I recently had an op-ed published in The Age My Small Business on the lessons I have learnt in the last 10 years as CEO of ImPOS Point of Sale.
Have a read of the article below:
At 22 years old I, like many young guys, was working in Melbourne’s bar scene. It was there I recognised that the then-existing point of sale software available was clunky and not suited to the fast-paced needs of the hospitality industry, and set out to build my own.
My response was ImPOS, a venture that started in a two-car garage and has grown to be an international company with over 1800 customers including 21 of Australia’s top 100 restaurants. Not bad for a company that is entirely bootstrapped.
ImPOS has just turned 10, and while the company is successful, it hasn’t come without its adversities and learnings. Here are my top 10 lessons from a decade of being an entrepreneur in Australia.
- Don’t be too trusting of your business partners
Early in the business, my co-founder drained the business account before skipping the country. Hence, it’s crucial to have dual signatures on all business bank accounts.
- Delegate, but also make sure you’re across key business activities
I once had a situation where a business partner in charge of critical parts of the business started selling products off the books, then pocketing the money. I had no idea this was happening until it was too late.
As a business leader it’s impossible to be across all aspects of the business, however there are ways to ensure you’re across key activities that will impact the business’s bottom line; including setting up a clear and regular reporting process. This enables you to stay abreast of what is happening in each department without micro-managing staff.
- Always read the fine print
Once I was tripped up by a contract with a financing company with the term “release of recourse.” It was only after signing the contract that I discovered the term meant the company would stop sending all repayments if we experienced any repayment problems with even just one client.
It’s crucial you understand all terms in a contract before signing. This doesn’t mean becoming an expert in law, but it does mean consulting a lawyer before signing anything.
- Never outsource the development of your core product
ImPOS once tried to outsource the development of our core product to China: it ended up costing far more than to keep the development in-house, and the product was not good. For entrepreneurs that choose to outsource some development, my key advice is to ensure you have the right management and processes in place to ensure it works smoothly.
Another challenge for business owners that choose to keep development in-house is to ensure you attract and retain good developers. Screen them properly during the interview process, and ensure you offer flexible working options to encourage them to stay.
- Don’t be afraid to employ entrepreneurs
Encouraging staff to be entrepreneurial is crucial, but can be daunting. Over the years we’ve had a number of entrepreneurs in the business. Some stay, some go, but ultimately their creativity, drive and problem-solving abilities have provided numerous efficiencies and growth opportunities. We’ve even created a spin-off business called Doshii, which was conceived and established by two employees with my assistance. It was their drive and input that is ultimately what got Doshii off the ground.
- Stay relevant: Keep on top of key trends
Ten years ago, there wasn’t really anything in the market like ImPOS. However in an industry prone to digital disruption, it’s crucial we keep innovating.
Observing other industries outside point-of-sale and hospitality – an example being the payments industry – has helped ImPOS to identify how different technologies, processes or systems can be adapted to ‘disrupt’ or create advantage over competitors.
- Use strategic partnerships for growth
Identifying business offerings that “add value” to your clients and customers is crucial, both for market differentiation and future business growth. When looking to invest in new technology for your business, always look for those that integrate with other tools you are already using. For example, our partnership with restaurant booking platform Dimmi helps clients increase revenue by maximising the earning potential of tables, by adding and updating reservations in real time using their venue’s POS system.
Partnerships such as this one have ultimately strengthened our offering and have opened new doors, enabling new business leads.
- Use business data to predict future performance
Harnessing business intelligence platforms will help you understand how your business is performing in real-time and enable you to make strategic, insightful business decisions. Our partnership with Yellowfin has enabled customers to integrate their point-of-sale data with the rostering system to compare historical data and make accurate rostering and budgeting plans for seasonal changes and public holidays.
- Always look for small ways to improve your balance sheet
When it comes to business finance, it’s the little one per centers that are often overlooked. Review your trade partners to ensure you’re getting the best prices and quality on systems and processes. Further, take a long-term view to cash flow, particularly if your business is exposed to seasonal change that may experience peaks and troughs.
- Be ready for disruption
For a business that was once a ‘disrupter’ to the POS industry, there are now new global cloud disrupters entering the Australian market. This only illustrates why it’s essential all entrepreneurs be on the lookout for signs of disruption, and potential opportunities to be disrupters themselves. ImPOS has to continue to innovate by introducing new products.