CategorySocial Responsibility

The important role of local small business retailers during Covid lockdowns

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The latest Victorian Covid related lockdown has shown, again, the important role small business retail front line team members play in our communities … especially the retail businesses that are open through lockdowns.

For people living alone or caring for someone at home, the interaction at the counter is important. Over recent weeks there have been several examples we have witnessed of this, where shoppers talk for a bit longer, soaking up the interaction. Local retail shops are hubs for this warmth.

Good retail team members spot the need and provide interaction that is encouraging and helps the customers feel better than when they arrived.

What’s been happening in  in Victoria over recent days is a reminder of the importance of local small business retail in communities, the role they (we) play, the support provided.

We are writing about local small business retail as it is in that setting that shoppers are more likely to have a personal and nurturing experience. The local small businesses we serve are less focussed on KPIs, interactions are more authentic than the corporate national retailer dictate of the five rules of every customer contact or whatever corporate rules the staff are told they must follow.

The warmth and genuineness of the interaction in a local high street shop setting is helping plenty of Victorians through this latest lockdown. Local small business retail channels can be proud of the role they play on the front line, the role they play in the mental health of so many who visit these local shops.

If only politicians would take a moment to see first-hand the role local small business retail plays in the community in situations like this. There are retailers in our channel who do more good in a week of customer interactions than a year of words press releases, announcements and doorstops from any politician, especially federal politicians who love a big announcement but fail at the action.

Kudos to all retailers in Victoria who have been open through the latest lockdown and who have provided extra care at the counter to customers keen for personal contact and support.

Time off for Covid vaccines

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We support the call for businesses to provide employees with time off to get their covid vaccine shots. That’s what we have been doing since the first of our team members became eligible. We are grateful to be able to offer this worry-free coverage for our team members.

The federal budget missed an easy-win job creation opportunity

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The federal budget last night promised the spending of truckloads of cash on projects designed to create jobs. Almost all the forecast spending would be big business related.

While big projects do help the economy and deliver much-needed new or enhanced infrastructure, there are other ways the federal government could spend more to more immediately boost jobs, and boost the economy.

It’s in small businesses, like retail, local service businesses, local software companies and other local businesses where job creation is easy and fast.

The challenge for the government is that a small business focussed job creation investment would be based on many channel specific investments. They may see that as too hard. They could see it as spreading the risk and thereby spreading the reward.

Thousands of targeted investments could deliver more sustainable economic and jobs benefits than one big billion big project spend.

But … we are not against the big projects. What we propose is in addition to those big projects.

Let us unpack this from the small business software company perspective since that a space we know well. Our POS software business competes with a bunch of overseas businesses. While we are doing well, we’d be grateful to do even better.

A dollar spent with us provides more value for Australia than a dollar spent with an overseas competition, much more.

The government would say we benefit from the extension of the instant asset write off. They are right, we do. But, so do all software companies.

Personally, we’d prefer to see the government offer a financial incentive to retailers buying or renting Australian made and Australian supported software. This would see the government investment spent in Australia, more tax revenue for Australia and more job creation.

Let me break that down. In a company like ours, we respond quickly to demand and can hire for entry level help desk roles quickly, offering people new to software and tech entry-level roles. We could be creating jobs in months, and not years like the big projects funded in the budget. And, the jobs we create come with training that positions the new hires for long-term roles in tech.

We can offer a pathway for people with retail experience to develop good tech skills. We can also offer a pathway for older folks to develop a new career in tech. We can offer people with families and challenging schedules flexibility that is family-friendly. We are not alone in being able to do these things. Indeed, there are plenty of service related businesses that can do this.

Another benefit of supporting local specialty business software companies like ours is that they nurture better business efficiency, benefiting the businesses in which the software is used. This benefits the economy. And, since they are small businesses, they will be nimble in leveraging the improved efficiency within their community.

In both of these examples, the software company and local specialty retail, tax dollars stay in Australia, employment growth is more certain and faster, local communities benefit and the economy is, overall, stronger sooner.

Our example here is one of hundreds or thousands the federal government could employ to rapidly boost employment. They should look at businesses that can respond quickly to demand. They would be local businesses serving local communities.

