| JARLTECH CEO BLOG|
| Impaired Business because of Customs?|
|1) Customs and the IT industry should in itself be friends, because there are on most goods simply no duties. A device with a power cable dos not cost any duty. But if we get 100 units, plus 60 cables for Germany and 60 for England, which we then selectively distribute, then customs says that does not fit together, so duty must be paid for the cable. Annoying, but we are talking peanuts here.|
So it came to pass, that a customs inspection over a period of several years not only gave us at headquarters weeks worth of work, but also ended with a tiny subsequent payment - as was expected. It's not that you can just specify at customs what you want: occasionally a customs examination is carried out, and you can rest assured that samples will be taken. The only positive aspect here was that the customs examiner was very friendly and that we even learned a few things along the way.
2) Now it gets even better: even customs can make a mistake and misjudge something. In our case, touch screen monitors believed to be televisions. The negative impact on us: 70,000 euros. Clearly an error, but this can happen, and a refund request should go through easily. This it did, but it has taken more than a year - and all we heard was: you got lucky. And regarding telephone inquiries at customs: please do not call anymore. Written requests? No answer. And that's where the German government is supposedly so well organized.
3) What has really annoyed us was a delivery of cash drawers via the Port of Hamburg last week. An examination of the container was requested. So what normally takes less than an hour, and I have seen it personally once: the container was opened, the officials only just peeked inside, and then they closed the container - 30 seconds tops.
It was only harmful to business because for this brief act, whose meaning I do not want to doubt, we suddenly needed ten days lead time. "We have too much to do." Very well, but the economy has to run, right? So couldn't night shift or temporary workers carry this out? Alternatively, how about a 24-hour lead, and if the examiner cannot look at the container in this time frame, it just gets released? How are we to explain to the customer that the goods are just standing around?
My goodness, my dear customs office - get your act together - and please try to keep from hindering the economy as much as possible. Duties should be understood as a service to the economy, protect it from dumping prices, moonlighting, criminal goods and plagiarism - and this at a reasonable speed. It's not nice if everyone goes on a rant about you!
| Like (46)|
| Our first house search|
|It really is a bright start to the day when not only the sun shines, but there also is a five-person squad from the criminal investigation department, holding a search warrant, is waiting for you at your company in the morning. And our somewhat shocked office manager standing next to them.|
It was clear that this case did not concern us - who has ever heard of someone being arrested for offering good service (haha), and the cover girl on our catalogue is neither naked nor underage.
What actually is appalling, however, is the scale of the crime because of which they are investigating at our and five further companies. A longtime employee of one of our vendors actually sold goods worth about a million euros - during a period of three or four years - without his employer knowing. And he sold to distributors who thought they were buying the goods directly.
By the way, this is not information from the investigation, but from the deceived company itself, that informed us months ago.
As for us, we placed our orders directly with the vendor via e-mail, while the goods often came from a company that was owned by the fraudster. The pretended reason for this was a lawsuit against a former "exclusive distributor" of the vendor, which required the detour. Accordingly, payments were made to this company.
That did not work out well, because, at some point, we needed to return goods, which we sent to the vendor directly. They, however, wondered about devices with dubious serial numbers and started investigating.
Incidentally, the vendor is owned by an investor, and if I were him, I would have dismissed the CEO, first thing. Fraud is nasty, but falling for it is not that clever either - especially considering the huge sum.
Well, we were able to contribute a fair amount of documentation, that has been seized by the criminal investigators (who were very friendly and constructive) - although all the effort might be for naught, as the accused man has... disappeared.
| Like (106)|
| Impatience is good!|
|I continually preach that a quick response is an elementary part of the Jarltech DNA. On the one hand, I am often impressed by how quickly decisions are made here. On the other hand, it sometimes happens that we receive complaints about our response time.|
It is only human to first want to place the blame on someone else -- and the truth is, we often answer customer inquiries too late, because we are waiting on information from suppliers. This affects more than just the movement of goods, since responses from contractors or service providers frequently come too late. Or, sometimes, not at all. This is the best hobby of them all. When it comes to "letting the garbage be washed away" you simply do not answer a question. I am sure that in 30% of the cases no one even notices.
If you look deeper you will realise that you lose a lot of time because of the time needed on the telephone to chase down answers. What is even worse is having to remind your own employees or partners about something that they should have taken care of a long time ago. And impatience with suppliers is particularly justified when they need six weeks and five reminders to prepare a grant statement, but who immediately call the first day when a payment is overdue.
There is no end to the discrepancies: our organizationally-slowest supplier decided one Friday afternoon to publicise a highly complex promotional activity, which should be retroactively effective!!! Plus, the next work day they called, and were very nervous -- where is the order worth millions?! Unbelievable.
In order to improve our service, keep our nerves intact and, above all, save time, we have decided to demand answers quicker and more aggressively. It is one thing to deal with people who cannot make a decision -- but they should at least be able to find someone in their own company who is capapble of making a decision, within a reasonable amount of time. The type of employee who says: "We are a large corporation, whose board only convenes every six weeks. I do not think I should ask them now." is then no longer the right partner for us. If one of our customers is not happy with his representative we are happy if he tells us, instead of quietly turning to the competition.
Regarding what affects me personally, the reader can derive two things from this entry:
-- Please do not try to "lull" me into anything.
-- And the othe way round: I always answer right away, or not at all. In case I do not answer that means that I simply do not have any interest, so you have to ask more aggressively. :) I gladly allow equal rights for everyone...
| Like (20)|
| A flattering compliment|
|Today an email from Holland made me happy. How nice it is to receive messages that do not only mention things which did not run smoothly. :) Here is the email:|
We don't know each other yet - but I came across your company via a particular route:
- 16-Jan-13, Epson meets a Dutch POS-specialist in New York and recommends Sweebr to him;
- 18-Jan-13, 13:59 Epson calls us, explains about a new Epson printer product, well suited for web applications;
- 18-Jan-13, 12:42 I order a sample of the product and set a date to meet Epson on 23-Jan-13, 15:00
- 18-Jan-13, 14:43 your company is introduced (Chris Bruls), CoC# etc. mailed
- 18-Jan-13, 15:50 email received "Welcome to Jarltech?"
- 18-Jan-13, 16:34 email received "Order confirmation"
- 18-Jan-13, 18:28 email received "Your products are shipped"
- 18-Jan-13, 18:28 email received "Your invoice"
(inserted by myself:
- 21-Jan-13, 13:35 products delivered by DPD)
In less than 4.5 hours lead time, from introduction to shipped products. Must say congratulations!
Chief Happy Customer Officer
Ok, I must mention that there is something more to the story, than just the above-mentioned excerpts. For example, the customer's internal credit application was also being processed.
Speed is a part of the Jarltech DNA, and our Dutch sales team did a great job here, along with our logistics group. We also cannot forget that our IT played a key role here:
Our ERP software is an entire product of its own, on which five programmers work every day. And every day there are now, on average, two recommendations for improvement from our global team. While our favorite competitor is busy trying to sue an ERP software house for millions, we are happy every day with our own software. This is not meant as an argument against standard software - it is just that we have been used to utilizing our own product for more than 20 years. Surely, this is more expensive than a standard solution, but at Jarltech, this is not even worth considering.
