Tower Blog

A blog about smart POS software for independent small businesses.

Category: Retail management advice (page 1 of 8)

Retail solutions for small business retailers in Australia

Small business retailers appreciate retail solutions, they appreciate real help to real everyday challenges.

Here at Tower Systems we offer retail solutions. Often, the retail solutions go beyond our POS software, go beyond what is usual for a POS software company.

Our retail solutions, retail advice and retail business counselling comes from a place of experience, from being retailers ourselves for more than 25 years and from our 40 years of service of indie retailers.

Here is one example of retail advice, retail solutions for small business retailers.

This is practical advice, practical retail solutions, designed for helping retailers. We call this our Small steps strategy for growth in small business retail. This is a good example of retail solutions beyond POS software.

The small steps strategy is about taking regular small steps in your retail store which compound in a way to dramatically enhance the value of each of three key components to the business. The key is that the business makes progress on one or more of three business growth levers every day:

  • More traffic.
  • More revenue in each sale – greater sales efficiency.
  • Better margin.

There is no grand plan needed, no master document full of words and charts. The small steps strategy is about simple achievable steps which and retailer can take in any type of business every day to build a stronger business.

The small steps strategy is made up of the following work for the three levers:

  1. More traffic, new customers, existing customers revisiting
  2. Consistent traffic generator promotion. Regularly promote a popular consumer product or product category outside your business – to attract new traffic. The product category will depend on your business. Ideally it will be habit based product for which you have a strong value proposition. A good percentage of customers you win from regular promotion are more likely to visit again. These customers are often worth more than what they purchase.
  3. Regular participation in catalogue and flyer based offers. They could be catalogues covering a numbers of businesses or just for your business. These do not have to be expensive.  Even flyers you make yourself and copy in house can work – having compelling offers is key with catalogues and flyers.
  4. Regular local newspaper advertising. Local newspapers will usually do deals if you offer a long term commitment.
  5. Support for local sports clubs and community organisations. For a few dollars you can have your business name promoted at games, in newsletters and at events.
  6. Branding of at least one vehicle. A couple of hundred dollars can get your name out in the community – everywhere you drive.
  7. In-store newsletter. Delivered outside the store. This is best done on a simple stand near the entrance to the store.
  8. On your window and walls. Use your front window and side walls to promote your business. The right campaign ought to bring people passing by into your store.

Through a consistent program of chasing new traffic you ensure the health of the business and protect against the cost of the natural loss of customers.

 

  1. More revenue from each sale – greater sales efficiency

Here are some simple strategies for achieving more from each sale.

  1. Uncluttered counter. Make conscious decisions about what is placed at the counter. Ensure clear air around each offer so it can be seen. A cluttered counter can hide good deals and block sales.
  2. Counter offers. Choose good margin low price products which work for your demographic by tapping into interests, desires (chocolate to eat on the way home) or value – quick decision small gift lines.Remember, a counter must be easily understood and be able to purchased quickly.
  3. High traffic bargain offers. Between the entrance and the highest first stop for traffic into the business have at least two dump bins or displays with compelling and easily understood offers. Move these weekly.
  4. In-store newsletter. Create a simple newsletter promoting the business and place it out the front of the business, in bags, handed out and even slipped into local newspapers. Get your message in front of customers after they leave.
  5. Hotspot promotions. Identify locations where customers stop the most in your store. Place other products at these hotspots which appeal and are easy to purchase. Use the HOT products to sell other product – but the impulse products have to change a couple of times a week.
  6. Dance floor change. The dance floor, the space in front of the sales counter, needs to change weekly. More often for busier shops. A fresh dance floor will show more customers ‘new items’.
  7. Coupons / advertising on call to action offers on receipts. i.e. bring this coupon back within two days for XXX offer.
  8. End of sale offer. Once you complete each sale, give customers an offer to make another purchase within a limited timeframe for a discount. This is best done with a coupon.  Consider structuring the offer to drive business in a particular category.  Track redemption by keeping coupons redeemed with receipts for the purchases.
  9. Parasite displays. These are small space displays which hang next to other products, encroaching on the space. You can see supermarkets use parasite displays well offering products from elsewhere in space committed to popular and often unrelated product.

By focusing on sales efficiency and driving a bigger basket for each sale, you set yourself up to make more from every sale.

  1. Better margin – by selling for the best price

What you charge for what you sell needs to be carefully considered.  Price is all about customer perception of value.  Value is based in a range of criteria including:

  • Added value – from purchasing from this business.
  • Perceived value – how you package a product compared to how others package the same product can lead to a different price.
  1. Manage labour to focus on products with the best return to the business. This is a balance between overall gross profit dollars and margin percentage.
  2. Look at items with a customer service component, where your expertise is required to make the sale or make good use of the products or where there is a reasonable after sales service component. These can usually carry a higher margin.
  3. Look at the items which are unique to your business in your location or nearby. If you are the only store serving the local community then you do have a pricing opportunity. These items can usually carry a higher margin.
  4. Assess why people shop at your shop. If they are shopping because of convenience then you have the capacity to charge more for this. This is why convenience stores charge more for items which you can buy elsewhere for considerably less.
  5. Involve others in setting sale price. Ask your team what you can charge for an item. Assess what they think you can “get away with”.  By polling team members, you may find that your perception on price is lower than what others expect.

You can build a stronger business by taking small steps each day which focus on new traffic, better margin and improved sales efficiency. No grand plan, no expert strategy – just small steps which leverage opportunities which exist in your retail business.

By paying closer attention to the margin you can achieve, you strengthen the financial foundation of the business and ensure that your return on inventory investment is more helpful to the bigger business plan.

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ABC The Money looks at small business retail in this covid world

Tower CEO Mark Fletcher is  grateful to the team being The Money program on ABC radio for shining a light on the impact of Covid on retail. In the 30 minute program they look at retail through an economists’s lens and then through the eyes of several small business retailers. At about 22 minutes in Mark talks about shopping centre challenges and small business retail more broadly into the future.

If you’d like to hear the show, here is the link: https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/themoney/retail/12370682

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Retail coaching tips for small business retailers in Australia

We are grateful to have a diverse and engaged community off small business retailers using our Point of Sale software on which to draw when putting together tips and advice for retailers.

