POS software blog

About our POS software for local small business retailers

Category: Social Responsibility (page 2 of 13)

When 2020 began

When 2020 began, we were in the dark about what was coming for us, for all of us. We had our resolutions, plans and hopes. We had our cherished dreams.

We were unprepared for how 2020 would play out.

The hopes and dreams we started the year with were soon forgotten as the pandemic took over the news, our businesses, our home life and our focus.

2020 sure has been a year.

Looking back, we see heartbreaking human loss and economic challenges, which, sadly for too many, continue today.

Looking back, we also see many wonderful achievements.

There are the big pieces like the 1,000s of scientists working together to create vaccines in record time, people and businesses fundamentally changing how they work and politicians, for a moment, setting aside traditional differences to actually do good.

There is the good news of whole communities working together to ensure people remain safe and to get the numbers down.

In small business, where we spend much of our time, we have seen wonderful acts of kindness, extraordinary local shopper support, greater resilience and deeper community connections. It has been a joy to hear stories of locals consciously shopping locally and genuinely being interested in product sourcing.

We have all learnt so much about ourselves this year, what we can do, the differences we can make, new friends we can serve.

As the sun sets on 2020, we are grateful for this year, for the opportunity to be part of it and to be here, at the end, stronger and grateful for what 2021 will offer.

Happy New Year. May your 2021 be healthy, happy and filled with gratitude.

We are grateful…

We are grateful

We are grateful…

Grateful

We are grateful…

Small business retail advice: handling community group donation requests

This article is another in our series of advice for small business retailers. The advice comes from ur experiences helping small business retailers with POS software and from years of running our own shops, places where we learn retail ourselves from inside out.

Advice for small business retailers on dealing with donation requests from local charities and community groups.

Requests from schools, charities and other community for donations can be a challenge for any size business. If you do not take a structured approach to this you will find yourself giving away plenty for little or no return.

Requests are often loaded with guilt.  People can be passive aggressive in their approach. Often, people requesting help leverage pester power. It can be hard to say no. There are too many stories of retailers giving a gift as a prize, receiving the Thank You poster and achieving no benefit for the business.

Our advice is to manage your philanthropy as you would any business activity.

THE PRIZE / GIFT

Decide the amount in cash or product value or both that you are prepared to donate in a full year, calendar year or financial year.

Our recommendation is you give away cash, but in the form of a voucher to spend in your business. This ensures that value of the gift or prize is greater than the cost of it to your business.

The best mechanism for giving away cash or an amount to spend in-store is to do it  by way of a gift voucher. Use your software to manage this as any manual approach is dangerous and time-consuming.

YOUR PITCH, NOT THEIRS

Get on the front foot and write to local community groups outlining that you budget a year in advance. Seek their submissions. With this advice sheet we have included the text of a suggested letter. Please read the letter as it outlines the approach we suggest and why. It is important you communicate this with all community groups.

On the page after the letter is a suggested notice for use in-store when you are asked for donations.

HOW TO PICK GROUPS TO SUPPORT

Focus on community groups that support you. That is, groups with members who support you. The more they support you the better you are able to support the community.

Be prepared to ask where people shop for the items you sell in your business. Ask if they will change in return for your support.

Asking these questions underscores to you the importance of approaching the decision as a business decision.

Be thoughtful and deliberate. Support the groups that support you. This is important as it helps you stay within a budget.

LET YOUR SHOPPERS CHOOSE

If you run discount vouchers and if customers say they don’t want the voucher, invite them to contribute the voucher to a local group – one of three you setup for in the business. Every month, two months or three months, tote up the vouchers and give the group a parentage of the total voucher value ‘voted’ for them.

This idea could be in addition to any giving program you run in the business. It offers a daily reminder of your commitment to local giving.

Grill’d burgers for years ran a program kind of like this where each shopper is given a bottle cap, which they place in a tub to vote on a group to receive a cash donation for the month. The process of groups submitting to be considered is onerous.

REWARD ENGAGEMENT

In addition to any direct gift, consider an offer whereby anyone who is a member of the group who shops with you accrues an amount you donate to the group. You could manage this through your software. It could be you offer a discount to the shopper as well as accruing a value for the group.