Thank you again Bart, you made my day. :)
| Like (49)|
| Figures 2012|
|Well, here now is our first, enjoyable ballpark report on our results in 2012. The Group's consolidated turnover amounts to about 105 to 110 million euros (or 137 to 143 million US dollars), which represents at least a 30% increase.|
The calculation now also includes the turnover of Jarltech France SAS and, for a part of the year, of our new company in China.
More detailed data will follow with the release of our corporate balance, expected in the beginning of April.
I wish everyone a successful year 2013!
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| Teamwork on the Cookbook|
|A Jarltech cookbook with 36 dishes from all of our sales areas...cooked and photographed by Jarltech employees, and printed in each employee's language, as well as in English. This was the idea we had in June, and it was a Herculean task for our marketing department.|
I am proud of my team, that we were able to have this small, yet very unique, present for our customers ready in time for December 1st. Every beginning is hard, and after a few small stumbles ("I cannot cook" - "I do not have any ideas" - "No time") it could have been twice as thick as it is now.
Here I also wish to say a special "thank you" for financial support from Datalogic, Honeywell, Epson, Citizen, HP and Panasonic. Perhaps next year we will let our suppliers do the cooking for the next volume! :)
If you have not yet received your copy, please call your sales representative.
| Like (6)|
| Dreams During Company Appraisals|
|Our entire industry is in motion:|
While we have already purchased two companies this year, some other competitors seem to develop differently. Already two "multi-nationals" may soon fall again into their formerly separate parts. Another, however, our "favorite competitor" reports falling sales figures in the last quarterly report. From our perspective: no surprise.
Right now I have more or less five concrete offers on the table for acquisition opportunities. Some of the companies have become too small for the market, have problems with the banks, or no longer fit well into the vendors' channel strategy.
That would be a nice opportunity to increase our growth even further, were it not for the unpleasant question about the corporate assessment of potential candidates.
I often do not know if I should laugh or cry. Here is a selection of misguided assumptions from company owners ... I declare that I have heard all these phrases in at least five languages:
- "My company makes 15% margin in distribution, and will always remain so. No, there is no trend towards declining margins. In my country XXX it is quite unlike anywhere else."
- "It does not matter what the company is worth! The purchase price must be high enough so that I can comfortably retire!"
- The escalation: If there is more than one owner, then the purchase price must also be higher, because they all want to retire comfortably.
- "No, I cannot give any guarantees for amounts outstanding or the stock value, of course. Assume that everything is 100% recoverable."
- "Actually, the company would have earned much more, but I'm paid such a high salary." (because of course the company does not need Management anymore after the acquisition)
- "We only make losses, because we want to save on taxes."
Not even our American competitors fall for something like this. :)
In most cases once a vendor makes the decision to terminate the contract with the distributor, the company's value suddenly drops to zero or below.
My dear people, we live in 2012. There was a financial crisis, and acquisitions always have to be cash-positive. This is possible, and can also be good for both sides. But without a more realistic view of things, it does not work. As you know, one can not bake equity.
Anyway, I will tirelessly continue to negotiate (I am, after all, paid to do so), and go and find a creative solution. But in case of
doubt, we prefer to grow "organically" rather than pay a lot of money for others to retire on.
| Like (4)|
| The company is quiet and peaceful: closed in the mornings, and the afternoons too :)|
|I just had to smile when a competitor's mass mailing reached me. "Due to stocktaking no goods can be shipped for two days." Mind you, this is a distributor, no vendor who can plan longterm.|
And the warehouse is also not closed on 31 December, but rather, two days in Q4, the strongest quarter of our industry. Add to that that this company also lives from distributing devices which should precisely simplify this stocktaking process. It seems rather embarrassing.
Quick logistics is the number one priority in distribution. Therefore, there is a "perpetual stocktaking", or one does this once on a weekend. But why should I get upset: of course our sales team will support the competitor's customers on these days.
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| A scare and a surprise early in the morning|
|You know that we actively promote our creative and flexible logistics, but here is an example from the day to day that surprised even me this morning:|
Every night we drive to the DPD depot in Linz, Austria with our own small transporters, so that we can hand over the packages for the alpine country before midnight. Only via this powerful endeavor (1,100 kilometers every night) can we ensure that our packages will be delivered in Austria the following day.
Last night one of our vehicles was involved in an accident (though not his fault). Thankfully, the driver is ok, except for a few bruises. The accident occurred shortly before 11pm, one hour away from the DPD hub. Instead of driving to the hospital for safety's sake, our driver had the vehicle towed for an entire hour to DPD. Only after all the packages were unloaded in time did he head for the hospital to be checked over. And the packages arrived punctually today at our customers. Mission success. Unbelievable.
It is of course right to say that such "hero's action" is irresponsible, and that personal health trumps everything. If the hospital had found something more seriously wrong, we certainly would not have been happy today. However, the deed greatly impressed me, as did the coordination and decision making during the night. A special commendation to you!
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| Jarltech Beerfest in Shenzhen-Shekou|
|Paulaner beer is being brewed in China for a long time now. Beer connoisseurs say, however, that it tastes different than the Paulaner beer you get in Germany. Since I am not a beer drinker, I can only rely on them, and concur that the imported beer tastes better.|
Timely enough, this coming Friday, August 10th the first Jarltech Beerfest will take place in China. In Shenzhen-Shekou we found a lovely beer hall, supported by Paulaner, and run by a German.
We have invited 120 guests to this Bavarian-designed event - and we received 120 acceptances. Something worth mentioning: the customers are not all from the local area, but rather, from all 10 of our Chinese offices, where the most important customers were invited. Taking part are 60 top customers, with whom we will spend the weekend after on Hainan Island. So, for these customers, the Beerfest means more stress than for a normal trip.
When we plan events in foreign countries we always try to make it as local an event as possible, as if we were a local company in that particular country. We started our business in China with this approach but had almost squandered an important essential strength. Because here the German (and European) roots make a good impression.
The Beerfest is also the release party for our first Chinese catalogue. Just before printing we removed our Asian cover girl and replaced her with our blond European model. The unanimous opinion of our Chinese marketing employees was: great! Now we just have to teach our Chinese customers to drink beer! :)
Ok, so maybe I should look for my Lederhosen for Friday...
| Like (1)|
| End of the quarter panic|
|My 10 favorite vendor quotes at the end of the quarter:|
1) We normally do not exert warehousing pressure on the distribution at the end of the quarter, and haven't for years. This time was an exceptional situation.
2) Mr. Spranger, of course no other distributor will receive this offer!
3) You can be sure that we will deduct the additional turnover now from your next quarterly goal.
4) But if you take these 100 pallets now, then we won't have anything left and you can be the sole supplier!
5) We simply expect a distributor to store goods for seven or eight months sometimes.
6) We will not leave you hanging with leftover goods!
7) You have to accept these three truck deliveries because in the next quarter we want to do business with our small direct partners via you.
8) This large order is very important for your reputation at our headquarters in the USA/Japan/....
9) If you have to rent an additional warehouse, then of course we will pay for the storage costs.
10) We restructured during this quarter and that is why we are unable to deviate, particularly in this quarter.
And yes, our warehouses are popping at the seams, and yes, we are looking forward to the nice products, but honestly, where will you find a manager who has the backbone to honestly tell his boss or the stock exchange that the market is like it is, and that every advanced quarterly business leads to price and profit erosion. And where will you find a stock holder who takes the time to check out what goods are being pressed through at the last minute - because these altered figures are not appropriate for corporate leadership and rating.