Covid has proven the importance of local. Many who started working from home through Covid will continue, permanently. This presents opportunities for local infrastructure and this is where local small businesses can play a role – businesses that will make a more valuable tax contribution and businesses that can hire for demand more rapidly.

The federal budget is a missed opportunity in the job creation front. It reads like it’s from people who have little understanding how small business works – that we can respond quickly.

We get that politicians will say dealing with a small number of big businesses is easier than wrangling thousands of small businesses. To that we would say try it.

Small businesses in Australia are a resource that few politicians have ever successfully tapped. We are in federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s electorate. We have written to him about these things. He’s not responded. However, he continues to email us about all the good things he has announced.

We are confident that many investments in buy Australian initiatives with and for a variety of small business channels could deliver early job creation wins, a boost in tax revenue and welcome economic support for regional and rural Australian communities.

Charity shop / op. shop software helps charities manage community retail businesses

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Tower Systems is grateful to work with a diverse and engaged mix of charities and community groups through providing charity shop  / op. shop software.

We were surprised when first approached years ago by a community group and, then, thrilled to discover that our specialty retail PO software has facilities embedded in the software that serve the needs of charity shops, community retail businesses and the quintessential Aussie Op. Shop.

Our op. shop software , opportunity shop software, charity shop software helps these businesses, these community run and community serving businesses, to run more efficiently, accurately and successfully.

Thanks to unique tools, this charity shop software / opportunity shop software can track engagement with multiple community groups in several ways, making the software useful in a broader variety of community group settings.

Using this Aussie made and supported POS software, a local charity can manage secondhand goods if they are selling items above a trigger value that requires such tracking.

From tracking inventory, rewarding shoppers, understanding sales performance and helping volunteers run the business, this POS software for charity shops and opportunity shops helps local charities in their mission of service.

Tower Systems is grateful to serve charity / community businesses in regional, rural and suburban Australia from garden and produce related enterprises through to the more traditional op. shop situation. We have years of experience with church related groups as well as community groups.

This op. shop software / charity shop software / social enterprise retail management software serves in a diverse mix of situations and offers facilities backed with flexibility.

To see the software, speak with one of our sales people today. they can demonstrate the software to the charity shop manager,  volunteers and / or board members. We are happy to to this, to see if our POS software made for op. shops is useful for your needs.

Sell online. Using this software, you can easily connect with Shopify to sell online thanks to our partnership with Shopify for a seamless integration.

Made in Australia and supported locally, this POS software is used by thousands of independent retail businesses, including charity shops and op. shops. being local and small business focussed keeps us grounded and targeted in a way that benefits the local focus of charity shops.

The ethics of using POS software to hide income from the federal government

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Many many years ago we were shown a function in POS software from another local software company that enabled a retailer using the software to take cash out of the business in a way that was difficult to detect.

Using a special password, anyone using the software could enter the amount they wanted to withdraw. the software adjusted records to hide the withdrawal, maintaining accounts records for any tax audit and a separate, hidden, set of records for the business owner.

We discovered the unique tax free cash accessing facility when we were asked many many years ago to add a similar facility in our software. The business owner wanted to remove $2,000 cash a week from their busy business. We refused. We lost that customer and some others who wanted such a facility.

Eventually, the knowledge of the facility in the other POS software reached state and federal government authorities. Several agencies from state and federal governments got together to look at the facilities. We were able to observe this first-hand. It was breathtaking. Their interest was in how a retailer was assisted in removing cash from a business without detection. This was demonstrated.

We have been asked since several times by some retailers to make it easy for them to remove cash undetected from the business. Our answer is as it has always been – you can’t do this with our software. To do so within the code of our software would be illegal, just as doing so in any retail business would be illegal.

With benchmarks and other data analysis tools, the federal government is especially well equipped today to detect such activity.

We have many ways we can lawfully help local retailers make more money in their businesses – through better decision making, faster decision making, tactical shop floor engagement, efficient online selling to shoppers they will never see. retail today is growing for many local retailers thanks to these and other engaging tools in smart POS software. This is where good business growth can be achieved and through which value can be cultivated to make a business worth more when it comes time for the owners to sell.

