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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

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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

Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

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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