Daily, we are engaged in coaching retailers, providing advice and practice al support to help create more valuable and enjoyable businesses. Our coaching advice ranges from motivational to the practical. Sometimes it is Point of Sale software related while other times it is not.

Always, though, our advice is shared openly and with supporting reasoning and evidence. We want what you want – a more successful and enjoyable retail business.

Here is an example of one aspect of coaching for small business retailers. It’s related to our Point of Sale software:

Measurement is key to the success of any retail business. 

Measuring sales, stock, employees and suppliers.

Without accurate and consistent measurement, you are not able to make good business decisions or to hold others to account for their actions.

By measuring you can make better decisions.

Here are some simple rules for accurate measurement in retail:

  1. Only sell what you can track – by scanning a barcode or pressing a PLU (stock code) to track the item.
  2. Do not use department keys to sell items as this denies you the opportunity of tracking individual items you sell.
  3. Enter into your computer system everything you sell. Record stock you receive by supplier so that you can track supplier performance.
  4. Enter into your computer system everything you return to suppliers – consignment stock, returns or damaged goods.
  5. Record all sales and other activity at the sales register by employees.
  6. Reorder replenishment stock by using your computer system to create orders for you.

My making your business data driven you are better equipped to take the emotion and gut feel out of business decisions.  This will improve decision quality and accountability and, hopefully, the return you achieve from these decisions.

Businesses which do not measure stock, suppliers, employees and sales accurately often find themselves faltering without knowing why – because they have no accurate data on which to base research.

Tower Systems develops Point of Sale software for a range of select specialty retail businesses.

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Small business retail advice: as we come out of lockdown

With several state and territory governments easing movement restrictions, people are talking more about life after lockdown, business owners are talking about this. If you have not done so already, we urge you to consider what your retail business looks like after lockdown or as lockdown provisions are eased.

Here is advice were provided to our POS software customers over a week ago.

While only you can know what is right for your own business, we offer this list of suggestions for your consideration:

  1. Change everything. This is the best opportunity to make major change. Move whole departments, change prices, change the counter focus, the counter process. Right now is a perfect opportunity for sweeping change in any business.
  2. Look at your pricing. Is it appropriate? Could adjustments be beneficial?
  3. Look at every supplier. Ask yourself, do they bring value (and joy) to the business.
  4. Make the shopping experience fresh, more appealing. Help your shoppers feel that they are in a new business.
  5. Quit hard and quick. Dump bins at the front of products you are exiting. This is the perfect time to make the move.
  6. Reconsider every business process. Is it beneficial to the business? If not, why continue with it? Be frugal with your time and capital investments.
  7. Share appreciation. From your front window to inside the shop, demonstrate shopper appreciation.
  8. Play uplifting music. Celebrate any step away from lockdown.
  9. Celebrate stories. Encourage people to share positive lockdown stories, somehow in-store on online through social media.
  10. The past is the past. It is tiresome hearing about how tough things have been, how troubling the times are, how difficult things are. People are living this. We are living this. Reminding people does not help in our view.

Now really is the opportunity for significant change in any business. Opportunities like this are rare. I urge all retailers to seize the opportunity.

Tower Systems helps small business retailers beyond POS software. We provide business management advice in pursuit of more enjoyable and successful retail businesses. As retailers ourselves for many years across several retail formats we draw on personal experiences as well as the collective experiences of our broad user community.

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Small business retail advice: how to prepare your retail shop for sale

Selling a an independent retail business is like selling a house, you need to prepare it so that it looks appealing to prospective purchasers.

The process of preparing a business for sale can take time, depending on the state of the business. It needs to start early and based on comprehensive planning.

Here is an overview from our advice as to what a small business retailer needs to do to prepare their retail business for sale.

  1. Maximise profit. What anyone will pay will depend on the profitability of the business. While you should be on this every day, if it is a new project for you, start six months prior to putting the business on the market.
  2. Eliminate dead stock. It looks bad on the shelves and looks bad on the books. Purchasers should not pay full wholesale for inventory more than six months old as your poor buying or management is not their obligation.
  3. Streamline operations. Make the business look easy to run by ensuring it is easy to run for you. The easier it looks to run the more interesting to people who don’t understand the business.
  4. Make the business look appealing. Ensure displays are stunning, the shelves full and every pitch the very best you can make. You want them to want your business because they like it.
  5. Be happy. Owners who talk their business down will find it harder to sell the business. If you are complainer, keep it to yourself or in the family.
  6. Keep your social media presence up to date. Today, many people check out a business online prior to looking at it in-store. Maintain up to date Facebook and other social media presences.
  7. Choose your broker carefully.
  8. Get your paperwork in order. Early on, get business documents together and check:
    1. Premises lease.
    2. Equipment lease documents.
    3. Franchise document.
    4. Supplier agreements.
    5. Details of any forward orders.
    6. Any other documents relating to the operation of the business including manuals for any equipment items.

Success at selling your business depends in part on the work you do to prepare it for sale. Extra focus now can help you get timely price satisfaction.

This is another way Tower Systems helps small business retailers.

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Small business retail advice: how to deal with the emotional impact of employee theft

Beyond the financial cost and regardless of the size of the theft, employee theft in a retail business can come at a huge cost to the business, those who work in it and the owners.

The impact can be felt for years after employee theft is discovered. We have seen this first hand inn businesses we have worked with and counselled through the process. To be honest, we have seen it ourselves in the early years of owning our own shops.

Often, the person caught stealing from a retail business is a trusted employees. This is where the high emotional cost kicks in. It is not uncommon for them to be a long term employee who has the trust and respect of the business owners. We have seen situations where it has been a relative of the owner or at least someone treated as a relative or a member of the family.

We have seen the impact of the theft flowing in waves:

  1. Typically, the retail business owners blame themselves for the theft or at the very least for not having discovered it sooner.
  2. What follows is the extraordinary feeling of a breach of trust and violation. This can lead to a feeling of overwhelming illness. In some cases, one or more of the business owners have withdrawn from the business – such is the personal hurt and betrayal they feel.
  3. Devastation often kicks in with the owners losing focus on the business, unable to deal with the issues of today.
  4. Depending on the extent of the theft, depression can follow which requires some form of intervention to resolve.