But what am I talking about? With us on 31 December it is exactly the senseless opposite, because we need as little inventory as possible due to Basel II. Even this indicator holds no weight regarding the value of the company, but why should I fight against windmills. :)
Ok, enough complaining. Now we need to make space, because on Monday the deliveries from 29 June will arrive. And some vendors who need three weeks to answer a simple delivery time question can suddenly deliver pallets, even on Saturdays. :)
| Like (4)|
| Love China!|
|For the past two hours, I have been sitting in the car on Hainan Island, on the way from Sanya to Haikou. We had a successful "Mobility Weekend" in Sanya together with Honeywell and Elo Touch Solutions, but the trip back decided to be difficult.|
Unfortunately a typhoon stopped by, making the weekend a bit more challenging. It only rained once though over the weekend - it started on Friday night and ended on Monday afternoon.
Bernd, who flew back to Shenzhen with the main group of travelers, spent the night in the airport and could see first-hand how the flight passengers banded together and made the check-in crew's lives miserable, until they ended up apologizing for the bad weather. Afterwards they stormed the First Class lounge. But it did not help: if no plane can land because of bad weather, then of course no plane can take off.
So, the entire group went via train to Haikou, without any sleep. There, the airport was also closed, but not quite as much as in Sanya. Instead of arriving on Sunday afternoon, our employees arrived at home on Monday night.
Since I did not need to go to Shenzhen, but rather Shanghai, I am just now driving through the car wash. Every few minutes I get a call telling me which flights have been cancelled and which have not. In China, they do not like to admit failures, and on the official airport websites it looks like "business as usual". Sanya alone has cancelled 75 flights, which are all on time, according to the website.
But the reality looks different. My driver takes me and my bottle of red wine through the night for hours, to bring me from the closed Sanya airport to the newly reopened Haikou airport. Then I get a call that my flight was cancelled, but that the flight one hour earlier will depart on schedule. I kindly ask my driver to step on the gas, but: he suddenly stops and steps out of the car. I thought I asked too much of him and that he was going to throw me out into the typhoon.
But: "Sorry, Sir, I can bring you to Haikou on time, but I have to cover the license plates." and he places covers over both the front and rear license plates. And just like that, you can drive 200 kph in China. Cool! Don't let anyone ever tell you that the Chinese do not have creative solutions.
As much as I could tell in the rain, we were caught by speed camera eight times, and we have been driving for two hours with our hazard warning flasher on. However, Hainan has brand-new highways, so that I can comfortably work on my laptop while drinking my wine. Love China!
The most important piece of knowledge about the stormy weather came from my mentor, Y.S. Chang, who sat completely relaxed with a cup of tea as the rain flooded the grounds: "Rain is good. Rain means money." Ok then.
You can see pictures from our Sanya trip on www.facebook.com/jarltech
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| Logistics on Public Holidays|
|We do 40% of our business in Germany. But does that mean that on a public holiday we suddenly cannot help our customers in France or England? Why should a customer in Belgium have to wait longer for his order? Normally the customer does not even know that our warehouse is in Germany.|
Even worse is when the public holiday does not affect all of Germany, as is the case with this coming Thursday. Hesse is closed, and of course, the shipping companies in Hesse. Should we let our competition take our customer from Hannover away from us, just because he needs his delivery on Friday? I think not.
If we tell a customer in Luxembourg or Poland that Jarltech delivers everything the same day, than we need to do so. Effective immediately our warehouse is open on public holidays with a smaller workforce, and our Sprinter fleet (trucks are not allowed to drive on public holidays!) delivers the packages simply to the shipping companies' foreign hubs. After France and Austria we are already on the go daily with several vehicles.
On such days our technical department has an emergency crew who speak the languages of the countries which are open, plus our sales departments in the open regions are also on duty.
This all costs a lot of money, especially when the public holidays are not the same throughout. Why aren't there a few general public holidays in Europe that (almost) everyone could agree to, like Christmas, for example? If the six other public holidays would be taken away, then by law every employee would automatically receive six additional vacation days... which would already give us better results, not to mention an increase in economical productivity.
However, it could be embarrassing for the church, if hardly anyone takes the day off on Ascension or Easter Monday, but the church would certainly survive. When it comes to globalization it becomes increasingly difficult to always have to deal with special national rules and regulations.
| Like (1)|
| Jarltech grows in France|
|The French auto-ID distributor Accuscan has joined the SMB Group and will change its name to "Jarltech France". SMB Group is the parent company of Jarltech Europe, Jarltech UK, Jarltech Southwest, Jarltech Austria and Jarltech China.|
The transaction will be completed in May 2012. Accuscan currently follows a clearly defined channel-oriented distribution model for AIDC dealers in France. The main brands represented are Datalogic, Zebra, Evolis and TSC. The company is based near Paris and employs six people. The planned turnover 2012 is about 7.5 million euros.
Jarltech Europe already operates successfully in France and will transfer a part of its current business to Accuscan, which will make Accuscan more than double in 2012 compared with the planned figures.
"Through Jarltech, the business we built over the last years will now grow even more and offer many more services to our valued customers. With size comes improved product availability and faster service," says Jean-Luc Crozet, CEO of Accuscan, while Ulrich Spranger, CEO of Jarltech Europe, comments: "I am very impressed by the Accuscan team, and I am very happy to welcome more AIDC experts to the Jarltech family."
It was agreed between both parties that details about the transaction will not be released to the public.
The SMB Group consists of different distribution companies for AIDC and POS products in 25 locations in Europe, the Middle East and China. The group employs 175 people and plans to turn over 155 Million USD in 2012, after reaching 106 Million USD in 2011. The main brands represented are Zebra, Epson, Honeywell, Datalogic, Elo TouchSystems, Citizen, Getac, HP PoS, NCR and Panasonic.
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| Why Asia?|
|During the last few days, I was asked one question all the time: Why does Jarltech expand to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan? After Europe and the Middle East, would it not be America's turn now? What about the USA, where all our competitors have their headquarters?|
Simple: we do not dare to. Expanding to China is much easier to handle for us, than the USA would be. In China and Taiwan, we already have employees, we already have been doing business there for over 20 years, successfully, and we have a network.
And as a distributor, we need the support from the vendors. But the vendors in the USA frighten me somewhat. Some American competitors open up an office in Europe, without any business. Then, they demand sales rights from notable corporate groups: "We are the No. 1/2/3 in the US, after all, give us a distribution contract for Europe or we will change our mind about the US." And some vendors actually agreed to this. At that time, we received phone calls telling us this: "Sorry, the whole European office tried to prevent this, but apparently, our American colleagues are prone to easy persuasion." And that is a market I do not want to be a part of... yet. We would never put pressure on a vendor to get sales rights in North America. And we would not be successful either, as the US market is much larger than the European is.
So we prefer going into the Middle East and China, to offer our vendors more presence. The larger areas have not yet been made accessible there. US distributors do not like these areas, besides customers there often do not like American distributors any better. We need to take that detour first to grow big enough. Only then will we be able to enter the USA, where concepts matter less than sales results for the quarterly reports and the stock market. It is unbelievable that peers from American distributors tell me openly that "value-add" is "bullshit" - only sales count at the end of the quarter. Customer benefits are only ever found in PowerPoint dream slides.
