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Bernard Zimmermann, Founder of POS Solutions

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Bernard Zimmermann is a software developer and designer who was one of the first to see the potential of computerising retail and so founded in 1983 POS Solutions with the purpose of helping retailers. Today POS Solutions with offices Australia-wide is one of the largest and leading providers of point of sale and e-commerce software to Australian retailers which has been and is still used in thousands of stores.

He is also a highly regarded retail software blogger whose blog “POS Software” is widely read.

He consults to many large organisations such as News Corporation and the Australian Taxation Office.

Most importantly, Bernard provides tools and advice to help make retail thrive through his writings, speeches and workshops. He is dedicated to helping grow the businesses’ capabilities and connections and to get each and every client to that next level of success, no matter where they are in the process right now.

Bernard lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife, a French and German teacher and real estate developer, their daughter and a dog. In his spare time, which he rarely gets, he enjoys reading about history, politics and science, as well as play chess.

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In your own words what do you do?

I consider that I am trying to help small, medium and independent retailers use technology to improve and grow their own businesses.

What led you to your current business?

After a lot of research, I knew retail very well having been born and raised in a small family retail shop and then having worked in many retail stores. Once I graduated from engineering, I became a software developer and consultant with Zac Varga, who later became my business partner. What we noticed was that there were few decent softwares for retail shops in those days. What we saw were generally modified accounting programs, which in practice tended to be unusable for retail. So we wrote a list of requirements that retail needed. Then in one month, I wrote our first point of sale system. It says much about the existing systems back then that this quickly written POS software was considered better than what was out there. This package became one of the most successful point of sale systems in Australia.

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Could you walk us through your process of developing your business?

What we were aiming for was long-term growth. We were first of all two technical people, who were willing to work our butts off, and we knew that although we could not compete with the marketing budget of our competitors, we knew we could technically produce something remarkable and outproduce them in quality. If we had a few sites, word of mouth would spread our products. This became our plan.

It worked. People started to hear of us; they came to see our system, our sales figures increased dramatically as our software increased the productivity of our clients’ businesses. We then spent nearly all our profits on technology and actively chased emerging technology and followed industry trends and used them to improve our product and make it more relevant. It cost us practically everything, but we knew we had to have the best point of sale system.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties in the beginning?

I had a dream, yet when I tried to get going, like many startups, at first it was all vapour but it still was my dream. Until I became firmly established, there was always a doubt. With pos software, this is a critical challenge or barrier to entry as people tend to buy major point of sale software on lease, which is generally five to seven years. If they have doubts about you being there in this period, they will not buy your product. Our competitors, jealous of our success and knowing that they could not compete with us technically often spread half-truths and lied about us. Although we were never outclassed technologically, we certainly had much to learn about the commercial realities.

What is your long term plan?

I love what I do; I want to keep doing it, as long as I can. I love being productive and useful. I love helping people get the most out of their business. I love to learn about technology. Basically I do not work, but I get paid to do what I like doing.

Could you share with us some industry insights?

There is a saying ‘count the pennies and the pounds’ and the business will look after itself. This is so true. Every business has to count every penny. Margins are rarely high today and it is in the pennies where the profit is but remember although the lack of profit may kill you in the long run, the lack of cashflow will kill you immediately. Cashflow must be monitored at all times as lack of liquid capital is the major cause of business failure. No matter if the creditor is big or small, every creditor must be watched.  The biggest creditors including goverment departments can be the slowestpayers. You must always ask yourself: ‘Can I afford this contract?’ I have seen many businesses go under with no cash yet on paper they had good profits.

Technology, the politics of a country and society change dramatically today but industry changes even faster.  Do not count on what you are used to be continuing. It will not. Recently, I have seen some shops that were in existence for years, suddenly devastated when a rail development closed most of the roads servicing that shopping centre. A fish shop lost much of its traffic when the supermarket decided to put a line of fish products.

What are some important lessons you’ve learnt about entrepreneurship?

Planning, just a little, can give you direction and purpose.
The first point is to develop a mission statement. What I see far too often is people who do not make one or make one like for a Uni assignment and eventually disregard it. Soon they forget why they went into business or their goals altogether. They run their business with no purpose.

