Thank you

We often receive emails and calls of thanks from customers. We appreciate the appreciation. None more so than a note yesterday from someone who had come out of a particularly rough patch.

You helped me survive when I thought we would drown in the mess. It has been a very trying time dealing with the drought and some suppliers who don’t help. You were always there for us.

I rarely share here this type of feedback we receive. However, this note touched me because of the circumstances. We intervened on behalf of a customer and navigated their challenges with some of their suppliers. Most suppliers were helpful. A couple were not. They received enough assistance to get through the rough patch. Today, their business is growing.

I am proud that we were able to help get their need through to enough of the right people to help them survive. With a family home on the line it was high stakes.

It is this work, on behalf of small business owners doing it tough, which I enjoy immensely out of all we do here at Tower Systems. The trust in us is a privilege.

Our commitment to the small business end of town is absolute. It has been since day one, twenty-seven years ago. We will do anything to help a small business in any of our markets – newsagents, jewellers, bike retailers and gift shops – in genuine need. This ranges from providing free support, hardware and or software.

While the thanks are appreciated, it is our own knowledge that we have made a difference which matters most.

Supporting our customers

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We have committed to regular advertising in in 2008 in five industry journals over the next six months in part to promote our business but also, and more importantly, to support our customers. Trade journals play an important role in the lives of our customers and it is appropriate that we the communication channel – they support industry associations and other work of value to our customers so it is appropriate we financially assist in this.

National Newsagent, Australian Jeweller, Greetings and Gifts, Giftwrap and Australian Gift Guide will carry Tower Systems ads throughout 2008.

While we have advertised in trade journals before, 2008 is the first year we have a budget allocation of this size across five trade journals at once. We are looking at a sixth so our reach may be extended.

Loving small

I did an interview for an Asian publication over the weekend and they were asking why we focus on independent retailers rather than the chains. While not an unexpected question, it was put in a way which suggested the interviewer felt as if independent retail is not as ‘good’ ad chains and banner groups.

I love independent retailers. Gift shops, newsagents, jewellers and bike shops. There is nothing better than dealing with an owner on a business issue which can be helped through our software. Their business and ours, being small, can respond quickly. I like that we don’t have to navigate committees, franchisees and other hurdles which can slow the software from improving.

By adding a customer at a time, we have built a strong and sustainable business. That’s what I like about independent retailers – their loyalty. It works for us and it works for them.

The interview ended well – the question led to a robust discussion about size which I enjoyed immensely.

More suppliers on board

Two more suppliers to users of our software have come on board by supplying electronic invoices as a result of blog posts here. While we had let them know we could process electronic invoices, we had not connected with the right people – people who happened to read of the service through this blog.

It’s a reminder of the need to consistently communicate through various means to suppliers, our customers and prospects.

If you are a supplier to newsagents, jewellers, gift shops or bike retailers please let us know and we can help you provide invoices electronically.

First online user meetings announced

We are pleased to announce details for our first online user meetings. Now our users can participate in a meeting for a much lower cost.

Using the latest in online vent hosting tools, you participate through your computer screen (connected to the Internet) and your phone (connected by a toll free line). It’s as good as being in the room together without having to leave the business.

Jewellers. Tuesday 15th January at 12pm. Hosted By Jonathan Tay and Andrew Halpern

This session is devoted to all things Jewellers. We will guide you through our new multi-store facilities, that are the perfect for any Jewellers that have multiple sites. We will also take you through the new features and our current development of jeweller specific functions. There will also be a dedicated question and answer session to end the meeting.

Newsagents. Tuesday 15th January at 2pm. Hosted By Jonathan Tay and Gavin Williams

This session will run newsagents through the new features of Retailer 2.2a. The rest of the session will be dedicated to answering questions and providing over the phone training.

Online user meetings

Yesterday we announced to our users that in January we will host our first online user meetings. We are currently planning for first three three: one for jewellers, one for bike retailers and one for newsagents. We are using leading-edge commercial online meeting management software to facilitate the hosting. This software enables active participation as well as complete tracking of the events of the meeting.

We are paying all costs including providing toll-free call access for people for audio. Access will be free.

Once we have run these first three sessions, we will schedule a couple of training sessions.

The learnings from these initial events will enable us to schedule more of what our users want from online learning and online meetings in 2008. Here in the office we see an excellent opportunity for regular classes in areas of our software which draw the most questions.

By hosing the meetings online we are reducing travel time, making it easier for more team members in a business to participate and facilitating greater cross pollination of ideas across our user communities.

We have been working on this project for some months, evaluating the various commercial online meeting software offerings as well as considering the most appropriate content and researching the capacity of our user community to engage back in their businesses.

Tracking boxes

back_room.JPGThis photo is what the store room of many jewellers and gift shops looks like. Indeed, any business selling items which come with a box. And it’s not only the back room – drawers, cupboards and all manner of places store boxes.

The challenge is tracking the box. This is where our software comes in. When you scan an item at the counter, our Retailer software reminds the associated of the location of the box and cut search time.