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| Negotiating in China|
|You probably have already read the press release: we acquired "Barcode World", an AIDC distributor in China, who is present in ten locations, employs 42 people and concentrates on Honeywell and TSC.|
I assure you, this was not an easy decision; and it was no easy negotiation either. Barcode World is a great company, but as always in China, they were no pure distributor. The same company also produces scanner itself, under its own brand. For a company, such as Honeywell, for example, it is not easy to support a competing vendor as a distributor. This involves working together on projects. This was the only choice: the former owners concentrate on their product manufacturing, the vendors get a pure distributor to sell to and Jarltech is represented across China at one stroke.
The full story spans several years. I have known this company for ages, and we talked about a take-over many times. Only four weeks ago, talks entered the critical phase and since then, the issue was discussed around the clock, via e-mail and during countless meetings. Chinese people are great businessmen. In over 20 years of experience with China and far more than 200 trips there, I can tell. It is easiest to work without contracts, as a handshake is meaningful. Banks, commercial courts and vendors, however, want written proof; so we did this too. And there is quite a struggle over every cent, every interest rate, every line. Not because the Chinese want it, rather they believe that the German are pedantic and want to define everything down to the last detail. This goes on around the clock. Be it four in the morning, in China or Germany, no matter, everyone worked day and night, including lawyers on either side.
The good thing is: we were in agreement from the start. The mountain of paper with its over 200 signatures is put away in the drawer and the handshake from the first day takes over again. It never happened to me that in China, someone would dig out a contract after two years and insist on a specific clause, that would be more like the American style. There is no way of making it work without both sides having benefits.
I firmly believe that the Chinese mindset will carry them a long way. And I believe that Jarltech will go far in China. Mutual respect is the foundation of any business.
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| Jarltech acquires an additional office building|
|SMB GmbH, the parent company of Jarltech Europe GmbH, has acquired an additional office building for expansion purposes of Jarltech. The building offers about 1800 sqm of floor space. Furthermore, SMB buys two further parcels of land adjacent to the three-storey building, allowing for a large number of parking spaces. The available office space will be more than doubled.|
Through the purchase, Jarltech avoids incorporating additional office space into its existing plot, so that more space remains available for a future expansion of the storage areas. The previously approved connecting structure between the two existing warehouses will be built, however. The newly acquired building is located approximately 200 metres from Jarltech and, until recently, was used by the city of Usingen for public housing projects. The building is clearly in need of renovation, and work will begin as soon as possible.
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| Business in Spain|
|When I open the newspaper in the morning, there is usually a new article about some catastrophe in Spain: a high percentage of unemployed young workers, that the country is bankrupt, some sort of confrontation with the EU, something about the bank crisis.|
I was in Spain several times this year, and it does not look that bad. Wherever you look, you see well-dressed people (nicer than in Frankfurt or London), full restaurants, and a nice bottle of wine on the table during lunch. Plus, the people that I have my appointments with are not depressed, but rather are planning for the future, are looking ahead and are highly ambitious.
Throw into the mix a job market in which it is currently hard to find good people ? like anywhere else in the world. Our turnover is good, but that is no standard because we have not been in Spain very long. Competitiveness is increasing, at the very least because twice as many people now speak good English compared with ten years ago, in my opinion.
I bet that when Spain comes out of its crisis, a dramatic ascent will follow. As the small and mid-sized businesses have always had it hard with the banks. Since one or the other market participants wanted to sell us their company lately, I have seen a few balance sheets. No bank commitments, because the banks have often gotten out of medium-sized business long ago. This means a whole lot of retained earnings. And because of this, one can survive a sales collapse. We are sticking to our investment in Spain, and we are looking forward to experiencing the fast upward trend.
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| Cheap POS Systems and Their Consequences ...|
|When a manufacturer presents me with a new POS system, I thankfully immediately and intuitively know, after 20 years of experience, how many returns during the warranty period I can expect. If I have seen the factory in China, Taiwan or anywhere else in Asia, then I know that my guess is accurate. The brand name of the manufacturer does not impress me much. There are also well-known global brands who produce POS systems, of which 30% per year get returned. The record holder is a Far East manufacturer with a rate of 230%, meaning that in the first three years every system was returned more than twice.|
That of course is a catastrophe. If we are talking about an end customer with only one POS system, then the retailer can quickly explain that he was simply unlucky, since the devices, and particularly this model, normally are "top". But once the purchaser is part of a chain, then you can forget it.
This is why we are very particular with our POS system selection. Whether it is from HP, NCR or Glancetron: if our product management is not impressed, then we do not buy that product. But Country Managers still come to me: "In country X we need a system for less than Y euros, with Z years of warranty, otherwise we will not sell anything." Of course I can buy a POS system somewhere in the world for 300 euros, with super performance data and a cool design. But then I should also write in the catalog: "This device, which looks great on the outside, comes with only one year's warranty when purchased from us. Because of the servicing which is to be expected, we do not repair the device ourselves, but rather, send it to the manufacturer in the Far East. Please take into account a waiting time of four months. As an alternative we offer our customers a pre-exchange service with a warranty extension, for a mere 300% surcharge."?
It is also interesting that most cases come from central Europe. Thermal overload. In southern Europe every restaurant and every shop is air-conditioned - in Germany or Holland there are only two or three days a year anyway which are hotter than 90 degrees - and that is when the cheap POS systems drop like flies.
I understand the desire to have a more inexpensive market-entry system. But as was the case with the topic of energy consumption (see my blog from 14.2.2012), there must be a little respect for the follow-up costs.
| Like (0)|
| No Audience for Energy-Saving Devices|
|It's not really a new trend anymore: manufacturers advertise that their products have low energy consumption. In our case, printers do not use much power, checkouts too, and most of all, every device uses less electricity than those of the competitors. Is this about being environmentally friendly? Not really. In the ADC/POS industry, all devices consume less electricity than they did five years ago, and since that time, the implementation of mobile devices has multiplied. The environmental effect of the battery packs and batteries that cannot be recycled is hardly foreseeable. At the checkout, most printers still use thermal paper, a flattened chemical bomb.|
Logically, the topic of "Go Green" in our industry is not about protecting nature or its resources, but rather, saving money. This would be really good if the basic approach would be to sell energy-saving devices. The manufacturers champion the cause: hardly a printer/scanner/touch screen out there that according to advertising does not save a whole lot of euros in energy consumption, which leaves you with so many that you can hardly stack. "Are you saving more than you are spending?" would be a more appropriate slogan here.
But the reality is: our retailers check the shelves for the device with the combination that has the best price, the best performance and a resilient quality. No one, and really no one asks us about follow-up costs during sales talks. And if our retailers do not do that, then this topic is obviously not important to end customers. Pity.
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| Top and Flop Trends at the NRF in New York|
|I am currently on my way back from the National Retail Federation (NRF) show in New York. There are two trends to follow in the checkout area. The first one is not really new anymore, but tablet PCs (like the iPad or Galaxy) will increasingly serve as the "checkout of the future". Hey, the solutions partly look really funny, plus there are more tablet cradles to see at the show. The question is, do you really need to take your stationary checkout with you "occasionaly"? What happens to it if you drop it? The argument they announced was: with an iPad or a Galaxy, users can simply use the service organisations of the giant companies Apple or Samsung if they experience a problem. But everyone would consider it twice, if he would really want to make an appointment at the Apple store once the checkout has been set up.|
Secondly, everything is "Cloud". In the future cashiers will only have scanners and printers. Prices and article descriptions come up to date from the Cloud, plus the tally is taken there. Meaning, no more need for a PC at the checkout. It sounds great when you first hear it: 90% electricity savings and no PC maintenance. But, taking a second look at it: what happens when the Internet freezes? In a store with 20 checkouts it might be possible to invest into more secure connections, and to have fallback lines with various providers. However, if there are only one or two checkouts then these alternatives cost more than the checkouts themselves. Solution: there must be a back-up computer in each store with the latest data. This means the PC is still physically there, even if in the back office of the store. I don't see the breatkthrough here.
