Advice on avoiding the impact of a ransomware attach on your retail business

Ransomware / malware can come in many forms. Every computer connected to a network in any way is at risk.

There is no guaranteed protection but there are important steps to take. This advice sheet provides advice designed to reduce the risk to your business. Ransomware often comes in the form of a harness looking business email, seeking you to click on something that makes sense.

Often, if the recipient clicks on the attachment in the email, the ZIP file, on a PC running Windows they would have been locked out of the computer and subject to ransomware.

A ransomware attack is where money is demanded to unlock your computer. Often, the computer is not unlocked even after a payment is made.

More and more businesses including small business retailers are being affected by these malicious attacks, they are being locked out of their businesses.

You can reduce the opportunity of being hit by an attack by taking care with emails.

If you are not sure of the sender, ignore the email. Tell everyone who has access to your email. Lay out your ground rules and demand discipline.

Here is our best-practice advice to protect against Ransomware:

  1. Ensure you use professional, up to date, virus protection.
  2. Ensure you have a good firewall with strong settings.
  3. Do not click on emails or attachments unless you are sure of the sender.
    1. Be particularly wary of ZIP files in emails.
    2. The ATO will not email you.
    3. Your bank will not email you.
    4. Australia Post will not email you, not like the example I have posted.
  4. Ensure all passwords you use are strong.
  5. Consider using an email filtering facility.
  6. Do not allow remote access to your computer unless you are certain of the person accessing.
  7. Ensure you have strong passwords. A strong password should include: some CAPS, some numbers and at least one special character. Check your password at: https://howsecureismypassword.net
  8. Change your password regularly.
  9. Run an up to date operating system.
  10. Have rules on computer use: no games, no online gambling, no porn, no personal emails.
  11. Have an overarching rule: do not open any email or go to any website unless you are certain.
  12. Use a cloud backup service like the Tower backup service. This provides the fastest recovery.
  13. Have multiple backup devices for additional protection.
  14. Do not use automatic file replication programs / facilities such as Dropbox or Google Drive. If a file is encrypted with malware / ransomware it will upload to the account and infect other files.

Most ransomware attacks can be avoided by careful scrutiny of your emails and websites you visit.

Small business POS software customers appreciate THEFT POLICY

A week ago we shared with our customers an updated THEFT POLICY, and suggested they print this and seek employee engagement.

The reaction has been terrific with plenty downloading and pricing the policy. We have had calls, too, from retailers seeking our suggestions on other actions they can take. Some have called with their stories of theft in their businesses.

Our work in the area of retail employee theft is comprehensive and on-going.

We welcome opportunities to work with our thousands of small business retailer customers to help them mitigate the theft situation in their businesses.

Here is the latest version of our THEFT POLICY that we shared a week ago:

THEFT POLICY

  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 local 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:

Advice for small business retailers on quitting stock

In our work with small business retailers our help often passes from POS software help to business management help.

recently, we were asked for advice on when and how to quit stock. here is the template advice we have created, which is useful in many types of retail businesses.

Advice for small business retailers on quitting stock

If you want to quit stock, quit it, quickly. Quickly means different things to different people. To me, this think it means 7 days … gone and out of the shop in 7 days from when you decide to quit the products.

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. I suggest you NOT use this.

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, I suggest you have tables or dump bins at price points: $1, $2, $5 – or that ever is appropriate to you.

I have tested this. I have tried $9.99 priced an item at 50% off, half price and $5.00. The $5.00 pricing worked the best, by far.

This is our 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.

Also: display the product for a sale. i.e. not pretty. Reorganise it daily. Keep it separate to the premium merchandise.

Advice for small business retailers experiencing year on year decline in retail sales

If your year-on-year sales are not down in your retail business, this advice is not for you.

If your year-on-year sales are down, something must change if you want to turn the situation around, please read on.

Sometimes, when we are asked by retailers how to deal with a year on year sales decline, our suggestions are not taken up and the business keeps doing what it was doing. In doing this, the declining trend will continue.

We appreciate it can be challenging looking outside of the fog of declining sales and worsening business performance numbers. However, if you cannot reach out beyond this fog the survival of the business is at risk.

Here is the most important statement relating to our advice:

If you keep doing what you have been doing, the sales results in your business will be what they have been, the trend is unlikely to change.