The personal impact on the outlook and confidence of the business owner can be devastating. Unless they are able to accept what has happened and genuinely move on, they could find themselves wallowing in anger, inaction or even depression for long after the crime has bene discovered.

The key, from our personal experience, is to accept what has happened, make a decision on how to deal with it and move on… never looking back.

Discovering an employee theft problem is an excellent first step. The alternative is that it continues unabated. Discovery stops the theft and that is a great first step. It is important to acknowledge the good news of the discovery regardless of the quantum of theft discovered.

Deciding an action plan is the ideal step two. Deciding whether to report the crime or agree on an immediate financial settlement with the employee who committed the crime is the best next step. Only the retail business owner can decide whether reporting the crime is worth it or not. Sometimes, being paid a reasonable sum by the employee is better for the business and moving on than a protracted police investigation.

Talk with the team. Listen. Console. This is a time for grieving about what happened. Either gather as a group or one on one. Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to air their feelings. Business partners especially should take time to do this and explore how they feel. Do not let this process go on too long. Ensure that everyone understands that this is the time of grieving and that when it ends, it ends so that the business and those involved can move on.

Focusing on the business is the fourth important step. Once the employee theft is caught, the action plan re police versus reimbursement resolved, the next focus has to be the business. Difficult as this is, it is important to move forward rather than to stand still and wonder what might have been or worry about the betrayal one feels. Look at business practices and modify these so that theft is harder to perpetrate, implement processes which disrupt the business and make theft easier to detect.

There are excellent government and community resources which can help. Engage and use these resources and benefit from the insights of others.

How a retail business comes out of discovering employee theft is up to the leaders of the business themselves. They set the mood for the team. It is important to reach a point of moving on and not looking back as soon as possible – for the sake of the business, its employees and its customers.

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Small business retail advice: for school leavers joining the retail work force

We have some timely advice for school leavers joining the full-time workforce. It is offered here in the spirit of encouragement, that you grow professionally and serve the needs of the business employing you. This advice is especially aimed at those new to the workforce.

  1. Know the business is tough ands that retail, especially small business retail, is very tough.
  2. The business owners do not get to keep for themselves every cent that comes across the counter. Indeed, they will be lucky to keep even 5 cents in the dollar.
  3. If the business succeeds, you succeed.
  4. The business relies on customers. Every retail employee plays a role in setting how much each customer loves shopping in the shop.
  5. Learn as much about the business as you can in the businessman the job.
  6. Learn outside the business – there are many online learning / training opportunities in retail that can make you more valuable any employer.
  7. If you are not sure of something, ask. Don’t assume.
  8. Work out how to love your job, because if you don’t, working there will not be good for you or the business.
  9. Be as low maintenance as possible. Your employer is not an ATM you can tap every time you feel like sleeping in.
  10. How far you go in a business, and in your career, is up to you. You get out what you put it.
  11. Add value. If you do this a business will want to keep you and that gives you leverage in this job and your next.
  12. Every day, how it goes, what you get from it, the contribution you make … is up to you.
  13. Speak up. If you see a colleague making a mistake, stealing or misbehaving, speak up. You own it to the business to do this more than you owe your silence to a colleague or friend.
  14. Make suggestions. Even new employees have good ideas.Fresh eyes are sometimes the most valuable through which to see business.

If you are a business owner and hiring school leavers, step up to the responsibility seriously. You hire them, train them, manage them and determine their value to the business as as the value of the business to them. Oh, and being their friend is not an ideal step to good management.

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Small business retail advice: on cutting theft by employees

Employee theft continues to contribute more to the total cost of theft in retail theft than customer theft based on data we see. yet, employee theft is easier to track and manage than customer theft.

In our POS software we have hidden tools that help track and cut employee theft. Outside the POS software, we have this practical and useful small business retail advice that we know works on cutting employee theft.

Issue this Theft Policy in your business, have all team members sign it and place it is a place where team members can see it every day. Doing this establishes your commitment on the issue as well as your policy and practices related to the issue. Following through on the policy is key for without discipline in this area the cost of theft in your business will be higher than it should be.

This is the theft policy we recommend to all retailers…

THEFT POLICY OF THIS BUSINESS

  1. Theft, any theft, is a crime against this business, its owners, employees and others who rely on us for their income.
  2. If you discover any evidence or have any suspicion of theft, please report it to the business owner or most senior manager possible immediately. Doing so could save a considerable cost to the business.
  3. We have a zero tolerance policy on theft. All claims will be reported to law enforcement authorities for their investigation.
  4. From time to time we have the business under surveillance in an effort to reduce theft. This may mean that you are photographed or recorded in some other way. By working here you accept this as a condition of employment.
  5. New employees may be asked to provide permission for a police check prior to commencement of employment. Undertaking the police check will be at our discretion.
  6. Cash is never to be left unattended outside the cash drawer or a safe within the business.
  7. Credit and banking card payments are not to be accepted unless the physical card is presented and all required processes are followed for processing these.
  8. Employees caught stealing with irrefutable evidence face immediate dismissal to the extent permitted by labour laws.
  9. Employees are not permitted to remove inventory, including unsold, topped, magazines, unsold cards or damaged stock from the store without permission.
  10. Employees are not permitted to provide a refund to a customer without appropriate management permission.
  11. Employees are not permitted to complete sales to themselves, family members or friends.
  12. Every dollar stolen from the business by customers and or employees can cost us up to four dollars to recover. This is why vigilance on theft is mission critical for our retail store.

PLEASE SIGN AND DATE YOUR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

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Small business retail advice: on competing with big business

Small business retailers often express frustration at big business competitors: they have more money for marketing, get better supplier deals and often have lower overheads per dollar of revenue. It is easy to get drawn into envy and get lost in a whirlpool of self pity for the small business situation.

In our experience in owning and running small retail businesses, there is little to be gained from worrying about these things, which we cannot change. There is more to gain from focussing on points of difference we can leverage.

This is important, that we look at the upside opportunities we have rather than the negative of envy about big business competitors. It’s tough to do, but well worth it.

