POS software as a community service

We are grateful for the opportunity to help community organisations access our POS software for a fraction of the usual cost, through our community support program.

For many years, we have helped community organisations that do good and valuable works, by providing access to our software on an on0-going basis sometimes free, sometimes for a token cost.

This community work is part of the Tower giving program where we help community organisations spread the joy off their community works with greater surety and efficiency.

We appreciate being able to do this.

Beware this email scam

A client received this email recently…

Hello!

I’m a programmer who cracked your email and device a few months ago.
You entered a pass on one of the sites you visited, and I intercepted it.
This is your password from  xxx@xxx.com on moment of hack:
XXXXX

Of course you can will change it, or already changed it.
But it doesn’t matter, my malware updated it every time.

Do not try to contact me or find me, it is impossible (in ‘from address’ is
a random contact).

Through your email, I uploaded malicious code to your Operation System.
I saved all of your contacts with friends, colleagues, relatives and a
complete history of visits to the Internet resources.
Also I installed a Trojan on your device and long tome spying for you.

You are not my only victim, I usually lock computers and ask for a ransom.
But I was struck by the sites of intimate content that you often visit.

I am in shock of your fantasies! I’ve never seen anything like this!

So, when you had fun on piquant sites (you know what I mean!) I made
screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.
After that, I combined them to the content of the currently viewed site.

There will be laughter when I send these photos to your contacts!
BUT I’m sure you don’t want it.

Therefore, I expect payment from you for my silence.
I think $868 is an acceptable price for it!

Pay via Bitcoin.
My BTC wallet: XXXX

If you do not know how to do this – enter into Google “how to transfer money
to a bitcoin wallet”. It is not difficult.
After receiving the specified amount, all your data will be immediately
destroyed automatically. My virus will also remove itself from your
operating system.

My Trojan have auto alert, after this email is read, I will be know it!

I give you 2 days (48 hours) to make a payment.
If this does not happen – all your contacts will get crazy shots from your
dark secret life!
And so that you do not obstruct, your device will be blocked (also after 48
hours)

Do not be silly!
Police or friends won’t help you for sure …

p.s. I can give you advice for the future. Do not enter your passwords on
unsafe sites.

I hope for your prudence.
Farewell.

This email is a scam. It was mentioned by the federal government recently as a scam, too. The best protection is to ensure you have your data backed up in the cloud, that you change passwords regularly and that you do not pay the ransom.

Note: we have removed identifying details from the email.

Tower Systems participates in newsagency channel strategic planning conference

Tower Systems is the only newsagency software company to participate in the recent ALNA (industry association) hosted newsagency business strategic planning conference.

Meeting with the top newsagency channel industry leaders, our leadership team participated in the conference and associated workshop to help develop strategies for the future of newsagency businesses in Australia.

The conference and workshop were engaging, intense and extremely valuable. We are grateful for the opportunity to represent our newsagency customer community and to work on their behalf.

Here is part of the note from ALNA outlining the plans for the day…

We believe that considering the future of customer behavior, disruption and opportunities for our retailer’s is part of our industry leadership role at ALNA. We would like to invite you to join us to learn about some insights and what we are working on for the industry, and to participate in discussion to help us to provide a focused vision for our future.

ALNA’s aim is to represent the interests of our members with innovative solutions to government, regulatory authorities, industry partners and stakeholders. Our culture of actively exploring and implementing new strategies and professional services to support continuous improvement, growth, and the success of our members and the industry, will help ensure that we remain our members and stakeholders preferred choice for professional advice, support, and educational programs into the future. It forms our core vision of being collectively invested in success.

While we will not share here details from the event, it is fair to say it was an important event focussed on the future of the channel, delivering leadership opportunities to those there based on the data insights confidentially shared and the discussions that flowed from these data insights.

Being in the room positions Tower Systems to provide more help and support to small business newsagents as they navigate challenges and change and as they embrace growth opportunities in some segments of their businesses.