This type of program could also be in addition to your core giving program as the value here is driven by sales – hopefully, incremental sales.

EDUCATE GROUPS ABOUT GOOD ENGAGEMENT

Here are things groups you support can do to help your business. You should ask them to do these things:

  1. Tell members to buy from you.
  2. Write about your business on their Facebook page.
  3. Distribute flyers of your offers.
  4. Have you speak at a meeting.

WRITE ABOUT YOUR ENGAGEMENT

Once you have a decision on which groups you will support, write about this in your newsletter and on Facebook. Not just once but multiple times. Invite them to provide you with content to publish too. Talk about their good works.

Ask them to write about you too.

Your giving must serve your heart and serve your business. Going about it in a structured way will ensure you meet your objectives.

Here is suggested text for a notice about giving by the business:

OUR POLICY ON HANDLING COMMUNITY GROUP DONATIONS.

We receive requests to support local community groups and charities regularly. As a small family business with loans, rent, wages and other costs, we cannot say yes to everyone. We wish we could but we cannot.

To help us better connect with and serve the groups we do support, we now decide at the start of the financial year the groups we will support over the next year. The selection process is based on written submissions from groups.

Our decision to select the groups we support at the start of the year means we cannot take on additional donation requests through the year.

We hope you understand and respect this.

Please consider applying in advance of the start of the next financial year.

But all is not lost…

If your group can bring in new customers to our business to purchase items they want we may have another way we can help. Ask us for details.

Thank you and we wish you all the best in your community group.

We support the newsXpress creative writing competition

We 100% support the newsXpress creative writing competition and encourage all writers in Australia to consider entering.

Buyer beware: hidden costs can make POS software expensive

That cheap POS system you might be considering m ay not be as cheap as you think by the time you add the four or five optional facilities that, with our Tower Systems POS software, are included in our everyday transparent price.

Too often right now we are seeing POS software offers, especially from businesses based outside of Australia, where the price quoted and the initial price signed for is not the price you pay foe what you want to do.

The pitch is appealing, hey start here for this price, sure it is cheap wbut it is a perfect place to start.

Soon, though, yonce you try and do what is core to your business, you need extra modules that cost more and, soon, you are paying more than the other software you decided against because it was too expensive. But, since you have invested time in your data, you don’t switch. Then, a year down the track, prices go up and there is something else that is an add-on cost and by then you are paying 50% more than the then price of the other POS software product you decided against because it was too expensive.

Buyer beware, take your time, get all the facts, ensure you understand the full cost, the total cost and the trajectory of the costs and then compare this across POS software packages.

Cheap POS software is not cheap. What may appear to be cheap POS software today will, for sure, be found to not be cheap at some point down the track. We hear this often.

We urge people to shop around, to look at other software, to compare functionality and to compare price. However, this has to be done based on the facts and not marketing spin. It has to be done thoroughly so that you as the customer are not let down. Only the facts matter.

This is why we say, don’t rush into a free trial because, that’s how they get you. They want you to become time and data invested and thereby less likely to actually look around what is genuinely best for your business.

Cheap POS software is like any cheap product, they have either cut corners, paid less for professional work than is the market rate or included less in the product. Its;s business 101. Sure, there is cheap POS software out there, it is not, in our experience, good for most retail.

Buyer beware. The hidden costs of POS software can make cheap POS software look expensive.

Thankful

When a small POS software company closes

When a small POS software company closes it can leave retailers in the lurch.

A small POS software company is one with less than 1,000 customers. We say that in the knowledge of what it costs to properly support and maintain POS software. Less than 1,000 customers and you are unlikely to have the income necessary to properly fund the proper maintenance of the software.

We are sure there are small POS software companies with a few hundred customers, maybe even 600 customers who will disagree with what we have said. They will say they are big enough to maintain their software. The thing is, proper maintenance of POS softer requires contingency planning, appropriate redundancy and other protections built into their systems so that they can maintain their software in a timely manner and in a way to deliver good outcomes for small business retailers.

This issue of small POS software companies and the closure of a POS software company is on ur mind today as there is a small business out there that has dramatically dropped their price. We think it is at a price that is unsustainable for them. The deal feels like a race for cash for the business.