Bad business decisions can be a big burden in a retail business. make better business decisions and you can make more than any cash you may wish you could take form a business.

Small business retail advice: take a walk

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We work with many different retailers in different situations. We are grateful for what we have learned from our diverse community. Reflecting on this recently, it is the advice we share today that we have found to work well in almost any business type. It is basic, free to action and universally useful from what our customers tell us.

Here is that advice. We offer it today as recommended advice for any local small business retailer, as a terrific assist in terms of mental and physical health for business owners, managers and the business itself …

Take a walk.

It is tough work running a small retail business, working 70, 80 and more hours a week covering many tasks from business manager to cleaner to customer service to creating retail displays.

There is always something to do. Some days, often in fact, it can feel like no matter what you do you have more to do at the end of the day than when you started.

Regardless of how busy you are in your retail business, we urge you to take time out every day for a brisk 20 to 30 minute walk outside, in the sun (or the rain), alone.

Leave your phone behind – the shop won’t burn down.

Walk alone.

The best time to take the walk is when you feel most overwhelmed.

Walking, as a brisk pace can break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed, the negative feeling about what is confronting you in the business.

Getting your heart rate up will be good for your physical and mental health.

A good energetic walk is an excellent opportunity to reset.

Being away from the business, other people and the phone will give your body and mind time to process – even if you are not actively thinking about the business.

If you are like me, stepping back into the business after a brisk 20 or 30 minute walk, you see things differently, decisions are easier, progress is real.

Days with a walk are far better than days without.

Footnote: this advice for business owners and managers to go for a walk when feeling overwhelmed is consistent with advice from mental health experts around the world. Better still, following the advice costs nothing.

Small business retail advice: a mental health plan is vital

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Mental health challenges are often close by in small business retail. While not always seen, they are there, and in need of attention. Whether being experienced by customers, team members, suppliers or business owners, mental health challenges are impacting our businesses.

The test for any business owner is how it deals with mental health … identifying challenges, supporting those experiencing them and supporting those impacted in other ways.

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

  1. Mental health is not easily measured or understood. One’s mental health is not outwardly obvious.
  2. Judgement 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.

here are our thoughts specifically for business owners confronting their own mental health concerns …

Your general practitioner 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 owners feeling challenges within themselves need to treat themselves as employees and use the resources available such as:

We will help and support as much as we are able and to the extent we are made aware of any situation.

Retail business advice: disaster planning today can save you tomorrow

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No one wants to plan for disaster. It’s a negative activity, easily put off for more happy and optimistic pursuits. The reality is that most business owners will confront some form of disaster at some point in their business life. This advice is far-reaching, designed to act as a broad list of steps you can undertake to be prepared. Do it all or some, but do something … otherwise when you need good planning you will not have a plan on which to fall back.

Too often, the need for good disaster planning is realised after a disaster has hit the business.  Our retail business advice here offers business and computer related advice which is designed to mitigate the impact of a disaster on your business.

Insurance Protection

Insurance coverage is vital to helping a retail business overcome any type of disaster.  In addition to ensuring that your insurance policy covers all disaster situations of concern to you, including flood, theft, water inundation, fire, earthquake, riot—be sure to carefully read the policy, ensure that your insurance policy / policies cover payouts for the following:

  1. Business interruption.  The amount should equal your anticipated gross profit for whatever period you choose to be covered.
  2. Data recovery.  Including the hiring of experts to recover data from backup sources or the manual entry of data which cannot be automatically recovered.  It needs to ensure that you are covered to the point of recovered data being useable in transacting business.
  3. Lost stock.  This is stock stolen, lost from the business.
  4. Damaged and unsaleable stock.  This is stock which is water damaged, scuffed or dented and which will not attract full price.
  5. Dated stock.  This is stock that you cannot sell by the due date.
  6. Many policies require explicit statement of glass coverage.
  7. Temporary trading premises.  Business interruption may cover this.  Ensure that it is explicitly stated.
  8. Key person injury and/or death. This will usually be a separate policy.  Depending on the disaster, coverage may also be available through the overall business policy.