We are all looking for new "killer hardware", which every shop owner wants to have in his store. Hardware whose advantages are easily recognisable and also which processes so quickly that everyone instantly wants to throw his old hardware out the window. But I fear for 2012 too: nothing to report.
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| Planning horizon :)|
|Can one understand that all of our manufacturers - and even some of our key accounts - want to "plan" the new business year with us? But why? The only way I can make sense of this is that manufacturers need to plan their resources: for production, possibly necessary assets, personnel, etc. These all have long lead times.|
The funny thing is that not one plan for 2012 with any partner is ready yet. The first meetings will take place in January. Wouldn't it make more sense to plan for the coming year before it starts? Last year, we received the last plan for the year in April from our manufacturers. Assuming that personnel and production changes have an average lead time of four to five months, we could have saved ourselves the trouble in the first place.
Let us be honest, this is how things work: Nobody really wants a "plan". A manufacturer sets his goals for 2012 at some distant headquarters. This is then split between sales areas, and only when those sales departments actually achieve the goal will they receive their bonus. In fact, at some point, they only need to decide which distributor must achieve which turnover. This is not so much active planning as it is planned economy :)
From a distributor's point of view, this is pointless and it doesn't matter when the plan is announced. Simply adjourn the meetings until December, and we will be able to make the plans in such way that we achieve them by a close margin - everyone gets their bonus and there are no more surprises!
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| Receipt Roll Throw|
|From the "Kicker": "The person who threw the receipt roll at, and hit, Eintracht Frankfurt's Captain, Pirmin Schwegler, turned himself in. A 20-year-old graduate came into the office at FC St. Pauli together with his father, and regretted the incident. The toss was made by mistake."|
...and, go on: "The person who threw the roll came forward. The graduate has already apologised to Schwegler. Additionally, he said in his father's presence, that it was by mistake, a chain of bad circumstances. He was not trying to harm anyone, much less hit anyone. He only wanted to see the roll unroll itself in the air. Instead, it turned into a hit."
It is bad enough that the captain of our beloved team got hit by, of all things, a receipt roll. But to claim the cause was a product defect "...it did not unroll" is really barefaced. Whoever would do such a thing is simply stupid. By the way, he can visit our Jarltech warehouse anytime - we have a few Eintracht fans. Plus, when it comes to receipt rolls, we have plenty of ammo. :)
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| Crisis in Egypt...|
|On 1 January 2012, our new office in Cairo will open. After the training sessions in Usingen, the local office will be supported during the first few weeks by experienced Jarltech employees.|
If you watch TV these days, Cairo would not appear to be the ideal place to send any employees currently. I was recently there, and did not feel the least bit hindered in my work. Our Country Manager, and Egyptian, sees the situation much calmer than the European TV is making it out to be. Even the managers who planned to fly to Cairo looked forward to the trip. However, we cannot do this. Take merely the fact that the employees' families will worry each time they watch the TV.
I ask that you see past the mistrust: I personally see a large market for us, which Jarltech has invested in and will stand behind. I also believe that Cairo is safe for anyone who speaks the language, who knows the city, who has friends and who understands religions and customs. Flying down in the morning and back the same evening is no big deal, but for a longer stay, it is difficult for an outsider to effectively judge the situation. If something should happen, I would not want to be held responsible.
(P.S.: The next training sessions will be held in Dubai.)
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| Christmas in Dubai|
|Hard to believe, but for the third consecutive year, we had snow for our Christmas party in the Taunus. This biggest of all our Christmas parties rounds out the Christmas party marathon that our Sales Director and I had this year in Madrid, London, Vienna and Antwerp. Lots of Christmas cards, handing out presents, or unpacking, having telephone calls with Christmas wishes... ? and all that during the hectic period, while everything important has to be sent out, has to be printed, is at the limit of the budget, and while the first group of employees are already on vacation. To me, it also looks like more mistakes are made around Christmas.|
Luckily, my flight to Dubai leaves soon ? no Christmas, definitely no snow, and less stress. No, I am not a Christmas hater, but we are opening our new regional office in Dubai on 1 January, and that requires a lot of preparation. That makes for a welcome excuse: instead of the thousandth Christmas cookie and Christmas carols, I prefer 28 degrees in the shade next to the pool, with a cigar, a hookah and stuffed grape leaves. Appointments with lawyers don't always need to take place in a stuffy office, and you can also sign paperwork for opening a bank account over an outdoor dinner.
To all of my blog readers, whether or not you celebrate Christmas: Happy Holidays!!
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| The Fight Against Alcohol|
|RU-21 was developed by Russian scientists so that Russian agents during the Cold War could be better spies. Obtaining new information often involves large quantities of alcohol - and he who remains in control is the one who does not get drunk. RU-21 splits alcohol in the stomach, so that it does not circulate in the bloodstream, but rather, gets directly expelled. You take two pills before you start drinking, and then every hour other one.|
Our Country Manager in Spain, Javier González, truly believes this story and creatively explains the magic of RU-21 on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/jarltech.
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| Congratulations to Deutsche Factoring Bank in Bremen ...|
|... for sending us the first Christmas greeting card in 2011! Usually, the first Christmas cards come from Asia, from companies that do not know our traditions well, or when Christmas is exactly. But for a German company, sending their greeting by 22 November, that's fast :)|
However, I'll use this opportunity to greet back Bremen: Merry Christmas to you, too! We'll be sending our cards a little later ...
And here's a little incentive: Cards that do not come solo, but are attached to big, elaborate, valuable presents do get the most attention :)
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| Survey terror|
|Did it become more lately? I'm receiving e-mails from hotels, airlines, etc. all the time, with questionnaires on their service. Banks, car dealers and leasing companies are hiring call centres to call me and ask for my opinion on their performance. All questionnaires have their final question in common: "How likely is it that you will recommend us to your acquaintances, partners and friends?"|
Yesterday evening, I received a questionnaire from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore: "A few minutes of your time, to help us improve." As the football match Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Aue that I was watching on TV was terrible, I actually answered their questions. I came to the point where I couldn't refrain from laughing; when I still wasn't finished after twenty minutes ... there were 60 (!) questions. Unbelievable. Who has the time for this? To top it off – by that time, Eintracht had scored the lead in the 86th minute – when I tried to send my answers, this message popped up: "You did not fill in all the required fields." This must be a joke! This hotel has about 15 restaurants; unfortunately, I didn't have the time to test them all on the day I was there. Do I really have to check "not applicable" on each of the ten questions for each of the restaurants where I haven't been, totalling 130? I can imagine that the management of the Marina Bay Sands is terribly disappointed, as nobody is likely to send back their form. They must feel completely ignored ... I'm trying not to picture their marketing department, waiting for some response :)
Some of the questions asked are understandable, such as whether I liked the food and facilities. That's how people feel. But from a manager's point of view, if I need to ask my customers whether the rooms and restaurants are clean, then I should try and go upstairs to have a look at ten rooms myself, instead of firing superfluous questions at my customers.