For example, we can bundle items in our small retail businesses to make price comparison difficult or impossible, we can offer a loyalty pitch big businesses will not offer, we can be flexible in how and where we pitch producers while bug retail businesses are structured and, usually, inflexible.

Bundling is particularly useful as you can create a bundle unique to your business, which feels like it is a value proposition unlike anything they have seen to that point. While this is a product by product task, it is in these small steps that you can find success, by changing shopper perspective and winning business more direct competition may have denied.

Bundles can work in gift, stationery, cards, toys, plants, fishing and more. It is easy to use tech to manage and track this.

Big businesses do this. Its is a key reason for their price guarantees – because price comparison is harder and even not possible, ensuring they don’t pay out on the price guarantees.

Our key message today is that you can compete with big businesses in myriad ways, especially through using our small business focussed POS software that is rich in features for doing just this. We give you the tools and provide training and supporting their use, to help you compete as you may not have competed before.

Big business competitors are not going away, they are not fading in size, they are not spending less. This means we have to be smart and engaged to compete.

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Small business retail advice: how to cut the insurance overhead

Insurance is a must-have business overhead. It is critical to have the right level of coverage with a respected insurer.

As retailers, we often look at our overheads. We recently re-negotiated insurance coverage for our 3 retail shops and achieved a 30% cut in insurance costs. We reviewed the needs of each specific retail business and set about discussing these with our insurance broker, the same broker we have used for years.

We went into the discussions armed with facts about the business, accurate stock value data and accurate fixed asset value data.

Here are some of the changes we made to our insurance coverage:

  1. Property Cover – Annual Turnover adjusted to reflect trading, Contents including Re-Fit Costs adjusted, & Stock On Hand levels adjusted; These had drifted over time, adding to our costs inappropriately.
  2. Business Interruption –  Gross Profit levels adjusted; This is high cost coverage.
  3. Money Cover – Level reduced from $20K blanket cover per store to $5K (lower limit); We bank daily so there is minimal cash on hand. Also, more and more over the counter payments are non cash so the level of cash cover was too high.
  4. Glass Cover – Removed for for one store as there now is no glass window as well as no internal/external glass;
  5. POS Equipment Breakdown – Removed; We looked at the actual costs and considered that we had not claimed in our 23 years in retail and then determined that we effectively cover ourselves through the saving.
  6. Excesses – Increased from $500 per claim to $1,000 per claim since we have not claimed, ever.

The critical factor for us was that in all our years in retail we have never made a claim on insurance. Then one time our shop was flooded, we claimed against the builder for the landlord for disruption and inventory damage.

The renegotiation process took an hour. Time well spent for the 30% cut in insurance costs saving achieved.

We willingly share with our POS software customers details of our own experiences like this, in more specific detail than at this blog. We are glad to be able to help our customers in this practical way as every dollar shaved from business overheads is worth considerable more than you consider retail margins.

Yes, insurance cover is important. However, pay for what you actually need.

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Helping small business retailers leverage Boxing Day sales

Small business retailers using our POS software and following our retail management advice have had access to terrific tools with which to leverage the Boxing Day / Post Christmas sale opportunity. Our training, support and retail business advice platforms have aligned to help retailers make the most of the seasonal sale opportunity – well in advance of the big day.

Businesses in the city and country, mall and high street have terrific tools to leverage this traditional sale season in the retail year.

While Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other on line events have grown in intensity and popularity, in Australia the Boxing Day / post Christmas sales continue to be an important feature of the retail calendar. We help our retail community make the most of the opportunities.

Our focus has also included training and guiding new retailers and those who have never undertaken such sales. Owning our own retail businesses for years, we have been able to drawn on our own advice to to speak from personal experience, to help those new to the Post Christmas sale opportunity to help it work for them.

From discount facilities to inventory opportunity discovery to targeted marketing tools, our POS software is an ideal platform through which to drive additional revenue this time of the year.

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5 ways to use POS software to reduce labour costs in small business retail

Here are 5 valuable and easy to implement ways retailers are today using our Point of Sale software(POS software) to reduce labour costs in their local  businesses:

  1. Sales counter workflow. In our POS software it is smart, efficient, streamlined and labour cost saving. Best practice too. A competitively run counter can drive business success.
  2. Match revenue and roster. Focussing on rostering to revenue and revenue opportunity is a challenge for small business retailers. Tools in the POS software from Tower Systems help indie retailers do this with ease and consistency. These are tools retailers love as they can drive revenue reduction and / or labour cost reduction.
  3. Smart stock control including reordering. By eliminating manual processes around placing orders for replenishment stock, retailers are able to, in one place and at one time, accurately create orders based on business performance data.  By ordering based on business activity (sales) the business do working based on success rather than gut feel. A business switching to ordering from within their Point of sale system can expect to free up cash by reducing non-performing stock. This process is further improved through digitally engaged supplier relationships.
  4. Customer management including accounts and loyalty. Through computer-based customer accounts and loyalty management, the retail business is able to transact with customers accurately, in a timely manner and in a way which puts customers first.  Generating monthly customer statements, for example, could take a few minutes whereas manual processes could take many hours and face challenges with accuracy.
  5. Fact assisted decision making.  Too many retail businesses spend too much time spinning their wheels pursuing decisions because they are not using business facts to feed these decisions.  All to often we see poor business decisions made based on emotion and or ignorance rather than historical business data.  Replace the error prone and fact-less approach with a fact-based approach and a business will soon find that decisions are more right than wrong.  Retail businesses can bank on the results.

These are just three of the ways in which our Point of Sale software is helping more than 3,000 small business retailers across Australia to improve the management of their businesses, streamline processes and drive more efficient allocation of labour resources.

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Advice for small business retailers on shop layout

The more a retail business looks like a traditional shop in any channel, the more it will be judged as a traditional shop, the more it will perform like a traditional shop. There is nothing wrong with this, if it is a conscious choice.

Through our work at Tower Systems we see awesome and successful retail businesses and less than awesome and not so successful retail businesses.

We encourage you to not run a traditional shop because there is no evidence in performance data or in retail history to indicate that a traditional retail model has any upside in the world today.