Our advice is do your homework, know the company you select software from, ensure they have what you will need for your lifetime use of the POS software. Cheapest is often not the best. it may be, but take your time, do your homework, ensure it is right for you and they have a financial stability to serve you as long as you expect.

Tower Systems is grateful to serve more than 3,500 retailers using our POS software with more being added weekly. We expect to pass 4,000 in a few weeks. 2021 is already looking good too with a pipeline of healthy opportunities where businesses plan ahead to switch software at a time that best serves their business needs.

There is one situation where partnering with a small software company is appropriate and that is in the case of a start-up. Start-ups or course start small. They are an important part of the software development eco-system in any country and need to be encouraged. There are many advantages going with a start-up. So, to be clear, our comments in this post do not relate to start-ups.

Retailers loving our QR code check-in platform

The free QR code check-in platform that we released weeks ago has been embraced by plenty of retailers with some attracting huge numbers of uses as their customers scan the QR code unique to the business and then track their details for possible future contact tracing.

Setup is simple, security is strong and privacy is ensured.

We are grateful to have been able to help retailers to bring this home to a solution while governments stored out their own options.

We are proud to have delivered practical help rather than sitting on the sidelines and moaning.

We will remember them…

Today we are grateful…

We are grateful for the small business owners who believe in us, those who have been with us for decades and those who have joined us in recent weeks, and all those in between.

Every customer means a lot to us and all who rely on our business for income.

We are also grateful that we can take this moment to be grateful.

Business is challenging, especially in 2020 and especially in the small business space.

So, thank you … if you are a customer of ours passing by here. If you are not a customer, we hope we can be of service some day.

It’s Friday – get ready to shake the week off

Small business retail advice: 7 principles for navigating the Covid recession

Through our work with small business retailers, we help with POS software and broader management advice. recently, we have been asked for advice about trading in this period of recession.

7 principles for navigating there Covid recession

We get it, Australia is in a recession, a Covid recession brought on by the pandemic and responses to it here and overseas.

Relentlessly, media outlets overload with recession stories, fuelling worry and anxiety and challenging consumer confidence.

It’s tempting to get drawn to the doom and gloom stories, to amplify the woe is me narrative. But that does not help.

Plenty of people in business, especially small business, prefer to look ahead, to focus on the other side of the recession as it is that view of what could be that motivates.

We think a back to basics approach is what is needed to get us through the recession. We think it’s right for our software business, the retail shops we own and for the many local businesses we serve.

The back to basics guiding principles we share here are focussed on this, focussed on providing sure footing today and encouraging optimism for tomorrow.

This is not a list from which you choose what you like. Our advice is that you do everything on this list, because in our experience, together they provide the best chance of navigating the recession well.

  1. Nurture what makes the business money and fix or stop what does not make the business money. Leverage strengths. Fix or eliminate weaknesses.
  2. Embrace ways to broaden the reach of the business.
  3. Make safe decisions, decisions you know will work. For example, buy well. That is, buy what will sell easily, quickly.
  4. Embrace ways you can add value to what you sell without spending more.
  5. Be frugal. Before every spending decision ask 2 questions: do we need this? Will this add value? Review every business expense. Cut those that do not add value.
  6. Your next step is in front of you. Look ahead, not behind. Talk up, not down.
  7. If you feel overwhelmed, take it one step at a time. Every day, do something that makes you happy.

When should you start? Now. But not alone. This is a whole of business project. Involve the whole team and embrace all the points at every opportunity.

How do we know these principles work? We have experience trading through two recessions, one country wide and the other sector wide. We’ve also traded through Covid with excellent results – because we embraced these principles back in early March 2020.

Let’s take a moment to unpack principle #3, make safe decisions. Safe decisions are those you can bet on because they work every time. They may not be exciting, but they are safe. They may not be the best margin, but they are safe. Safe decisions are all about certainty, providing a small step that is stable, sure-footed. Put a few of those in a row and you feel better. Feeling better is key to helping you navigate the Covid recession.

While we understand the value of news, there may be value in consuming less news, staying away from the negative stories. Your success is the most important news right now.

We  provide practical support for local small business retailers.

It is cliché, but …. We are here for you.

What if the most important stream of revenue for your business was cut off overnight?

