’s Caroline Dickenson of Posh gifts in Balnarring, Victoria talking about how she feels working with us.  It’s a thrill to get such positive feedback.

Years ago our motto used to be we will always remember how important your business is to ours.  Feedback like that from Caroline is a reminder than this motto is just as important today.

ANF Convention offer

Here is the offer we are promotion to newsagents to mark our Gold Sponsorship of next week’s ANF Convention on the Gold Coast:

tower-systems-anf-convention-flyer.jpg

We will have a team at the ANF Convention as well as back at each of our ofices carrying out business as usual.