With airlines, I have become most obliging: I don't refuse their questionnaires any longer; rather, I put them into the envelope unanswered. This way, I can spare the friendly flight attendant a "no". Note that I have been responding to Lufthansa's questions for 15 years, and nothing has ever changed. Cathay Pacific even wanted to know how I liked the arrival lounge; even though the questionnaires are collected before landing. Nonsense. Every time I read "we have chosen you for our survey", I wonder, whether I look bored or idle. Or do I look like I have eaten so much airline food as to be specially able to rate it.
The last survey we did was ten years ago – and even then, we at least offered our customers a "thank you". After all, we cannot advertise our speed and efficiency if we ask each customer, who just completed a highly efficient and quick purchase, to answer questions for 3 hours.
Speaking of little thank-yous for questionnaires: Emirates recently told me: "You may keep the pen, if you wish." Thank you, finally my first ballpen.
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| Q3 is finished ...|
|All the "Jarltechs" (Europe, UK and Austria) had a combined turnover of 62.3 million Euros in Q3 (roughly USD 87 million), which translates into a growth of approximately 28% over last year. It looks as though we will surpass our goals for the year again.|
The quarterly news were also positive across the board at the most important of our manufacturing partners. We have the impression that our industry is growing noticeably stronger than the general economy growth. This is good news indeed, and our reaction is to hire additional employees in all areas, even though the job market currently is not so good. It is tough right now to find qualified people.
(Disclaimer: All figures are tentative.)
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| Good Night!|
|I can sleep well ... but not during the company's office hours. I flew from Frankfurt to Dubai this week (Gitex Show), from there to Las Vegas (Zebra Convention), and then from there to Wuhan (Scan-Tech China), and came back to Frankfurt via Singapore. From there it was on to Hannover -- the hometown of the world's best wife - ha, ha, my wife does not read my blogs anyway :) -- to see a customer. I can sleep well in hotels and airplanes. But what do you do at midnight or 1AM when the convention is finished, but in Germany it is exactly 9AM? Sleeping pills could not help here. I want to know what is going on at the office. I took my laptop into bed and did not sleep for more than an hour. Although at that time, no one needed anything from me. A steady stream of emails poured in, but there was nothing urgent among them. No one called either. It is just a damnable sickness which keeps me awake. Do other businessmen suffer from this virus too, or is it just me?|
In Asia, at least, the time change is not so bad: I can sleep in longer in the mornings, and after dinner, the company in Europe is closed too. Plus, after the third glass of wine in the evening, no email seems bad. And in Asia, no one feels disturbed if you leave your cell phone on the table at an elegant restaurant.
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| Two And A Half Men|
|The main advantage of the USA currently is that the ninth season of "Two And A Half Men" is airing. Ashton Kutcher has replaced Charlie Sheen seamlessly. A few of the Zebra managers attending the Zebra Convention in Las Vegas looked at me funny when I urgently left the "Networking Event" punctually at 9PM, so that I could turn on CBS. Hey, I've got priorities!|
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| The American Look|
|In contrary to my wife, I only seldom feel the urge to go shopping. And this usually happens in the USA, that I absolutely must buy some elegant clothes. To set myself apart in a positive way. I do this as a counterreaction to what you see there.|
I was coming out of the Zebra Global Partner Convention in Las Vegas. The business people in attendance were elegantly dressed, and the hotels and restaurants were of a top standard. But you should see how the tourists there run around! Sneakers with fat soles, and 50% of the people in jogging suits?
I also took a count on the United flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco: a total of 150 passengers - of which 82 were in jogging suits, more than 120 wore sneakers, and 35 wore polo shirts with corporate printing on them. To underbid this we cannot forget the uniforms of the cabin personnel, which were at least three sizes too big and oily.
If I am not expecting guests, then I also go to the office in jeans and a button-down shirt. But like that? Where are all the US models and designers that we see so often on TV?
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| Jarltech MENA (Middle East & Northern Africa)|
|The time has come - Jarltech is entering into new markets. On 1 January 2012 we are opening our sister businesses, Jarltech Gulf (Emirates, Bahrain and Oman), Jarltech Egypt and Jarltech Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. We have paid great attention to detail in these markets. Dubai was particularly hit by the financial crisis, and Egypt is currently in political turmoil (and their outcome cannot currently be assessed). Despite this, software houses there are looking for a distributor that offers full service, high product availability and local management.|
Currently our manufacturers are working together mainly with "mixed model" partners, meaning companies which supply both end customers and resellers. The resellers are very distrustful when it comes to project-oriented surroundings in the Middle East, and they do not wish to become caught up in competitive situations to their suppliers. To avoid this, many resellers import products from Asia or the USA on their own, though they would like to save themselves this extra work.
The advantage of the current situation there is that we, as a new employer, will be welcomed everywhere, and will have relatively little trouble finding the appropriate Country Managers. There will also be a seasoned Jarltech employee in Dubai as Area Manager. Our first Arabic catalogue will be available on 1 January.
However, we do not appear to be welcomed by the German public authorities. According to them, in order for us to obtain a visa for an employee in Cairo to attend a week-long seminar in Germany, it will take three months to process!? Plus they will also require a personal meeting. That would be downright economic suicide.
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| Thoughts About the InfoForum in Vienna|
|More than 100 participants attended our Jarltech InfoForum in Vienna. Here is a smattering of my thoughts on it, in no particular order:|
--Frustration about the non-participants who accepted the dinner invitation but never showed. I do not find this behavior "normal" at all. Plus, of course we had to pay the conference flat rate, including catering. Naturally plans change, and I wish to thank all of those who cancelled with advance notice.
--Joy about the Hotel Rainers in Vienna. It is not everyday that you will find a hotel director personally checking in on the event at midnight to make sure that everything is in order. The service was great and they were very flexible with spontaneous changes. There were many positive aspects which will remain in the guests' memories.
--Admiration for Martin Limbeck, our presentation "act". It was not a presentation, but rather, a show which motivated everyone in the room. I also learned new things. We know numerous sales trainers who always repeat the same things, and that is annoying. Mr. Limbeck has a different approach, and brings it to life. I am a bit nervous about bargaining over next year's training budget with him during the return flight. If you would like to experience him live, you can see him on 28 September at 8:00 PM on the SWR TV channel. His new book "Nicht gekauft hat er schon" is on the business press bestseller list for a good reason. Please read this book.
--The realisation that the smokers were also well taken care of. Whether it is a Christmas party, company event or customer meeting: smoking simply must be allowed in a separate room. Whether or not you like smoking, it does not help when the hall is always empty because the smokers have gone outside for a cigarette. I happen to be a non-smoker, but it is my belief, not my religion.
--Joy over the many lucrative talks: praise, but also suggestions from our customers and manufacturers. It is great when you can fly home after such an event with a full notebook, and not have the feeling that you wasted your time. Besides, we are all only doing business, not declaring war. It is also good when the representatives of competitive manufacturers also have a good time together.
--I do not have enough Austrian wines in my wine cellar. The "Terra O", a red wine that we selected for the InfoForum, is magnificent.
On Monday at the latest you can see the pictures on www.facebook.com/jarltech.
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| Boldfaced Appointment Cancellations|
|How do you stay courteous when someone cancels an appointment for a stupid reason? Has this ever happened to you? Excuses, which are clearly excuses? Of course, people get sick and flights get cancelled. And if someone does not feel like meeting with us: then simply tell us, or else come up with a good excuse, but please not at the last minute.|
Just recently, one of our managers booked a non-refundable flight to Italy, only to hear the day before the meeting: "Oh, I accidentally scheduled our meeting during my vacation." I would say that in this case, he should have interrupted his vacation, because he was too stupid to put it on his calendar. But no, this is an important supplier, so it is important to keep things harmonious. So, that means rescheduling and writing a sympathetic email, even though you could burst. What we really should do is send the bill for the flight.