New friendships were made and new opportunities explored as we worked through initiatives designed to make newsagency businesses more relevant.

Our advice to newsagency suppliers who were invited but declined is that next time they should say yes and participate. This is what being a good citizen in a small business channel is all about for a supplier.

It is illegal for your POS software to offer tools to avoid tax

The federal government passed ;legislation a while back making it illegal for POS software companies to offer tools that facilitate the hiding of business income for the purpose of reducing your taxation obligation.

Here at Tower Systems we have never offered such tools.

We think it is wrong for any business to hide income for purposes of reducing taxation obligation.

We have participated in several panels with the Australian Taxation Office on matters related to POS software including this area of software compliance so as to not facilitate tax avoidance. We are grateful for the opportunity to be part of the conversation that led to tighter rules in this area.

Years ago, we had a competitor that did this, a competitor that facilitated the avoidance of tax by retailers using their software. They promoted it. It was common knowledge in retailer circles at the time. We saw live how a secret facility in their POS software was used to avoid tax. Once we saw it ourselves, we reported the matter to the Australian Federal Police and other authorities. The tax avoidance tools in the software were demonstrated too the authorities.

That experience is not the only time we have seen this. It frustrated us that tax avoidance facilities were being promoted as a differentiator to our software. For sure, it cost us revenue. I sucked then and still sucks today. Those perpetrating the tax avoidance scheme within the software company should have been jailed in our view.

However, we move on.

Today, the message for retailers is that the ATO has a range of tools, benchmarks and more at their disposal that enable the discovery of tax avoidance. Trying to avoid tax is a mugs game.

Retailers are better served focussing on smart engagement and operation, using their software to builds stronger and more successful businesses. This can be done if you use smart software that focusses on new traffic and new opportunities for a brighter future. that is, software that is backed by business advice and professionalism to help retailers achieve excellent results.

Tower Systems helps small business retailers beyond the software to ethically build stronger and more successful businesses. As retailers ourselves it is what we do, with pride and pleasure.

Help for drought affected small businesses

Tower Systems has several businesses in our client base that have been drought affected. We have reached out with help and resources to assist.  We have also spoked with government agencies to understand the resources available so that we can connect our customers with these as appropriate.

One such resource for drought affected small businesses is through the ATO, the Australian Taxation Office. Here are some details of their drought assistance eligibility criteria:

To work out if you are eligible for small business entity concessions, you first need to work out if you are a ‘small business entity’ in an income year. You must review your eligibility each year to check if you are able or required to use a particular concession.

From 1 July 2016, you are a small business entity if you are a sole trader, partnership, company or trust that:

  • operates a business for all or part of the income year, and
  • has an aggregated turnover less than $10 million (the turnover threshold).

From here on, when we say:

  • ‘small business’, we mean ‘small business entity’
  • ‘turnover’, we mean ‘aggregated turnover’.

From 1 April 2017, the turnover threshold for fringe benefits tax (FBT) concessions increased to $10 million.

The $10 million turnover threshold applies to most concessions, except for:

  • the small business income tax offset, which has a $5 million turnover threshold
  • the capital gains tax (CGT) concessions, which continue to have a $2 million turnover threshold.

For previous income years, you are a small business if your turnover is less than $2 million.

Find out about:

See also:

  • Are you in business? – determine the differences between a hobby and a business for tax purposes

Our Tower Systems POS software company helps small business retailers in a range of practical ways from direct assistance to operational assistance. We do this because we believe in small business and because we are grateful to be in a position where we can help. Gratefulness is best expressed through practical help in our view.

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.

We need a Royal Commission into retail shopping centre development and retail tenancies in Australia

We, Australians, small business retailers, suppliers to small business retailers, local towns, all of us need a Royal commission into retail shopping centre development in Australia and the behaviour of shopping centre landlords.

There is enough evidence to indicate that an appropriately skilled and resourced Royal Commission could uncover behaviour that is illegal and harmful to our economy and small businesses and families that rely on the small businesses.