The best way to not be considered a traditional shop is to not look like one. Here is some of what this means based on our experience:

  1. Keep visual noise to a minimum. This means less posters and signs. Let your products be seen and be the heroes.
  2. No old-school posters out the front of the shop or hanging in the shop except in exceptional circumstances.
  3. No old-school products stand near the entrance.
  4. Make the front third of the shop open with non-permanent fixtures that are flexible and easily moved. These are best if they are everyday items: tables, a couch, boxes and more. The more colour, texture and style the less like a shop your shop will feel and the more relaxed shoppers will be.
  5. Floor rugs are effective too, under a table fixture especially.
  6. No candy or William old products at the counter. Use the counter for products that are easily purchased on impulse, that play against expectations.
  7. A feature wall behind the counter that can be changed easily.
  8. Different colours and textures rather than the usual shop-fit look.
  9. Different lighting to highlight different part of the business.
  10. Less shop-fit made fixtures and more personally made or found items.
  11. Product placement such that it encourages people to explore. Embrace treasure hunt retail… where people wander the shop hoping to find treasure.
  12. Move tasks, pricing, returns and more to the shop floor. This will reduce shopper theft and increase sales.
  13. Have the least amount of staff resources behind the counter as possible. On the shop floor the same people can guide purchases.

Change is critical in retail today. Change beyond what has been traditional, change that helps you attract new shoppers and through them new revenue opportunities.

While we are  an indie retail POS software co. we are retailers and retail experts. We’re here to help our customers through software, and beyond.

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POS software helps small business retailers add a surcharge for credit card use

Credit cards cost retailers money. Some more so than others. Indeed, some cards can cost a retailer three times as much as the lowest cost card. This is a real cost to business, a cost that retailers are seeking to m mitigate, especially in situations where they are unable to adequately cover the cost due to the fixed price nature of what they sell.

This challenge is especially real in small business retail, where economy of scale is not available and where leverage to push down other overhead costs is not an option.

Here at our POS software company, we have helped retailers for years to have options for charging a surcharge automatically through the software, tracked, managed and collected to help the businesses defray these cards costs.

While the charging of a surcharge is contentious, credit card fees are a real cost of business that is hidden, and that is why big businesses like it we think, because they have negotiating power to keep costs low and therefore not need to recover the card costs they are hit with by banks.

In charging a surcharge, small business retailers are being transparent about real costs and showing customers how they can help businesses to transact on a more equitable footing.

Tower Systems makes it easy. manageable and changeable for indie retailers to charge a credit card use surcharge, which is in line with ACCC requirements, through the software with transparency and tracking through the business and into Xero, MYOB and more through POS software integrations.

Whether you charge a surcharge or not is 100% up to you. For what it’s worth, we do not in the shops we own because they are in competitive Westfield centres and we’d rather not be that business that charges a surcharge.

Tower Systems serves indie specialty retailers with POS software designed specifically for those niche businesses, software tuned to their needs and that help businesses manage more efficiently and safely in a rapidly changing retail environment.

What we offer in the area of a credit card surcharge facility is a small part of a bigger and more valuable offering for indie retailers.

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Good POS software cannot stop poor business retains in small business retail

Good POS software offers flexibility, choices in how the software can be used in a business. What may be a good choice for one business could be a bad choice for another business.

For example, the Tower Systems small business POS software enables the sale of items by department. This could be appropriate in businesses where items are not bar-coded and where stock control is not required because of the unique nature of the products sold.

However, for most retail businesses, selling by department key only is not appropriate. It is old school, risky, poor business management.

A risk of selling items by department, by not scanning each item sold, by not tracking each item sold is loss of visibility of stock movement.

In this scenario, where items are not scanned, it is easy for stock to be stolenby customers or employees and the business owner to either not know or not know until long after the event.

yet, here we are in 2019 and we have some retailers using their POS software too sell items by using the department key, which is genuinely nuts in our humble professional opinion.

Valuable benefits of POS software are the reduction of customer and employee theft, the more efficient management of stock, faster selling and better business management.

All of these benefits are denied a business when it sells items using department keys, when it sells items by not scanning items when they are sold.

While POS software is designed to manage inventory using bar codes, sometimes people make the bad choice to not use this. The consequences of such a bad decision are on them and not on the software as it is doing what they have told it to do through settings over which they have control.

We can help you review your decisions, to improve them, so your use of the software improves. We can help make sure that you are leveraging all the time saving, money saving, mistake saving tools in our small business POS software, to ensure that the benefits flow and that poor business practices are in the past.

We’re here to help.

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How our POS software company helps retailers go cashless if they want

Cashless retail is a thing. It is growing in retail, especially small business retail where trading in cash is challenging with banks withdrawing services and some increasing fees for handling cash.

Tower Systems, in its POS software, helps small business retailers transact without cast cost effectively, safely and quickly. We do this in myriad ways including…

Lower cost direct EFTPOS. We have negotiated excellent, competitive, rates for our 3,000+ customers for direct connect broadband EFTPOS, making accessing EFTPOS cheaper as well as faster and safer. This makes using EFTPOS at the counter as fast as cash if not actually faster.

Direct integration with EFTPOS. This means there is no extra keying of sales amounts, no separate terminal. No slower process for handling. Fewer mistakes. Easier end of shift balancing. More certainty for customers and for the business.

Easier access to cashflow finance. Through the EFTPOS arrangement, there is access to cashflow finance that can help the business better managing capital needs with greater certainty given the flow of funds between EFTPOS and the business bank account.

Direct Xero integration. This means less keystrokes, less accounting and bookkeeping fees, less mistakes and greater business certainty thanks to a more robust base off data on which business decisions can be made.

Business process advice. This includes migrating your end of shift from cash and other payment methods to other only, eliminating the float, making services payments easier and more.

Tower Systems can help retail businesses that want to transition to cashless to achieve this. We are not advocating this as we recognise each business owner needs to make the decision that is right for them. Our message is we are here with a plan if you want it.

As retailers ourselves, the questions about whether to go cashless in retail as well as how to go cashless in retail are as real for us as other retailers. Indeed, these are questions we have right now … hence, our preparation of plans and considerations, so we are positioning ourselves for our retail businesses and are happy to share this with other retailers in our small business retail community.