Something similar happened to me last week in Asia. I wasn't there for pleasure, my schedule was booked solid. I was scheduled to have dinner with a supplier. After waiting half an hour after our scheduled meeting time had passed, I called him: "I am so sorry, but I am stuck in Singapore, and my battery was empty. I will only be returning the day after tomorrow." If a customer is important to you, you could at least come up with a more believable lie. A manager lets his battery die, despite the fact that there are outlets all over the place, and oh yes, every hotel room has a telephone. I think he simply forgot about the appointment. But to realize that you are a few thousand kilometers away half an hour later does not sound normal to me. The lesson learned here is: with a good view of Hong Kong, you can even enjoy a nice meal alone.
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| Business Culture in the Middle East|
|Until now, I was in Dubai only for vacation or a conference, but I have recently had the opportunity to fly to the region frequently. But currently it is not a good vacation destination - with a daytime temperature of 45 degrees, no clouds and 36 degree water, you can hardly enjoy a beach vacation. Throw in Ramadan, so no food, no smoking and no drinking water in public during the day. This adds up to empty hotels.|
What positively surprised me was their business mentality. Sometimes up to 8 appointments a day: all meeting participants were punctual, courteous, and they all got to the point without winded monologues. How different that can be in Europe. There is also a large cultural mix of Arabs, Europeans and Indians, all conducting business there.
In case you did not know, the Gitex Fair this October will be held in Dubai. Anyone looking to relive a CeBIT circa 1998 is in the right place. I can strongly recommend that you go there to look at the market, not only as a commercial market, but there is also a lot of technology and software to be bought there. Oh and by the way: in October the weather is also more pleasant. :)
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| Jarltech Sponsors the ID World Congress, Milan - Why?|
|We decided to sponsor the 10th ID World Congress in Milan this year, not only because the patroness, Sophie de la Giroday, did a beautiful translating job: the participants' list is astounding. And: no boring, hour-long presentations, but, rather, 15-minute brief introductions about the company and her visions. Plus a lot of networking.|
But what does a distributor have to do with all of this? Good question. We thought about it long and hard: technology is a wonderful thing, but in order for it to be interesting for the distributor, it has to be sold in large volumes. Discussions with end customers are interesting, but Jarltech does not sell to end customers.
Despite this, I think that we, as a special distributor, must show manufacturers and customers alike that we can choose to support technology which does not automatically promise millions in turnover. We also need to be partners with small-series manufacturers. Of course, we need the know-how to decide if we need two or five manufacturers in our portfolio for, say, RFID technology. Plus, for our own use, we would naturally like to convince the manufacturer to follow our path early on, before he builds up a network of 300 direct partners in Europe, and then has to painfully convert to distribution in five years.
The end customers knows that a reliable distributor needs to stand behind his system integrator. And we want to make our presence known.
First and foremost the priority at such a conference is not that we as sponsors have our logo displayed everywhere - it is more important to show presence early on when networking in the technology community.
Oh yes, if you are interested in our segment, have a look at www.idworldonline.com
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| Jarltech Goes China?|
|Over the last 20 years I have been to China more than 150 times. But only now does the market seem ready to me for us to capture a new sales market. We have maintained a Support Center in China, run a sales office and sold successfully, and cooperated with more than 40 suppliers. But there has also been bad news; I also opened a wine store in Shenzhen. Just between you and me, it was the nicest wine store in the world, however, commercially seen, nothing but a shambles. Oh well, you learn from your mistakes.|
Retail and hospitality in China focus on local products. Cheap, cheap, cheap. But more and more, logistics companies, large chains and subsidiaries of international corporations are asking for brand name products. Scanners should come from Datalogic or Honeywell, POS printers from Epson. But these large manufacturers have trouble with the fragmented selling systems in China, especially when the product goes through ten sets of hands before it is installed. Large IT distributors are already in China, but they are concentrating on bread and butter products.
Most of the existing distributors limit themselves to a few brands, a small local region, or are "mixed models" - meaning they also deliver to end-customers. However, many new developments make locating there easier: founding a 100% subsidiary in China has become easier. Import and export licenses are also easier to obtain, as is English-speaking personnel. European insurance companies are liable for warehouses in China, and banks convert the RMB, the Chinese currency.
Who knows, maybe we will do something. . .
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| And Just Like That, the First Half of 2011 is Gone|
|The positive half-year figures are in: our group had a turnover of 41 Mio Euro (= 58.5 Mio USD) in the first half of 2011. That is an amazing 25% more than the first half of 2010. It is especially noticeable in Jarltech Austria GmbH, who achieved a growth of 50%. Since the second half of the year is traditionally stronger than the first, we are confident that we will also surpass our 2011 goals.|
Interestingly enough, with a 25% increase in revenue, orders increased by 16%. That means the revenue per order increased.
The new foreign offices in Spain and Denmark are also growing positively in 2011.
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| Jarltech Fair in Vienna|
|I am looking forward to meeting you in person on 16 September in Vienna, where we will be hosting our next "InfoForum" for our German-speaking resellers. After the fair and manufacturers' presentations, our guest speaker and sales trainer, Mr. Martin Limbeck, will address us. We are very impressed with his work, his presentations, and his books. I am sure that some of his inspiration will rub off onto you - this is a real highlight, so please join us. I can highly recommend his latest book "Nicht gekauft hat er schon" to you.|
Afterwards, there will be what I hope is a highly communicative dinner. Mr. Schmidt and I will be in Vienna the week after next, for a sample tasting at the Hotel Rainers.
We chose Vienna this time around because we wanted to select an attractive location. Because the hotel rooms there are more expensive than we are used to, we are sponsoring reduced room rates, with the hope that at least some of the resellers will take advantage of spending a nice weekend in Vienna. I personally love Vienna, and not just because of the Austrian wines. :)
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| Women's World Cup|
|It's really nice to enter the Eintracht Stadium and suddenly see international soccer being played there. The mood was great, the spectators were relaxed, and there were noticeably fewer fouls - although the players were definitely on their game. A pity that Germany is out of the running.|
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| Excellbook by DIESEL|
|DIESEL Jeans is offering new software as part of their "Be Stupid At Work" campaign: Excellbook. This makes Facebook look like an Excel spreadsheet. This is good if you prefer surfing in Facebook during a boring conference. On the other hand, it is also good for Excel junkies - it is simply a nice representation. :) For those who like it...Be Stupid At Work free for Mac and PC.|
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| Social cheating|
|One thing that truly irritates me are trainees who are on sick leave during several weeks, but are fit enough to go and get drunk on some town festival every evening. What tops this off - and that's about as stupid as one can be - is to also post pictures of this on Facebook. Doing this is just a slap in the face for the doctor who gave you the doctor's note, lack of wit and a kick up your training supervisor's Rs, and for the father, who spoke up for his "lovely little girl". Pure disregard.|
I am glad that such an attitude is actually noticed at the IHK (CCI). And the claim, "I've got another apprenticeship place anyway, because I'm young and pretty," might soon become wishful thinking, as the IHK has to sign every apprenticeship contract as well. In such a case, it might be ok to be a little chauvinistic and to think, "Please, find yourself a husband and stay away from the job market." On the other hand, it is difficult not to feel sympathy for the possible husband.