Ensure that the value of stock, fixtures and fittings covered by your policy is an accurate reflection of the real value of these items.  Talk with your insurance company about the best approach to track this on an ongoing basis.

Insurance brokers can provide access to assessors who can advise on the appropriate level of insurance for your situation.

Use your Point of  Sale system to track all stock movements in and out.  The stock on hand in  your software should be your coverage.

Ensure that your insurance policy protects for the seasonal nature of your business

Data Protection

Business data is one of the most valuable assets of the business.  Like insurance, the value is often not understood until you need what you do not have.  Retailers who are serious about protecting their business data in the event of any disaster follow these steps:

  1. ‪Backup your business data every day, at the end of the day, without fail.
    1. RECOMMENDATION: use a cloud based backup service that undertakes the backup as the day unfolds without you having to every do anything to cause a backup to be taken.
  2. Maintain a separate backup for each day of the week.  Consider a separate backup for the last day of each month.
  3. Remove the backup medium, usually a USB stick, from the business premises each day – outside the business property.
  4. Store the backup in a safe, dry place.
  5. Check the usefulness of the backup by restoring and checking the data.
  6. Store original business software in a safe off-site location.
  7. Check the backup every three to six months – to make sure the backup is actually backing us current data and can be read. A backup you cannot read is a waste of time and money.
  8. Change your passwords regularly.
  9. Do not share passwords widely.

Disaster Planning

Here are broader suggestions on planning for a disaster in your business property.

  1. ‪Keep off-site copies of: Business contracts and agreements; employee contact details, business account and other passwords, insurance details, recent photographs of fixtures, fittings and stock.
  2. For records you cannot easily copy or that may change as the trading day unfurls, consider having a go bag ready for you to grab if there is a risk to the premises such as a bushfire.
  3. Maintain a register of all employees in the business premises at any time.
  4. Prepare and place in a prominent place an evacuation plan.
  5. Maintain a professional grade OH&S compliant first aid kit. Have this checked regularly.
  6. Regularly maintain all fire extinguishers – check with your local fire brigade about this.
  7. Ensure that the business premises is safe and maintained to the local building codes and OH&S regulations.
  8. Have a trained first aid officer in staff. Your local St Johns or similar will be able to provide training.
  9. Use government resources such as the emergency planning kit at the federal government website: http://www.business.gov.au/business-topics/templates-and-downloads/emergency-management-template-and-guide/Pages/default.aspx

How to spot an out of touch out of date POS software company

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Here are some tips on how to spot a POS software company that may be out of touch or out of date and thereby maybe not ideal for consideration for serving your business.

  • Nameless / faceless. POS software businesses that do not provide public-facing access to the names and contact details for their leadership team demonstrate a lack of faith in your business in our view. Retail is personal. The service of needs of retailers its personal. Here at Tower Systems you can see who we are and tap into our contact details easily, quickly. If you are looking at a POS software company and can’t see authentic photos and genuine leadership team contact details, wonder about their commitment to personal service.
  • Fake sales people. Some POS software companies use fake names for sales people. They use a cartoon type image to represent them, too. This should be a warning sign. Not using real names and real images or videos may reflect rapid turnover of sales people. That’s a warning sign right there. You want your POS software sales person to stand by what they sell. they do this by being themselves and sharing their real contact details.
  • Clip Art. if you see that on a POS software business website run, run fast! It’s so 1980s, so out of date … leaving you to wonder if their software is out of date.
  • Free software. You’re in business right?! You understand that businesses need income to exist. Free is not a sustainable business model.
  • Are they on a list of the best? Check it out because it may be a list they paid to be on. If a few clicks you can soon discover this.
  • Fact check. Let’s say, for example, they claim to a partner with, hmmm, Microsoft. You can soon see if this is true. If they are not such a partner you then know they have made an inaccurate claim on their website. Is that what you want from a PSO software company.

We share these tips today as a reminder that not all POS software companies are the same. Do your research. Start with what you need in your business and then focus on the best software that serves your business needs. remember, you are in control. Choose what you want, what you know is right for your business.

Beware the con of POS software comparison websites

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There is a con online that is duping small business retailers. The con is POS software comparison websites … that they do not compare software.