Cashless is growing in use in retail. We think it is useful and appropriate for retailers to learn how to deal with this. We are here to be a sounding board for anyone interested.

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Let’s talk about empty shops – why there are so many and what can be done about them

Talk to any small business retailer and they will have stories about empty shops in their area that are having a negative impact on their business.

In shopping centres, suburban high streets and country town main roads, there are plenty of empty shops.

Some have been empty for years.

Empty shops make a shopping centre or area feel unpopular, making the task of attracting shoppers harder for remaining retailers. Retailers nearby who are doing it tough will point to empty shops nearby as a core cause.

Some local councils have been innovative in addressing the vacant retail space challenge by opening them to local makers and artists. This has been terrific to see. In Newcastle in NSW, for example, they did some excellent work in this area years ago. Most councils, however, have not.

Why are there so many empty shops? Talk to retailers and they will blame landlords for rents that are too high. Talk to economists and others expert in retail property space as a ratio of population and they will say that Australia has too much retail space. Talk to the folks in some specific towns and they will blame the main street empty spaces on the new mall that has opened just outside town. Talk to almost anyone and they will blame online. Talk to some landlords and they will say retailers are not innovative enough.

As with any contentious issue that has opposing vested interests, it is hard to get to the truth of the situation.

For what it is worth, my opinion is that the answer to the question lies in a mixture of the reasons offered above.

I do think we have too much retail space in Australia. Rent is among the highest in the world. Retail is not that innovative. People are shopping online for convenience. So, yes, I am hedging my bets.

That said, the why does not matter as much as what to do with them.

Occasionally, you can find a pragmatic landlord who is happy to have a space filled at a lower rent than sit empty for a year or more. We think we need more pragmatic landlords.

Occasionally, we see small business retailers burst out of what has been traditional for their type of business and create something genuinely innovative, which is embraced by local shoppers. We need more of this. However, it is hard work, often capital intensive and high risk.

Occasionally, we see empty shops torn down and the space used for something difference. We need to see much more of this. Less retail space is a good thing for retailers and this is good for local communities.

The challenge for small business retailers today with empty shops nearby is how to deal with the stench of those empty shops.

If your landlord has those shops too and there is one next to you, ask them if you can use the space for display. To us, that would be a win win for you both. The key is to craft the right approach that serves the interests of the landlord as well as your own.

If the shops are not from your landlord, the most obvious response will be to be louder and bigger from your premises. By louder, we mean more events to attract shoppers, give people more reason to come to you.

The best way to deal with online is to be online yourself, with a compelling offer, probably under a brand that is not your shop brand, seeking out shoppers far from your shop location.

The alternative to action is to complain because, yeah, complaining achieves a lot … not.

Empty shops are a problem in Australia. How we deal with that in our own retail businesses comes down to us and the actions we take.

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How retail businesses do business is changing fundamentally, are you ready?

Back in the day in retail doing business with supplier representatives was all about face to face contact in-store or a nearby coffee shops. Relationships mattered. This is why suppliers and service providers invested in sales teams.

Good sales people could get a meeting and the required business from face to face interaction.

Today, things are different. Retail businesses run with less staff and management hours in the business. More business decisions are made outside the business, on the road, while at a second job or from home. More business decisions are being made and business transacted without any face to face discussion. Even phone contact matters less.

This shift is, in part, because of broader changes in terms of how we interact with friends and family.

We want to look at what is happening here from the perspective of how we do business with our customers in our retail shops.

More and more transactional business is done without live human contact. There is the obvious route of online (web) for sure. However, there is also business done through message platforms, email and elsewhere, where there is no face to face contact with shoppers.

Are you setup for this? Are you connecting with people through social media and able to sell to them through here? Are you timely in handling emails? Are you prepared with images and information sheets on products you sell so you can sell without face to face?

Without a doubt more and more retail business is being done outside of shops. We in small business retail need to configure and equip our businesses to be able to do this. This is part about technology, part about business mindset and part about availability.

Too often, we see small business retailers express anger and frustration at obvious baddies – landlords, employees, customers and more – for poor business performance.

Right now, with how the conduct of business is shifting, we, all of us – retailers and suppliers to retailers – need to look at ourselves and how we conduct business.

Further, we need to make sure that we are meeting potential customers where they are. We need to realise that more often than ever before, that is outside and, sometimes, far away from our shop. We need to do this when those customers want. Often times, that is when we are closed.

This is the new normal of retail.

———

Tower Systems is not your usual POS software company. As retailers ourselves (three shops and seven consumer facing websites of our own) we live closer to your world and this is reflected in ur software and how we serve our POS software customers.

To find out more about our POS software and support for specialty retailers…

  1. WA / SA/ VIC: Tim Batt. 0401 833 917.
  2. NSW / ACT / TAS: Nathan Morrison. 0417 568 148.
  3. QLD / NT: Justin Randall. 0434 365 789.
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Small business retailer advice: how to turn off, relax and unwind … to find space to be more successful

Small business retailers need to work relentlessly to find ideas of their own, ideas suited to their unique situation, big ideas and small ideas, ideas for new traffic, products and services.

Owning a business lays this obligation to be perpetually creative, perpetually innovating, on you.

Coming up with fresh ideas can be a challenge. Sometimes, retailers and retail managers experience a block, like writer’s block. Here are suggestions for ways to clear this blockage.