I appreciate that the areas I think the suggested Royal Commission cover are broad and could be better served as two investigations. However, the two issues feed into each other. I think they are best considered together.

WHAT IS A SHOPPING CENTRE?

For the purposes of my proposal, I suggest that a shopping centre is a retail development with fifteen or more shops of any size.

While I am sure there is misbehaviour to consider in smaller centres, for management and focus, a threshold of fifteen tenancies, or similar, is needed. Otherwise, any Royal Commission would run too long and cost too much.

RETAIL SHOPPING CENTRE DEVELOPMENT.

This is the beginning of the issue. Whereas in the US and other countries growth in retail tenancy space is flat or declining, in Australia it continues to grow. Some say we already have far more shops that the population can support.

In regional and rural locations the challenge is that a new centre is usually located outside town and its development can gut the centre of town, diluting or killing off the heart of a small town.

In some cases, mid-size centre development tis driven by competition by the two major supermarkets and aided and abetted by several other anchor tenants and supported by Tatts keen to be in all new centres.

  1. Do we need more shopping centre space?
  2. Should there be controls on approving this?
  3. What is the economic impact of the current growth in retail space in Australia?
  4. What is the social impact of the current growth in retail space in Australia?
  5. What is the impact, specifically on small business retailers of the growth in retail space?

LANDLORD BEHAVIOUR.

Talk to any small business tenant in a shopping centre and they will have at least one landlord story that causes them stress.

There is the landlord who did a handshake deal with a party that was negotiating to buy a business. the landlord squeezed and the family business closed. The new tenant moved in without paying goodwill.

There is the landlord that took too long on centre re-develoopmnent, making decisions that saw a 50% drop in shopper traffic, and refused any compensation for retailers.

There is the landlord that permits one sore to be on a % deal where they pay 9% of turnovers in rent with a shop next door not able to have such a deal and managing and occupancy cost of 32%.

There is the landlord that strong-arms retailers verbally, never in writing, never in a way that can be used against them.

There is the landlord that takes a marketing levy every month and spends this on activities that offer no benefit whatsoever to retailers.

There are hundreds of stories.

The Royal Commission needs to listen to stories, all stories. Tenants need to be able to do this confidentially as the fear of reprisal by landlords is real.

  1. Do landlords act unlawfully?
  2. Do landlords treat retailers differently?
  3. Do landlords act in secret knowingly harming small business retailers?
  4. Do landlords abuse funds they collect from retailers for marketing?
  5. Are landlords fulfilling their obligations in terms of bringing traffic to shops in their centres?
  6. How are the various roles of employees paid in landlord businesses? What are their incentives?

There are many other questions to answer. My goal here is to kick off the discussion.

WHY?

Too many families are losing their businesses, homes and other assets. Too many small business operators are having their personal situations, including health, negatively impacted. Too many small business operators are losing their life. Yes, this issue is that serious.

Small business retailers feel helpless. They want their business. It has been their life’s work. They fear without it they will have nothing. This can see them agree to a lease that is at its very foundation doomed inappropriate for their business.

Landlords have the upper hand. They are in control. Too many people in landlord businesses are bullies and aware of how to bully without being caught.

The best way to resolve this is to shine a light. Only a Royal Commission c an have the authority and power to do this.

I get that Royal Commissions are popular right now. This suggestion, however, is important given that those most impacted are also those most vulnerable – small businesses, run by families. Were are told small business is the business backbone of our country. However, there is evidence to suggest that small business retailers are disadvantaged in terms of shopping centre development and retail teensy negotiation.

Here at Tower Systems we only serve small business retailers with our POS software. In our view, small business matters. This is why we support the push for a Royal Commission into shopping centre development and retail tenancies.

This post first appeared on a blog last week in a post by the CEO of Tower.

Tower Systems helps community groups with POS software

For years, we have gratefully em braced opportunities to support community groups by providing POS software at no cost or low cost to enable the community enterprises to do their good works more efficiently.