Too often POS software comparison websites do no comparison at all. They will accept any POS software business to be listed through them as long as that business agrees to the fees charged by the comparison website. It really is that simple. Pay the bucks and your business is put forward as one recommended as worthy of consideration.

There is no comparison done by POS software comparison websites. They are an ad platform that POS software companies pay to be listed on.

We know this from first hand experience being signed up to a POS software comparison website for a short time. They didn’t;t compare us, check us out, look at our software or do anything that could be considered an assessment of our suitability.

POS software comparison websites do not comp0are POS software.

Sure, you enter responses to some questions – this is only so they can provide their customers, the paying POS software companies, more information about your needs.

POS software comparison websites are an ad platform plain and simple.

Look at the POS software listed through them and you may not be seeing all of the software options that could be suited to your specific business needs.

There is no substitute to thorough research. You owe it to your retail business to do that. This is why we recommend against using a POS software comparison website – they restrict the businesses pitched to you. They do this without really understanding your business needs.

POS software comparison websites do not compare software, certainly not in our experience at least.

Our opinion is that if your business is serious about its POS software you need to do your own research, create your own short.list and do the work of looking at the software yourself. This way you are pursuing the outcome that is most appropriate to your own business needs, based on your own work and focus. We are certain this approach will give you a better business outcome.

Buyer beware. That POS software comparison website that says it has done the work for you and done the comparison and found the best of the best may have done none off those things.

Buyer beware: comparison websites may not have compared as they claim

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Product and service comparison websites are popular online. If you search for POS software, it is likely that an ad from a comparison website will be the top result. Indeed, depending on the time of day you search, the first three or four results will be be for comparison websites advertising POS software.

What’s wrong with advertising? Nothing, if the claims in the ad are accurate.

Based on our personal experience, comparison websites do not provide the service they suggest they offer. While online the comparison website we worked with claimed to have compared POS software in order to recommend the best, no such comparison was undertaken. Once we saw, first hand, what they were doing we ended our short relationship with them.

Does this mean all comparison websites operate this way, claiming they have compared products and services to bring you the best? No. we can only speak to what we experienced ourselves. However, that experience was enough for us to say, no thank you. We will not engage with sites that claim something they do not do.

We wish the ACCC, state based Consumer Affairs and other authorities would look into the operation of comparison websites, getting behind the scenes, looking at the contracts and understanding the evidence. we think they will find that some comparison websites are an ad platform plain and simple – claiming to compare when they in fact do no such comparison. Shoppers are duped in these situations, thinking they are being recommended the best fit, the best software … when, in fact, they are being pitched software the comparison website is paid to ‘recommend’.

We wish Google would look at this as well as they are making money from the comparison website game being played. these websites pay Google too appear ahead of natural search results. They are profiting from the game being played.

Here at Tower Systems we want our software to be installed by businesses that choose it based on their own research and active comparison with other possible solutions. We want to be authentically chosen for good business reasons and not because we paid to come up first in some fake best of the best search result online.

If you are searching for a product or service and a comparison website advertises to be a top result, our advice is beware, do your research … choose based on what you discover for yourself and not based on what a nameless and faceless website claims is the best of the best. Deep pockets for advertising doe not make a company or product the best.

Failure of leadership at Parliament House in response to report of rape

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Failure of leadership at Parliament House in response to report of rape.

The handling of the report of rape in ministerial offices at Parliament House in Canberra in 2019 reveals a failure of responsibility and care from ministers in the government, others in leadership positions in the government and some in the press gallery.

The Prime Minister’s comments earlier this week disgusted me. Who knows what Jen might have told him if they had sons.

Now, a week on from the story surfacing, we are slowly getting more evidence that reveals how appallingly this report has been handled by the government.

The victim comes first. Care for them ought be paramount. Instead, we have had obfuscation, denial and backgrounding to journalists against the victim.

What has been on show in Canberra is dreadful leadership that disrespects victims and women more broadly. I would be ashamed if this happened in my business.

We need better from our politicians, those who work for them and journalists.

Shame on us if we let this story pass us by without speaking up.

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