  1. Try a sensory deprivation tank. These are very popular now. The world outside is shut out. It’s weird at first. Your brain soon adjusts and you … relax.
  2. Cook a complex meal that you have never cooked before.
  3. Bake a cake you have never cooked before.
  4. If you don’t do jigsaws, do a jigsaw.
  5. If you don’t make models, make a model.
  6. If you don’t like ballet, go to the ballet.
  7. If you don’t like opera, go to the opera.
  8. Book in and take singing lessons.
  9. Turn your mobile phone off and go and see a movie from your favourite genre.
  10. Go to a music concert for a group you love. Let your hair down. Sing along at the top of your lungs.
  11. Go to a comedy show. Laugh out loud.
  12. Go for a walk in the forest. A long walk. Touch nature. Sit a while and soak it all in.
  13. Go and sit in front of water, preferably an ocean and look out to the horizon.
  14. Lie on your back at night time and look up to the stars. Think about out there and the bigger universe.
  15. Shut yourself in a dark room and put on your favourite music and sing along.
  16. Try yoga, even if you have never done it before.
  17. Light some incense, put on some relaxing music and meditate inwardly, shutting out the world.
  18. Have a therapeutic massage.
  19. Exercise at the gym, run or swim. Work up a sweat and get lost in exercise.
  20. Read a novel from cover to cover without interruption. Choose a work of fiction you are more likely to get lost in.
  21. Do yard work, things you have been putting off for a long time.
  22. Go for a long drive, away from work and home. Get to somewhere you have never been before.
  23. Have a romantic dinner with your partner at a place where you have never been before.
  24. Take an unexpected day off and treat yourself to guilty pleasures.
  25. Buy some lunch and sit outside your retail store, across the mall or across the road and eat.
  26. Write a fictional short story.

These ideas are about you getting lost in experiences which are unrelated to your business and unrelated to what you are used to.

By getting lost, ideas have a better opportunity of surfacing, solutions have a better opportunity of making their way out.

Scheduling time to nurture yourself with ideas like those noted above could help you become more productive and creating for the business.

While the activities should be enjoyable, the business stands to benefit from greater creativity and more focused mental energy.

Have fun and let the great ideas roll!

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Small business retail advice on quitting stock

This advice could be useful to any type of retail business that wants to quit stock, especially if they ant to quit stock quickly. Too often in our work with retailers we see processes in place for quitting stock where speed is not the focus. We think that is unhelpful for once you decide to quit stock, it needs to go, quickly.

If you want to quit stock, quit it, quickly. Quickly means different things to different people. I think it means 7 days … gone and out of the shop in 7 days from when you decide to quit the products. Of course, this will vary based on your own local circumstances.

The easiest way to quit stock is for your shoppers to understand the deal. Understanding the deal starts with how you brand the sale.

A sign with SALE on it could mean anything. Do NOT use this. There are too many around, each meaning a different thing.

A sign with, say, 50% off could be confusing as they don’t know the starting price and some may not understand percentages.

Sign with HALF PRICE is more easily understood but they still do not know the starting price.

If you really want to quit stock, we suggest you have tables or dump bins at price points: $1, $2, $5 – or that ever is appropriate to you.

We, in one of our own shops, tried a $9.99 priced item at 50% off, half price and $5.00. The $5.00 pricing worked the best, by far.

This is my recommendation on quickly quitting stock: get the price messaging right.

If your price messaging is hard to understand or if there are too many different price messages you could be creating a barrier and this could stop you achieving the sales outcome you want.

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The Retail Doctor Podcast

Tower CEO Mark Fletcher was a guest on a recent Podcast by The Retail Doctor, Bob Phibbs. Click here for a listen to the thirty-minute program.

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Diversity in retail

Here is an article I have recently completed about diversity in retail, as a management approach to help you attract more customers to your business. I have been thinking about diversity because of an inspirational presentation I heard by Aubrey Bergauer, Executive Director of the California Symphony, in which she outlined how a commitment to diversity has helped the Symphony become more successful.

Diversity in retail.

This is not about what you may think it is about.

For years, retailers, especially small business retailers have been told do one thing right, be known for something.

They have been told that a unique selling proposition(USP) is about that one thing and getting it so right that you are known for it.

This singular focus began in an era when people often discovering a business did so by being in front of the business.

While pursuing a USP has worked for many, the world today has changed. Technology has changed us, it has changed how people find retail businesses.

Whereas in the past, there was often one major path delivering traffic to a business, today, thanks to technology, there are usually many paths, often not as obvious to us as the path of years ago.

Technology has also changed what businesses can and do offer.

Most important, technology has changed the ease of reaching customers.

Being local is not as important as it used to be.

While local small business retailers wish being local is all that matters, it is not. Often, the local community is not sufficient to serve the growth needs of a business, often because locals themselves are shopping elsewhere because doing so is easier.

Retailers need to reach more people. This means reaching beyond what has been traditional. For local retailers it means reaching beyond local. It can mean reaching beyond what you are known for.

Thanks to cool personalisation technology and targeted marketing, businesses interstate or overseas can provide a special interest product in a way that locals can love. Big businesses, especially, can leverage technology to reach local shoppers in personal and local ways.

Being local is notas important as it used to be for plenty of specialty retail businesses.

A commitment to diversity could help local retailers in this changed world.

I am not talking here about diversity in the manner in which the term is often used.

To me, diversity in small business retail is about a business, your business, being diversein the customers it pursues and diversein the ways it seeks to connect with potential new customers.

Customer diversityis about being relevant, appealing and of value to different groups of customers to those you pursue today. No, not everyone, because that does not work.

Diversity in customers is about targeting very specific, new, groups that you are certain you can satisfy.

Why do people shop with you?

Think about what brings people through your front door right now. Typically, a majority of shoppers will come through for one reason, one product or service category.

Is there another product or service category not too distant from what you focus on today that you could introduce to broaden the appeal of the business, to help you reach people who are not interested in your prime product category or service today?

This is one example of diversity … making your business appealing to a group of people who do not find your current offer appealing.

It is not about becoming a general store. Rather, it is about making thoughtful moves, based on research, to broaden the pool of people who couldwant to shop with you.

This is about you reaching more customers.

Diversity in ways of connecting with potential new customersis about how you communicate, how you connect.

Multiple touchpoints matter in this connected world.

While we all get sick of emails, text messages, social media ads and the like, they are sent for a reason, by big businesses with strong tech infrastructure to take care of this follow up.

Think about the new shopper journey in your shop today. Think about how they found you. In small business retail, word of mouth remains important as does store location. But what about other new shoppers, how can they be found?

Diversity in how, where and when you promote your business matters as does diversity in your voice.

How you reach out to an older shopper should be different to how you reach out to a young mum.

How you reach out to someone new to your core product category should be different to how you reach out to someone deeply engaged with your core category.

A more diverse pool of shoppers requires a more diverse approach to find them.

Here’s what I mean: use diverse avenues of marketing and through these use diverse marketing pitches, targeted for a more diverse pool of customers.