While we have been able to do this for some time, we significantly finessed implementation once we encountered the problem first hand in one of our gift shops. It’s all about customer service and ensuring that you provide the right box for the product purchased and in as short a time as possible.

Working with jewellers and bike retailers

Jewellers and bike shops have been instrumental in guiding the development of our latest software update. Even though the change will appeal across each market in which we operate, it is clients from these two marketplaces which have provided the most significant input.

What is most fascinating is the bigger picture enhancements jewellers and bike shop owners look for compared to our other markets. The enhancements are about improving the efficiency and operational strength of client businesses.

The update will go into production later this month.

Electronic invoices for jewellers

Our newsagent customers have enjoyed access to electronic invoices from suppliers for many years. Now, our jeweller customers are set to benefit thanks to moves by suppliers to providing electronic invoices.

As we did in our work with newsagents we are pleased to work with any jeweller supplier and integrate support for their electronic invoices without costs to our customers.

The benefits are clear – reduced data errors, easier ordering and better business management.

New jewellery software a hit

The new jewellery software we launched for retail jewellers has taken off with excellent sales over the last few months. We have been surprised – now there’s an admission – by how strong the sales have been. Our management reporting, marketing tools and data extract facilities have been driving the sales. What has surprised us is the conversion business from other systems.

We committed earlier this year to significant enhancements of our jewellery software and while the bulk of the work is yet to be completed, even the early changes have helped us to win this new business.

Jewellery software update kicking goals

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Our latest jewellery software update has been in the market for two months and the word of mouth is driving some excellent sales. This will kick along even further when our next update, delivering better multi store tools, is delivered in two months.

With in just over 300 jewellers actively using our Windows based jeweller software we’re small in the marketplace compared to others. However, we’re on a growth spurt thanks to these recent enhancements.

Fiji success

We’ve completed our first installation in Fiji – it went well – and we’re confident this will lead to more business there. We’ve opened discussions with a local company to represent us. As with any new experience in business, we have encountered differences, business and cultural, which will add to our offering.

Jeweller software update

We have released new details of our jeweller software offering at our website. We’re transparent about price, functionality and services.

We know we’re not the biggest in the jewellery space – but that does not dilute our commitment. Our jewellery product team has made some excellent moves in the last year and this is reflected in the new jeweller marketing materials released at our website.

The synergy between our various vertical markets continues to help is deliver unique and valuable solutions to our many small business partners.

Industry specific software kudos

I was interviewed yesterday for an article in a business managing about why small businesses would choose industry specific software over generating products such as those from MYOB, Quicken and Microsoft.

Besides the obvious of small business support for small business, personal service as opposed to being a number and product flexibility, I also talked about what we see as the requirements most often put to us by newsagents, jewellers, hairdressers, bike shop owners and gift shop owners: supplier integration, industry specific benchmarking and industry specific reporting/management tools.

Having been in the vertical software marketplace for twenty six years I have taken these ‘tipping points’ for granted. What we see as normal people outside our channels see as specialist and worthy of discussion. I realised the size of the task of building specialist software when I discussed some big players who had entered one of our specialist marketplaces and had retreated licking million dollar wounds. Self inflicted wounds I should say.

Providing specialist software to suit the needs of a specific channel is what we do. I guess we’ve become a bit blind as to why it’s good. The interview yesterday reminded me of why we should be proud of our vertical focus and the size of our small business client community.

Jeweller software upgrade due soon

Our software for jewellers is undergoing significant enhancement in 2007 with several major updates planned for the first half of the year. The enhancements are being driven through close consultation with many of our users and have come about as a result of their helpful feedback. What’s interesting is that more than half the enhancements suggested by jewelers will have application in other business categories.

The first update of our jeweller software will be released by the end of the first quarter and will be provided free of charge to existing users.

Andrew Halpern, our National Jeweller Product Manager, is driving the changes. He has a background in the Jeweller space in the United States. Andrew has been working over the break to finesse the specifications for the changes.

New software for jewellers

Here is the front cover of our new brochure for jewellers. (Click on the image to download a copy of the full brochure.) We’re often asked if there is synergy between jewellers, our second biggest client base, and newsagents, our biggest. Our newsagency software is better for having jewellers making suggestions to us and vice versa. For example, jewellers are concerned about changes in stock movement patterns. We have built some reporting and alert tools to address this and they apply, unexpectedly, in a retail newsagency. Working with jewellers is one reason our newsagency software continues to deliver outside the field.

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Software for Jewellers

We have loaded the just completed brochure for our new software for jewellers to our website. This brochure is being sent to every jeweller in to country to introduce our Marketing Manager, Andrew Halpern, and our new software. It’s exciting for us as our new software is rich in features and already getting great kudos in the marketplace.

JAA Jewellery trade show

Here are photos of our stand at the Jewellery trade show in Sydney this week.

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The stand represents our re-entry into the jewellery marketplace after consultation with many jewellers and wholesalers about their requirements.

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The benefits from jewellers knowledge flow to our other verticals including newsagents, hair salons and gift shops. The synergy is unexpected yet significant.