The donations of software, time and event hardware by us is part of our social responsibility commitment program where we seek to work with those we see helping to make Australia a better place.

We are able to do this thanks to the support of our customers.

Seeing the benefits community groups to individuals and their local communities is a joy, especially at this Christmas time of the year.

Politicians in Australia to small business retailers: don’t do as I do, do as I say

The federal parliamentarian dual citizenship mess in which we have found ourselves here in Australia for months now shows how politicians treat themselves as elite, special, compared to common folk, the voters who vote them in.

While we in small business are highly regulated, subject to audit and penalised for even simple honest oversight, politicians refuse to permit themselves to be subject to the same.

While individuals are highly regulated, subject to audit and penalised for even simple honest oversight, politicians refuse to permit themselves to be subject to the same.

The moment the first dual citizenship question was raised, an ethical leader keen for democracy would have ordered an immediate full audit of the status of all politicians.

We are bereft of leadership for everyday Australians in Australia.

For months major party politicians have spun their wheels on the issue of dual citizenship and refused to agree to the type of audit that is regular for us in small business. For months they have said politicians should self regulate on this issue while at the same time imposing challenging and enforced regulation on small businesses and on individuals.

Shame on us for allowing your politicians to get away with them setting a standard for their own behaviour that is lower than standards they vote to impose on regular people.

The one party that has provided leadership on this issue is the Greens. From the outset they called for an audit. The are right. Yet their call has been mocked, especially by the government side of the parliament. This side of the parliament that is in control, in leadership, has eschewed leadership and instead engaged in puerile games.

They must think we are fools.

There ought be an audit of all federal politicians immediately, no matter the disruption or the cost.

Section 44 of the Constitution is not new. Its provision have been known for decades. It is easy for anyone to determine their status. Whether they do this comes down to how they see themselves compared to how they see the peril they serve.

We the people deserve honest leadership, leadership that is transparent and for all people, leadership that submits itself to the same standards and level of regulation as they impose on those they serve. We do not have this in Australia at the moment.

Every day, we see small business retailers squeezed by regulation, while at the same time right now seeing politicians refuse even basic regulation. This double standard has to stop, for the good of our country and democracy.

Early engagement with regulators as new legislation is drafted

Tower Systems has been engaged with representatives of a federal government agency as it contemplates new legislation that could impact some areas of retail business operation in which our POS software serves.

We have been engaged in discussions, sharing insights and explaining how parts of our software work, so those drafting the legislation can be better informed about the practicalities in retail business operation.

This work with government departments is not new for us. We have been engaged previously in other areas of business operating, helping to inform legislators to their focus remains on a path appropriate to the needs of the small business retail community.

Our first engagement helping government regulators was mack in the early 1990s when several arms of government were investigating fraud facilitated by the use of POS software developed to make such fraud easy. While our software never had such facilities, we were aware of software that did.

A mental health plan is important for small business retailers and their colleagues

As employers, as retailers and as small business owners, mental health issues are often not far away from any small business retailer. The challenges confronting our newsagency businesses add to the challenges already there.

Sometimes, we don’t know we are experiencing a mental health challenge while other times it’s obvious and on show for all to see.

How we confront mental health challenges is important for us, our business and those presenting with issues.

While we are not trained professionals in the area, our years of working with small business owners confronted by challenges to their mental health have helped us develop some guiding principles.

  1. Mental health is not easily measured or understood. One’s health is not outwardly obvious.
  2. Judgment cannot be part of how mental health is viewed or dealt with.
  3. Action is essential to improve your situation for doing nothing will achieve nothing.
  4. While taking the first step to confront mental health challenges can be difficult, it is relieving and rewarding.

Your GP is an excellent person to speak with. Explain to them how you feel and how this impacts on your life. Ask them to prepare a Mental Health Treatment Plan. This is a government recognised plan. It can usually be prepared in a single double visit to the GP. This plan is the trigger to you gaining Medicare supported access to a psychologist for an initial number of visits, which can be extended depending on your situation.