Marketing avenues can include social media paid and free, Google Ads, with each being thoughtfully created to pursue a specific type of shopper, one that fits a diversity goal.

Just as you expand what you offer to appeal to new consumers, you expand how you appeal to reach new customers.

Local businesses often promote local. It made sense for years. Today, specialty retailers can easily sell outside the local area, making a commitment to diversity also being about reaching beyond local as that in itself is about pursuing diversity.

It’s about more than what you are known for today.

Here is what it comes down to. What you are known for today is not enoughsince that will limit your appeal to customers interested in that. Smart and tech engaged businesses are chipping away at your core, what you are known for.

Thoughtfully, carefully, broaden the appeal of your business through what you sell and how you pitch. Pursuing a more diverse pool of customers will buttress your business, help it weather change.

This is why diversity matters. It is why you have to make your business appealing to more people and why you have to be more diverse in how you try and find them.

Now, an action plan.

Write down your target customer today. Describe them in a concise way.

Now, think about another customer you could target, a different customer you would like to reach but do not reach today. Think about what you need to do in terms of inventory, shop layout, online engagement and other changes to reach this new customer.

Write down how you promote your business today. Now, think about other ways you could promote your business and other voices, styles, tones you could use to appeal to people you do not appeal to today.

New products, new services, pitched through new voices in new mediums, this is how to attract a more diverse customer pool to your business.

Diversity in retail is simple really. It is about expanding your reach through thoughtful planned actions to reach a more diverse group of customers.

The alternative is to keep doing what you have been doing. That will maintain your current business trajectory.

Mark Fletcher is the owner of Tower Systems, newsXpress and several niche retail businesses.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT TOWER SYSTEMS:

NSW / ACT / TAS: Nathan Morrison. 0417 568 148.
QLD / NT: Justin Randall. 0434 365 789.
VIC / SA / WA: Tim Batt. 0401 833 917.

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Instant asset write-off benefits for small business retailers

The immediate asset write off benefits that have been further enhanced by the federal government this year present small business retailers investing capital in their businesses tax and other benefits that are worth considering.

The details of what we in small businesses can do are outlined in the simpler depreciation for small businesses information from the Australian Taxation Office:

Right now, the threshold is $30,000. Spend this much on a depreciating asset and you can write it off this financial year. If your business books a profit, the benefit of the write-off can be considerable.

The Tax Office website has excellent details. Your accountant can help too.

The Small Business Development Corporation in Western Australia has an excellent explainer of instant asset write off on their website. Click here to access it.

Click here to access an explainer from Finstro, a business finance company.

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Small business retail advice: making the most of election day

We are getting in early with refreshed election day advice for small business retailers.

Election day in Australia is a terrific opportunity for small business retailers with a spike in the number of people who are out and about. Smart retailers will embrace this opportunity as well as the opportunity of people standing in line waiting to vote and on their phone.

Here are some tips to get you thinking about marketing opportunities for any small retail business this weekend on election day:

  1. Set the front of the shop so it looks completely different – make the most of the extra people out and about. You want people seeing the shop for the first time ages to be surprised at the changes.
  2. Have a party. Plenty of music, activities, drinks and food. Make the day a celebration – to celebrate the end of the dreary campaign.
  3. Have an election sale – but make it fun. Do better than a straight sale. For example, in good Asssie tradition call it keeping the bastards honest sale.
  4. Setup sale tables in the name of local candidates.
  5. Give a discount to any customer who tells you and everyone in the shop a joke about politicians.
  6. Have a game of pin the tail on the politician in the shop.
  7. Declare the shop an election free zone. Maybe have a fine jar for anyone talking about the election on the day – raise money for a local charity.
  8. Promote your business online all Saturday with a series of social media posts so those out and about in lines waiting can see you are engaged.

All these ideas are about having fun on the day and offering a different shopping experience to usual. We hope they get yo8u thinking of what you could do, thinking of ideas of your own.

Here at Tower Systems we are not your usual POS software company. We are engaged with our customers deeply on a range of fronts to help them enjoy their businesses more and to get more from their businesses every day. In addition to excellent POS software for specialty retail businesses, we provide business management advice and support – way beyond the POS software itself.

Whatever you do this election day, have fun.

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How our POS software company helps small business retailers set their businesses for sale

Selling an independent retail business is like selling a house, you need to prepare it so that it looks appealing to prospective purchasers.

The process of preparing a retail business for sale can take time, depending on the state of the business. The earlier you start the better.

The keys are too leave yourself plenty of time and have a plan. The advice we provide here is based on years of service to small business retailers across many different retail channels.

In our work with small business retailers we have been able to build knowledge assets in many areas, including how to set a business up for sale, how too make the offer compelling and the business manageable and enticing. We share a glimpse here into some of our knowledge assets in this area.

Here is our overview advice of what you need to do to prepare your independent retail business for sale.

  1. Maximise profit. What anyone will pay will depend on the profitability of the business. While you should be on this every day, if it is a new project for you, start six months prior to putting the business on the market.
  2. Eliminate dead stock. It looks bad on the shelves and looks bad on the books. Purchasers should not pay full wholesale for inventory more than six months old as your poor buying or management is not their obligation.
  3. Streamline operations. Make the business look easy to run by ensuring it is easy to run for you. The easier it looks to run the more interesting to people who don’t understand the business.
  4. Make the business look appealing. Ensure displays are stunning, the shelves full and every pitch the very best you can make. You want them to want your business because they like it.
  5. Be happy. Owners who talk their business down will find it harder to sell the business. If you are complainer, keep it to yourself or in the family.
  6. Keep your social media presence up to date. Today, many people check out a business online prior to looking at it in-store. Maintain up to date Facebook and other
  7. Get your paperwork in order. Early on, get business documents together and check:
    1. Premises lease.
    2. Equipment lease documents.
    3. Franchise document.
    4. Supplier agreements.
    5. Details of any forward orders.
    6. Any other documents relating to the operation of the business including manuals for any equipment items.
  8. Choose your business broker carefully.

Success at selling your business depends in part on the work you do to prepare it for sale. Extra focus now can help you get timely price satisfaction.

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