Hundreds of Australian businesses yesterday discovered that China was blocking their exporting of products to that country. According to news reports, Australian wine, copper, barley, coal, sugar, timber and lobster are set to be banned from Friday.

This is dreadful news for the businesses, those who work for them and the communities that rely on them for income and purchases. The ramifications across Australia could be extraordinary.

Hearing the news of the move by China, I wondered – what would happen to your business if a key income stream was cut off overnight?

Would your business survive? Do you have a plan B? Can you move quickly enough to recover? Were you too exposed to and too reliant on the key revenue stream?

These are questions you can discuss with clarity with hindsight. Better still, they are questions you can discuss in advance.

I raise the questions today because considering them before you face the challenges being faced right now by Australian exporters of wine, copper, barley, coal, sugar, timber and lobster gives you the opportunity today to be less reliant on a single revenue stream.

I get that this can read as a ho-hum topic, something not worth worrying about today. However, I bet there are wine makers, sugar farmers and fishermen who several days ago would have thought the topic ho-hum too.

What if the most important revenue stream to your business was cut off overnight, without notice?

Actions I think anyone reading this could consider include:

  1. Assess income to understand the income category streams on which the business most relies and take immediate steps to broaden these.
  2. Assess income sources. In retail especially most income comes from a shop or physical presence. Broaden this, rely on more than the physical presence.
  3. Assess the importance of suppliers by looking at percentage of revenue attached to each and taking steps to broaden these.
  4. Look at your business finances and consider the impact if any supporting finance arrangement was removed overnight.
  5. Workshop with key people as to what it would mean if any supplier was cut off from you or if any product category or brand was overnight stripped from your business. Those participating in this need to challenge each other.

In terms of the situation that has emerged in China this week, we need to look at our reliance on product from China, especially is we rely on people connected with wine, copper, barley, coal, sugar, timber and lobster. For example, if we have customers who work in wine businesses that export to China. How will they feel purchasing product from us that are sourced from China when China has struck so hard at the core of their income source?

What has happened in China is a reason for us to take stock, look more carefully at our businesses, and ensure that we are better structured to trade through unexpected decisions by others.

A personal story: Decades ago, my software company developed software for radiology practices, managing patient accounts and reports on x-rays. I wrote a word processor to make it easier and faster for radiologists to write report. It was a hit, gaining terrific early sales. A year and a half in, an international x-ray film supplier offered radiology practices free software from the US if they contracted to buy their film for 5 years. Our sales stopped overnight. I decided then that my company would never rely on a single customer or a single channel for the majority of business. It’s why we are now in 12 specialty retail channels, why we only sell to sell business retailers and why we will not borrow to fund the business.

VEND POS software search problems speak to a key challenge for cloud POS software

VEND POS software reported customer, product and sales related search problems on their product status page over the last 24 hours, impacting retail businesses using their POS software. The situation is a reminder of a challenge for cloud based POS software. If the platform is down or experiencing an issue, all customers on the cloud based POS software platform experience the issue.

Here is the information from the VEND cloud POS software website about the recent issues:

While our Tower Systems POS Software can be run in the cloud and is used in the cloud by a bunch of our retailer customers, the majority of our small business retailer customers choose the in-house desktop hosted option, running in their business, 100% under their control. This approach contains any problem to their business in most situations.

While, for many, the benefit of centrally managed cloud hosted POS software is appealing, the risk of network wide outage is challenging. The cost of not being able to search customers or inventory or some sales could be detrimental to a business.

VEND reported another problem to its network a month ago, on Facebook:

It is important that small business retailers weigh up the risks to their businesses when considering cloud hosted POS or desktop POS. We serve either. VEND is a cloud based solution and that’s why the outage reported by them is one that it drawing attention today.

We wish the folks at VEND all the best to resolve the issue in a timely and complete manner. No software company wants to see another software company dealing with tech challenges that are impacting customer businesses, especially the businesses that may be vulnerable or businesses just recently coming out of Covid lockdown.

When we read of the VEND cloud POS tech challenges and the outages being experienced today with customer and stock searches and some sales searches, we took this as a reminder to look at our processes, our checks and balances, our platforms and the redundancy we offer our customers. It is a reminder to all of us to ensure that we actively help our customers run stable businesses using our tech with the least possible downtime.