It would be a mistake to think that external factors are the sole reason your sales are down.

So, change is necessary – change in what you sell, how you merchandise and how you promote.

It is only from change that the sales decline could be arrested and reversed.

Our advice is to look for u-turn or right turn opportunities, changes you can implement to divert you from your current path.

Suggesting such changes is something we can do through looking at your business performance data for you. Ask us to challenge you. We will first ask to see your year on year data at a detailed level as this will reveal the truth of the situation and from there we can develop change suggestions for your consideration.

Why ask a POS software company? We see data from many different businesses. That perspective can help. We are retailers too and have been for decades. That provides a body of experiences on which we can draw in considering advice we can provide. We will gladly leverage our experiences to help in any situation.

We don’t have all the answers, we will even suggest ideas we later discover are mistakes. However, doing what you have been doing in a situation of declining sales is a bigger mistake.

Can we help?

Helping retailers take better photos for their POS connected online stores

Photos are very important to retailers who sell online. The better the photos of a product the easier it is for an online shopper to purchase.

This is tough small business retailers as they often need to photograph products themselves if they want photos that look different from the stock photos provided by suppliers.

Photography for online sales is different to personal photography.

We get involved in this as it is in our POS software where small business retailers store photos and other content for each product they wish to sell online. Having the one repository for inventory information and images is important. It assists management and provided ease of change should the need arise.

To take better photos, retailers need to have the right tools:

  1. The right place for photography that is setup for easy access.
  2. Props for posing photos as the more you can show how a product might be used the better in some circumstances.
  3. A lightbox for taking shadowless photos. This should take different background colours and bet of the right size for the types of products you are likely to need to photograph.
  4. A good camera. A current model smart phone is usually okay given the quality of the cameras they offer today.
  5. Basic editing software for correcting any imperfections than cannot be easily fixed by taking another photo.
  6. Photo guidelines for all product photos taken by the business, so there is a consistent aesthetic for photos used by the business.

Once photos are taken and the actual ones to be used have been selected, these are loaded into the POS software for use there and for feeding to any ecommerce site used by the business.

If there are bulk photos to be uploaded to an ecommerce site, there are easy ways to do this without having to go through the POS software if that is a preference.

While none of this is related directly to help desk support using our POS software, we happily get involved, sharing the expertise of our team gained from our own retail businesses and the various ecommerce sites with which they connect.

Business management help for small business retailers from our POS software company

Retailers who partner with our small business focussed POS software company can rely in us for more than terrific POS software. Every day we offer business help, advice and support, beyond the software itself but using the software as a mechanism for help.

Many calls to our management and help desk team are from business owners not knowing where to turn. We help where we can, based on our experiences, but without providing advice that we are not qualified to provide.

Since we own and operate retail businesses and have done since February 1996 we can draw on considerable experiences when helping our customers.

Like any small business owner, we like to help our friends and we see any small business retailer as a friend.

There are people we help who do not even use our POS software. That is not a requirement at all. Our support is for small business owners and their businesses first. Getting a sale of our POS software is secondary.

The advice and support we can be called on to assist with includes these areas:

  1. Shop lease terms, permitted use clause, special conditions.
  2. Employee management.
  3. Employee training.
  4. Customer theft.
  5. Employee theft.
  6. Business planning.
  7. Supplier trading terms.
  8. Supplier dispute resolution.
  9. Data analysis.
  10. Cash flow.
  11. Banking relationships.
  12. Business insurance.
  13. Visual merchandising.
  14. Quitting stock.
  15. Buying stock, planning, buy lots and related topics.
  16. Creating new products beyond what has been usual for the business.
  17. Landlord disputes.
  18. Trading online.
  19. Running a high street and online business.

There are many areas where we help and discuss beyond these listed here. This list offers a flavour of the types of areas we are asked to provide advice or a comforting ear on. Often, we are able to drawn on our own personal experiences and small business retailers like that.

We are grateful for the trust our c customers show in seeking our advice or listening ear when they have concerns. We do our best, and if we are unable to speak with confidence on a query, we try and point them in a direction of someone who can.

This is all part of the Tower Systems service and assistance to small business retailers. We saw we’re here to help and try hard to live up to that.

Small business marketing advice: people like shopping local

For years, we here at Tower Systems have helped small business retailers to pitch shop local in a range of interesting and creative ways.

