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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

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

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

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

Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

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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