Before you do anything create a mission statement for your company and ensure you also list the benefit to your clients as one of your foremost company goals.

Before we did anything, we looked at the current state of the market for our product. We immediately created a short mission statement for our software and what we considered our point of difference was. After that we had our sales pitch that we could explain to any potential client or supplier in thirty seconds for what our company stood.

Any tips for achieving success?

Get used to failure, refusal, negativity and mockery.

As you proceed with your business, you will often face doubts and criticisms from competitors, lawyers, people in the market, employees and even friends and relatives.  Some will be true as we all make stupid mistakes and we sometimes trust people who let us down; we take chances that fail, so we need to accept that it is a learning process like everyday life itself. People are going to say NO. For every contract you get, there are probably five that you will miss out on. The knockers are everywhere. This is the way business is.

Develop a thick skin. What I do, if it gets too much, is go and see some clients that are happy with our services and products. Talk to them. After all, they are what you are here for. Look how far you have come, pick yourself up, consider it a learning experience and move on.

Connect

Website: www.possolutions.com.au
Linkedin: https://au.linkedin.com/in/bernard-zimmermann-25407918
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/POSSOLUTIONSAU/

 

Callum Connects

Mark Winterton, General Manager of InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay

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Mark Winterton has dedicated his life to achieving unparalleled and extraordinary guest experiences in the hospitality industry.

What’s your story?
I’m a seasoned hospitality professional with over twenty years international experience launching luxury brands, repositioning existing brands and driving innovation for some of the world’s most successful hotels.

As General Manager of InterContinental® Singapore Robertson Quay, I’m responsible for the strategic positioning of the property as the next generation of the InterContinental hotel brand and have been spearheading the hotel since its opening in October 2017, with the goal of achieving a unique and unrivalled market positioning as Singapore’s most luxurious residential hotel.

I started my career with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG®) in 1995 and have since been dedicating myself towards achieving perfection. I find immense fulfillment in leading my team towards achieving extraordinary and unparalleled guest experiences.

What excites you most about your industry?
The hospitality industry boasts an extremely dynamic landscape, and we are always seeing new hotels opening alongside the entry of burgeoning brands. This growth has, over time developed positive competition and generated positive driving forces that have elevated the overall standard of the industry in Singapore. The industry has a dynamic landscape. There are many opportunities to bring the right people together and create amazing teams to launch or reposition hotels. The process of creating teams, inspiring individuals and then working together to bring a project to life is where I find the excitement lies.

What’s your connection to Asia?
The lure of Asia has always been very strong for foreign economies and companies, with great accessibility to new opportunities, customers, consumers and clients. My first foray into Asia was back in 2007, when I launched Crowne Plaza Changi Airport in Singapore. Following that, I was also based in Bangkok for a couple of years for the rebranding of Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park. Over my years in Asia, I have had the opportunity to truly immerse myself in new cultures, establish new connections with key counterparts and friends; and these have further solidified my interest in and strengthened my connection to Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore. Commonly known as the gateway to Asia, we’ve been blessed with a stable government, a sound political economy and a comprehensive infrastructure for reliable business operations. With tremendous efforts put in by the Singapore Tourism Board towards elevating the city as an attractive venue for visitors, the growth of Singapore as a key MICE destination, coupled with a cosmopolitan pool of talent, Singapore remains my favourite city in Asia for business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“You can never be 100% ready for a new role.” I believe that there will always be room for growth and learning on the job. As long as a person is 80% ready for a new role, the opportunity should be extended. I am a strong believer in the development of people and the grooming of talent, and this piece of advice has allowed me to take more chances on people I’ve worked with and developed over the years.

Who inspires you?
Simon Sinek, a speaker with TED Talk.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I don’t think I can pinpoint just one lesson learnt recently, as learning is an ongoing process. No matter how small a piece of knowledge may seem, it should be valued. Everyday is a journey of learning and development.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing at all. I don’t believe in regrets and everything that has happened thus far, has had a part to play in who I am and where I stand today.

How do you unwind?
Spending time with friends over relaxed conversations and wine or working my green fingers in my balcony garden.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali. It’s one destination where I’ve always returned to, simply because it offers me the same level of comfort and familiarity each time I return. It’s where I can feel most relaxed, yet still be able to enjoy the vibrant dining scene.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.