Operating in a purely cloud hosted environment does put a business at risk, it makes them dependent on their provider to have processes and redundancies in place to serve their needs. This is critical in service of stable and interruption free trading.

If a retailer asks our opinion – cloud hosted POS or in-house desktop hosted POS, we share that we have ourselves run shops with our POS 100% in the cloud and we have run shops with our POS software 100% in-store, on the desktop. For a whole bunch of reasons, today we choose in-house. We like the control it provides and that we are not reliant on the internet and the infrastructure of others to keep the POS software accessible to us.

We all rely on teachers

Today, as we should every day, we say thank you teachers! We rely on you to develop the people we will hire and rely in in business. So, thank you teachers!

 

Covid normal discussion: do you really want business to get back to the way it was?

This is a serious question.

Do you really want business to get back to the way it was?

Let’s start by saying – no, we don’t want business to get back to the way it was. The future is bright thanks to change as we have found and so many we work with have found.

Business back the way it was represents no change, no learning from the last 8 months, no reflection on what Covid normal may look like, no consideration of societal change.

Whether we like it or not, things have changed.

  • More businesses will allow more people to work from home, long after Covid, because of what they learned through Covid.
  • More businesses will continue with less the in-person engagement with their customers learned through Covid long after Covid is dealt with.
  • More businesses will sell to new people they discovered during Covid long after Covid.
  • Plenty of businesses and individuals who cut costs during Covid will continue with a tighter focus on cash.
  • Plenty of people who have worked from home will want to keep working from home.

Businesses that have benefited from these and similar Covid related changes will want that experience to continue rather than getting back to the way business was.

To us, the calls for business to get back to how it was are regressive. The future is always in front of us, never behind.

This is why we think that the businesses that have a good Covid are the ones best positioned for a brighter 2021 and beyond. They are most likely the businesses run by people who have not complained and moaned their way through Covid.

We get the calls to open up, get the economy moving and the like. However, for plenty, their economy has been moving. This is especially true in regional and rural Australia as well as in the high street.

It’s critical that all retailers are focussed on the (cliché alert) new normal of more people working from home, less CBD / business centre foot traffic, more online sales and the associated changes in what sells and when. That is where good business will be found, in those areas of change, not back the way things were.

The year presents us excellent opportunities for embracing change, leveraging what we have learnt since March this year and rapidly leaning into what we see emerge as we expect the pace of change to increase. This will be a consequence of Covid, what people have themselves learned through Covid and also a consequence of the Covid recession.

No, we are not looking for business to go back the way it was, we are too busy looking to the future, which does look exciting.

Tower Systems releases free Covid contact training tool for small business retailers

We have released to our POS software customers today a free contact tracing initiative through our website that enables our customers to easily collect the details of people entering their business in a format useful to health authorities should that be necessary.

We have done this because state and territory governments have not agreed on a consistent approach and because we think manual record keeping is not ideal in times when health authorities will want a fast response.

Using our approach, we collect and securely store customer details and allow our retailers, and only our retailers, to download these based on selection criteria you enter.

We generate a QR code unique to each business. Customers scan this and are taken to a page we create for each business where they enter their name and mobile number. They can optionally enter their email address. We tag this data with the date and time. That’s it. Their visit is tracked. If asked, retailers can show authorities that they have a process in place for collecting this data. For those without a phone, collect the data manually, on a clip-board.

As we gain use experience with this facility we expect to enhance it further.

We have also shared a template document to use at the front of a store, with the sample QR code replaced with the store’s QR code:

We have developed this free QR code based contract tracing tool to help our small business retailer community to be well equipped for helping health authorities should there be a Covid diagnosis that connects with the retail business in some way.

This is another way we can give something back to the small business retail community, a community that is so important to our business.

We have seen with Covid that the ability to quickly track those who may have had contact with someone who tests positive it critical to the public health response.

This contact tracing initiative from our POS software company could be a useful tool. From the outset, we knew we have to deliver this without cost to small business retailers.

We are grateful to those on our team who have brought this to life and our own retail stores where we tested this to ensure its practical usefulness.

With Covid here for a while longer, having tools like this for rapid response is critical for the economy, critical for our small business retail community.