Our work in this area has nothing to do with small business POS software, yet it has everything to do with it.

Shopping local is important for local economies and we love helping small business retailers to encourage locals to shop local.

These are other resources from us are free to anyone via our website with no password required.

Small business retail advice: save time and money with Xero POS software integration

Save time, eliminate bookkeeping costs, cut mistakes and make better business decisions sooner with the Tower Systems POS software Xero integration.

Our Xero partnership sees us linking direct to Xero. No middleware. No third p[arty. This is a direct, fast and time saving link. It is best-practice.

We use this link ourselves in the retail businesses we own and run. We know it works a treat. Our accountant loves it.

The Xero integration designed by Tower Systems, working with the folks at Xero, makes it easy for small business retailers to cut accounting paperwork and thereby tap into time and money saving benefits.

We use our Xero integrated POS software ourselves. This enables us to provide practical advice on how to benefit the most from Xero and our POS software working together.

Our customers have access to our in-house CPA, to provide a professional accounting perspective on the link and how to get the most from it.

Tower Systems is a unique POS software company. In addition to serving 3,500+ small business retailers, we own and operate several retail businesses as live test sites. Our in-house CPA manages the accounts for these retail businesses.

Helping small business retailers quit dead stock with best-practice advice

In our weekly customer support email to our small business POS software users we include everyday business management advice.

We are grateful for customer feedback on the practical tips we provide and for suggestions on new topics se can cover.

Here is recent advice we shared with our customers on quitting dead stock.

If you want to quit stock, quit it, quickly. Quickly means different things to different people. We think it means 7 days … gone and out of the shop in 7 days from when you decide to quit the products.

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. We suggest you NOT use this.

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

A 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 have tested this. We have tried $9.99 priced an item at 50% off, half price and $5.00. The $5.00 pricing worked the best, by far.

This is our 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.

Also: display the product for a sale. i.e. not pretty. Reorganise it daily. Keep it separate to the premium merchandise.

This advice in another example of how Tower Systems helps small business retailers beyond our POS software and the support you may expect from a company like us.

We love helping small business retailers save time, make money and enjoy their businesses more. These are core goals of our Australian POS software business. They reflect what we call the Tower AdvantageTM.

Small business marketing tip: get creative with signs

A fun and engaging sing on the footpath in front of your shop can attract people to your business. It can challenge people to consider your business beyond what the shingle above your door may say. The more creative the sign the better.

Go all out creative. Have fun. Be colourful. Shop that shopping with you will be fun. People want fun.

Here are a couple of signs we have seen recently that we love:

Small business retail advice: make every day your pay day

There was a time when small business retailers could rely on selling their business for a handsome increase on the price they paid thereby providing a good pay day, when businesses sold for a good multiple of net earnings.

No more. Today, the best way to extract value from our businesses is to make every day your pay day, to not rely on your pay day being the day you sell the business.

The challenge is how do you do this?
Retailers need to look at their businesses differently. This starts with the mindset of every

day being your pay day. Each decision needs to be considered in this context.

Focusing on profit today will give you a better result today and make your business more valuable tomorrow.

Here are some suggestions for making every day your pay day:

  1. Run with the leanest roster possible. Just about every retail business we review has capacity to lower labour costs.
  2. Have your best people working the floor, helping customers spend more.
  3. Have stunning displays that attract people from outside the shop.
  4. Have compelling displays in-store that encourage people to browse beyond their destination purchase.
  5. Always have impulse offers at high traffic locations.
  6. Charge more every time you can. Loyalty programs such as discount vouchers, bundling into hampers, multi buys such as 2 for 3 and other opportunities enable you to do this by blocking price comparison.
  7. Buy as best you can.
  8. Grab settlement discounts every time you are able.
  9. Promote outside your store using online and social media opportunities.
  10. Leverage adjacency information. Chase a deeper basket – people purchasing more each visit.

Be responsible for the profitability of your business. Don’t blame your suppliers, your landlord, your employees or some other external factor … it all comes down to you – the decisions you make and the actions you take.

If you relentlessly pursue profit with a clear focus you are likely to see profit grow. That’s better than waiting to make money when you sell because that’s less likely to happen in this market.

Doing all this relies on your measuring the performance of your business. The Tower software helps with this. It is easy.