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| Trainees, where are you?|
|One could believe that there are numerous willing trainees for the upcoming school year: there's no conscription any longer and, as school has been shortened by one year, there are twice as many school leavers wanting to begin university studies. However, there aren't enough university places. Now, those who don't get a place might want to start an apprenticeship in the trading sector first. And all the graduates from Realschule (secondary education not qualifying for university) who are crowded out should be eager to get the remaining apprenticeship offers. Especially at Jarltech, where more than 90% of the trainees are offered an employment afterwards - some of them made an impressive career within the company.|
Unfortunately, the chamber of commerce still forecasts that many places will stay vacant. Therefore, Jarltech will be pushing the communication: starting next week, we will advertise our apprenticeship places over the radio. We also need to make our offer more attractive. Although our trainees sometimes stay abroad at our various country offices for short periods of time, we plan to introduce this in our trainee programme. We will also organise English courses, because the average level of school leavers isn't nearly sufficient. Just raising the salaries for those who have high marks is not allowed, unfortunately ...
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| Market Share Sugarcoat|
|When sales shrink, you can always argue "But we gained significant market share". That implies that one quarter was bad, but that for the competition it was even worse. And no one can prove it, because most competitors are not listed on the stock exchange.|
One of our American competitors recently said this sentence during an analyst's conference... without first checking to see that we had grown approximately 30% in the same quarter. They should have known that; it would have only taken an inquiry to the manufacturers. But, we do not take pleasure in another's misfortune, so we will not pass our figures on to the analysts. Let the guys and gals in the US feel safe for now. At least until it is so obvious that it should be admitted... :)
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| Gloating is not a good strategy|
|Just now a direct competitor of ours called me, because he wishes to buy something from us... that which we have on stock, and that which the manufacturer can only deliver in eight weeks again. My spontaneous answer was: "No". The reasoning behind this was that the same competitor let us down on a similar question not too long ago, and not so much because of strategic thinking.|
Several have tried to keep only the top sellers on stock, and to help themselves to the rest from our warehouse. Ok, on the one hand I have enough of the product there. But it could also be the case that the supposed important regular customer (for which my competitor is trying his best to find the goods with us) makes a purchase, thinks Jarltech is really good, and we woo away a good dealer. Or, he cannot find us, the world will come to an end tomorrow, and we will have to sit on our stock forever. Throw into the mix that you undoubtedly meet each other now and again at manufacturers' events, and the colleague ends up spilling his wine on my shoes.
An alternative would have been a sale at "recommended retail price": Jarltech would have earned a great deal on it, and the competition would have paid on top of it. But, tell me, what is the good of gloating versus strategy?
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| Phone alert|
|Today, Jarltech experienced the Stone Age: our lines were dead. All of them were dead; the multiplexer, the burglar and fire alarm systems. Arcor (a German telecommunications provider) had a 'major breakdown'. But the Internet was working - and one can almost say: as long as the internet works, we can do without the telephone.|
How good that we invested into a second installation from Alcatel, which is connected with the Telekom and independent from Arcor, and which switches automatically in case of failures. No, they don't share the 'last mile', the landlines lead to different directions from our premises. However, the automatic switch didn't work and trying manually was a disaster: no communication; even the Telekom wasn't broadcasting anymore.
We found out why: they share the local distribution frame, and that was ... broken. I thank our employees, who immediately posted their mobile phone numbers online, so that customers and suppliers could call us.
Anyway, we will need to find a better emergency solution now. Having two companies that back up each other, but use the same distribution frame is just nonsense.
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| Why we develop our own ERP software|
|When I tell customers or suppliers that we use our own enterprice software, they look at me with big eyes. In a group of 110 employees, they were expecting SAP or Navision. No, we do not have either one, and with a very good reason too. Ever since I started 20 years ago, I always wrote my own assets software, at the beginning under dBase II. (I just realized, that Word's spell checker does not know the word "dBase" anymore.) :) Now we have a team of three programmers, who work on our "Webfaktura". Not only does the manpower cost money, but the software must be certified every year by a special public accountant. Despite this, I believe that this software is a real unique feature, which differentiates us from the competition.|
If the boss of Jarltech comes up with the idea to write a blog, and in two languages (the English texts are added by our translator), and electively with a Twitter function and Spam filter for the answers, then it will be up and running on the same day. Or a change-over from DPD to UPS, a warehouse layout system, a conference room availability plan, or, or, or. Our Webfaktura, in addition to working in German and English, also works in Chinese.
But even more important than the speed is the new roll of the distributor between the manufacturer and the re-seller. Both want to know things from the other, and to communicate with the other, but the software packages do not understand each other. Enter us, the interface between the two. Truthfully, when a customer decides to make future purchases with us, I simply cannot allow a programming order to be buried for weeks - I want my sales now.
Or try to become a distributor for HP - the interlocking of the computer system is a real Herculean feat. But I am sure that we will master it faster than if we had to first explain to an external company how it works. The same applies for customer requests. A customer had the brilliant idea of scanning his letterhead for us, so that we could print packing slip receipts for third-party goods on his letterhead. Great idea, and just like that, we are doing this for all of our customers, with packing slip receipts in all the important languages.
In order to evalute our software financially, we sent the current requirements specifications to a manufacturer for standard assets software. We asked them to compose their modules in this fashion and to amend it, so that it works for us worldwide. Result: Roughly 700,000 euros, including a few months of migration phase. Of course, this sum has also been invested into the software, but we can set the priorities for its enhancements every day. Our employees have a tool for offering suggestions for improvement, which will then be implemented. There are still hundreds of them, some of which go into great detail. But: it makes the sales and execution faster, plus simpler for the customers.
My IT professor buddy told me once that practically mid-sized businesses stopped individualizing large software packages. Instead, the sales process is simply adapted to standard software, which is often less expensive. Ok, but I think that our company differentiates itself from other companies through its methods of operation, and I do not want to lose that. When all is said and done, and all the companies have adapted to the three large software packages, then they will finally be working alike. . .
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| Computer Week from 1979|
|Here is a link to the Computerwoche (»Computer Week«) archive, about the introduction of barcodes and NCR POS systems at Tengelmann (German supermarket chain). Really funny, especially the prices (only in german, though):|
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| Q1: Jarltech Continues its European Growth|
|Just wanted to share a few numbers from my company:|
The first quarter is over - and our company news is positive: roughly 25% growth of Jarltech Europe GmbH compared to Q1 of last year, about 60% in Jarltech Austria GmbH, and 20% in Jarltech UK Ltd. And this, despite the fact that we also showed similar quarterly growth last year, meaning the economic crisis did not affect Jarltech. The German central warehouse shipped goods valued at 7.5 million euros in March alone.
It is also nice that the growth is not only coming from our new markets (such as Denmark, Poland and Spain, for example), but also that German and Austrian sales are continually increasing.
We are proud to be able to create new jobs, thanks to these favorable conditions. At the end of 2010, the group employed 107 people (65 of which are in Usingen); now we are up to 112 - and there are quite a number of open positions, for trainees too.
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|Jarltech Austria GmbH - Hertha-Firnberg-Str. 10/4/1/1 - 1100 Wien|
Tel: (1) 485 26 05 0 - Fax: 0810 9554 200700 - firstname.lastname@example.org
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