Here’s what life in stage 4 Covid lockdown has been like for our small business in Victoria

Our head office is located in Hawthorn, Victoria, in suburban Melbourne, which has been in stage 4 lockdown since early August.

The gap between the end of the first Covid lockdown and the start of the tougher stage 4 was barely a month.

Back in March, when the impact of Covid became known, we made some decisions about the operations of our business that have meant the changes to restrictions have not impacted our business. These were changes any business could make. Indeed, with hindsight, they are changes we could have made years ago.

Even though our business is considered essential given the nature of our work and the customers we serve, we decided, back in March, to move to a remote operation for 85% of our work force of more than 50.

This meant bringing forward transition to our new VoIP phone system, expanding our Zoom capacity, expanding our Microsoft Teams capacity, providing team members with tech at home and putting in place financial compensation for folks working from home.

The tech changes were implemented over 2 days. They have served us well.

With plenty of our workforce usually in retail every day, helping our customers, we had to fundamentally change the way we worked. You cannot do online what you’d usually do in a shop installing software or training people. We adjusted and our customers adjusted.

Today, we’re almost 100% online in what we do and in our service delivery. If, however, a customer wants us in-store and it is essential to their business, we can do this, in stage 4 and outside of stage 4, and we have done it.

From a sales and marketing perspective the changes have been significant. We used to do at least 16 trade shows a year. This year we have done 1 and next year we have none planned. Instead, we have found new and, indeed, more useful ways to connect with prospects.

The result has been an increase in sales. This is good news for us, our team members and our customers. We are sincerely grateful.

Over recent weeks, we have brought several more people into the office as we have some team changes and new colleagues to meet.

While Victoria waits to hear when stage 4 will end, here at Tower Systems we see no major changes to how we operate through the remainder of 2020 and into the early months of 2021.

This new way of operating is offering team members more time with family, lower out of pocket costs and opportunities for healthier lifestyle choices.

We have learnt plenty navigating Covid, benefiting our business and all who work here. This is the good news story we’d like to see media outlets cover – what we have learnt and the benefits leveraged as a result. There are plenty of good news stories like ours.

We get that stage 4 restrictions in Victoria have been challenging. They have also provided opportunities.

We are optimistic about 2021 as we have a terrific base from this year on which to build … and for this we are sincerely grateful.

Spring is a wonderful time of the year

Thank you teachers

Teachers are the most wonderful people. They educate, nurture, encourage and celebrate students who get jobs and work in our businesses and the businesses of folks we know. teachers are so important in society and that importance has been more evident in 2020. So, today, we thank teachers

Charity shop software / community group shop software

Tower Systems is grateful to serve many charity shops and community group run shops with POS software that helps them manage inventory, customers and other aspects of the businesses.

Community enterprises are a vital part of local communities. While they are charity businesses, they are enterprises and need enterprise software. Tower Systems leverages the facilities of its small business focussed POS software to serve the needs of charity shops and community group run retail businesses.

Through our POS software we can help community group run shops to:

  1. Track inventory.
  2. Easily sell.
  3. Manage product returns.
  4. Track sales by fractions.
  5. Handle GST reporting.
  6. Support flexible discount options covering a range of situations.
  7. Support charity fund raising.
  8. Track performance in non-standard ways that may suit specific needs locally.

Community group run shops and charity shops need POS software partners that connect with their mission, that serve the local community focus of what they do. Tower Systems works in this space, serving plenty of these groups in a range of ways through the software, through training and beyond. We will help in any way we can, as much as we can.

We have a track record of work with community run shops, church run shops as well as other social enterprises that operate in retail. This work is part of the broader focus on Tower Systems and our work serving the needs of local communities.

Our POS software has been developed for a select range of niche retail channel businesses. We have found that it also serves the needs of plenty of charity shops, community enterprise shops and church related shops. Indeed, it was operators of those businesses that made the discovers, for which we are grateful.

As an Australian POS software company with years and years of serving local business needs, we are well established to help businesses and, through them, the communities they serve.

Our POS software is not ideal for all social enterprise run retail businesses. It’;s important those in control of such businesses know exactly what they want and that they thoroughly review what our off the shelf software does, to see if it is a good fit for their needs.

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