Some people can feel a visit to a GP or psychologist is not warranted in their situation. While the medical professionals are the best to determine this, there are other resources you could explore:

Beyond Blue has published Business In Mind, a useful resource for small businesses on issues relating to mental health in the workplace. This is a good starting point for learning more. In the resource there are links to other resources that can help.

Finding mental health resources for small business owners dealing with mental health issues is not as easy as it is finding resources for managing the workplace for better mental health. It’s tough running any business and sometimes things can feel overwhelming. This is where networking can help as a first step, talking with others.

Small business retailers feeling challenges within themselves need to treat themselves as employees and use the resources available such as:

  • beyondbluesupport line – 1300 22 4636
  • SANE Australia Helpline – 1800 187 263
  • Mensline Australia – 1300 789 978

We at Tower Systems will help in any way possible.

Small business retail management advice: be David to the big business Goliath – how small business retailers can compete against big business

Small and independent retailers often feel helpless when a big national retailer opens up nearby. There is no match for their range, buying power, advertising coverage or even news coverage.

The sheer size of a national competitor is what scares many smaller retailers. This is often enough for them to give up and close the business.

Giving up and running is the easy way out. There is no lesson learned, just an escape from the fear.

The alternative is to find out how to deal with the national retailer.

Here are five tips for small businesses on how to face and deal with a national retailer moving into the area:

  1. Don’t compete. By not talking about the competitor, pricing against them or pitching your business in any way, you separate yourself. While they may have similar products, it is unlikely that they are targeting your specific business so why target them? Focus instead on your own business.

Not competing should include not advertising price comparisons, not focusing on the competitor at staff meetings, not expanding your range to sell more of what they sell and not obsessing about them.

I was working with an independent retailer recently who decided to offer a product they sold which is also available in a nearby national retailer for 10% less than the sale price in the national retailer. This move gave the independent retailer a margin of 15%. In discussion I discovered that most of the customers who visited the independent retailer were unlikely to shop in the national retailer. So why compete on price?

If you know why customers shop with you, you have the opportunity of not giving up margin out of fear.

  1. Run a better business. From the moment you hear about a new national retailer coming to town, look at every aspect of your business for opportunities for improvement. From the back room to the font counter fine tune your processes, employee training, stock buying and the look of the business. Dramatically improve your business from the inside out. This will improve your business health and help you weather challenges which may lie ahead.

Too often, independent retailers wait until the national retailer is open to react. This is probably a year or two too late.

  1. Be unique. Look for ways to make your business unique. It could be on product range, operating hours, add-on services or something else. Embrace any opportunity to make your business unique. Even a unique niche range of products can give you traffic a big competitor will not chase. Try and focus on products which require a level of retail skill and knowledge to sell – national retailers have challenges hiring and retaining retail employees with specialist knowledge and skills.
  2. Engage the community. Connect with the community at every possible opportunity. Support local groups, speak at functions, get known as someone and a business who care deeply about the local community. Subtly make the connection that you are fortunate to be able to help because of your local business.

Being smaller and independent you are better able to personally engage with the community. You and your team are the business whereas a national chain will always be the corporate. They can throw money around locally, you can throw time, knowledge and more flexible assistance.

  1. Tell your stories. Your retail narrative, your stories, connect you with the local community. Tell these through the people you contact, your own blog, a Facebook page and in the pages of the local newspaper. Tell human stories about your business, the people who work in it and the local stories which connect with it.

Your stories could be about local community connection, convenience of shopping, commitment to range, personal customer service, product niche knowledge … there are many different narratives with which an independent retailer can connect. It is important that one you have your narrative you stick to is, that it inhabits your decisions, marketing and public presentation.

By acting early and in advance of a national retailer opening, you better position your business to weather their advertising and PR onslaught. Get in early, build a stronger business and understand that through this the new business in town will not be your competitor.