Shameless plug for your business:
Officially opened on 12 October 2017, InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay is the first international luxury hotel brand situated at Robertson Quay. Set amidst a dynamic, sophisticated neighbourhood along the Singapore River, known for its dining options and arts houses, the luxury residential-inspired hotel has been carefully curated by world-­class designers, architects and culinary purveyors. Located minutes away from the CBD, the hotel still maintains a stylish but laid back, relaxed feel in the leafy, upscale neighbourhood of Robertson Quay. The hotel offers 225 luxurious studios and suites, including an expansive Penthouse, which has unparalleled views of both the Singapore River and vibrant city via floor-­to-­ceiling windows.

The residential-­inspired property combines elements from Robertson Quay’s industrial and intriguing past with sleek contemporary finishes whilst seamlessly blending into the residential surrounds. Light-­filled room interiors have been designed to magnify the familiar comforts of home where guests may enjoy bespoke amenities such as a specially designed in-­room cocktail kit.

Established as part of a holistic dining and lifestyle destination, the hotel boasts a wide range of restaurant and bar concepts. Flagship restaurant Publico, representing the central core of Italian culture, is a multi-­concept dining destination comprising a variety of Italian experiences under one roof – a neighbourhood deli and bar and a ristorante with adjoining terrazzo by the river. Other highlights throughout the hotel include New York institution Wolfgang’s Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener, and a bar and dining concept from the team behind Izy Sushi. Over 40 other dining options await at the hotel doorstep, in The Quayside precinct.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markwinterton1/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Joel Tay, CEO of Soft Space

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With a desire to run his own business, Joel Tay wanted to tick two boxes first – trying his hand in the corporate world and knowing the business he wanted to end up in.

What’s your story?
I’ve always wanted to run my own business. Before that, I needed to fulfill two important things. The first thing, having a corporate foundation, and the second, knowing the business that I’m getting into. First of all, after gaining experience with Ernst and Young, I started a school in Jakarta with my mother, who used to be a teacher. Some of my ex-colleagues laughed at me for doing this instead of working towards partnership like everybody else.

While the school was running, I returned to the corporate world because I was given a chance to try out something I’ve always wanted to try, consulting in IT Security, and this time with PwC. In my second return to the business world, I never looked back. I started a mobile device distribution company with friends, and later on diversified into IT Consulting in Mobile Device Management, and subsequently ended up in the payments business.

Today I manage Soft Space – a company thriving in the payments industry with a group of talented colleagues and engineers. The school I mentioned earlier is now in 8 different locations across Jakarta serving more than one thousand students.

What excites you most about your industry?
Payments are evolving so quickly; there’s so much to learn. No one can really say that they know everything there is to know about payments. I have learnt so much going from one country to another learning each time how payments work uniquely in each society.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia is Soft Space’s focus. We strongly believe that markets in Asia will be the primary drivers and innovators in the payments space for years to come.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Bangkok. I have a great business partner there, the banks are innovative, the market is huge and the people are creative.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
My parents reading Matthew 6:33 to me: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” This has taught me to prioritise the important things in life, and then everything else will fall into place according to God’s will.

Who inspires you?
My father and my Godfather. Both are men of principles who are very successful in their own trade, loving to their families and God-fearing.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The amount of money technology companies in the US lost in 2017. In Asia, and in particular SEA, investors won’t take two glances at your company if you’re not profitable to begin with.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Learn Mandarin. When I was young, my teacher gave a group of us a choice – attend Mandarin classes or wash school toilets. Every time I hear my colleagues laugh when I try to speak Mandarin, I think of that moment when we walked towards the toilet.

How do you unwind?
I watch movies with my wife. It takes us to another world and back to reality in two hours. No vacation can be so fast and effective.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali. Friendly people, great resorts and good restaurants.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. There are many lessons to be learned from the man who had it all, lost it all, and earned it back again.

Shameless plug for your business:
No one can claim to have one solution that fits all in payments. Your needs are always different and unique to the market you’re operating in. I’d like to think that we’ve been around the industry long enough to be able to advise and customise something for you. https://www.softspace.com.my/about-us

How can people connect with you?
I’m always just an email away – [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@crusaderdotcom

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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