HOST 11 Cover Story
Post Date: 2015-08-13
Dickson Lee, one of the founders and managing directors of homegrown Point of Sale (POS) solutions provider, Epoint Systems Pte Ltd, shares his story and insights on the software systems that have revolutionised businesses in more ways than one.
Looking to move away from the traditional cash register? For some business owners, finding the right Point-of-Sale (POS) systems can be a real head-scratcher. Imagine how much harder it must have been for Dickson Lee, who was thrown into the deep end of the pool when he was abruptly transferred to the POS department in his former company of employment – with absolutely no knowledge in the subject.
“I started out as a network engineer in a Hong Kong based company in Singapore,” begins the modest and soft-spoken man.
“Just six months into the job, my general manager told me that I had to transfer into the POS department to work on some projects. I think people were needed there, and he thought that I was probably the right candidate. My technical manager had to teach me everything from scratch.”
Armed with a Diploma in Information Technology (IT) and only prior experience in network engineering, his new position as a technical support engineer saw that he learned how to set up and install POS terminals and systems, while even dealing with plenty of physical labour.
“I was one of the engineers deployed to help with the installations during an initial barcode scanning project which we worked on for NTUC Fairprice, where we actually had to carry the machines to each and every outlet to conduct system replacement and deployment over the night.”
Dickson refers to this as a “humbling yet interesting” experience which he would have never dreamed of encountering. Yet, this served as a turning point in his life that inducted him into the technical world of POS. He has never looked back since.
Today, the 47-year-old is one of the five original founders of Epoint Systems Pte Ltd, which specialises in supplying touch-screen Windows-based POS solutions to the food and beverage (F&B), dance club and merchandising sectors in Singapore and beyond. The company enjoys a strong presence in the region as well, with offices and operating capabilities in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and most recently, Hong Kong.
Since its establishment in 2002, Epoint Systems has grown from a head count of five people to over 100 across the region, of which there are about 65 based in Singapore alone. The organisation now enjoys a vast and steadily growing portfolio of F&B and retail clients including the Da Paolo Group, RE&S Enterprises Pte Ltd, The Lo and Behold Group, Food Junction, Helen Accessories and St James Power Station, just to name a few.
“I find POS systems so fascinating because their usage always varies from one customer to another, especially in the F&B industry,” Dickson enthuses. “I love how they can always be customised and fine-tuned to meet different operational requirements.
“Whenever I come across an establishment or business owner who just so happens to be using a system from us, I feel both proud and honoured. We aren’t among the ranks of industry giants like Apple or Samsung – hence, as a locally based company, it gives me so much satisfaction and joy to know that our products are being used so widely.”
Tell us about how you started dabbling in the world of electronics and IT.
I have been dealing with technology almost all my life – beginning with my high school days when I used an Apple II in the 1970s. After that, I ‘graduated’ to an IBM Personal Computer XT in the 1980s. Even my first job was in a computer store in Kuala Lumpur, where I worked as a technical retail assistant. I was 19 or 20 back then.
What was your role in Epoint Systems during its initial stages?
Epoint Systems started out with me and four other friends whom I got to know through a job in my previous company. While the rest were primarily responsible in software development and technical support, I was mainly doing sales while also assisting in other duties such as system installation.
I still clearly remember the first deal I secured for the company in 2002, which was with Alkaff Mansion. Alkaff was our very first customer and I was very excited about it – the deployment went smoothly, and it marked the start of our company’s story.
Currently, I’m still helping out in the sales aspect while overseeing the overseas offices. I fly very often to Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong, only returning to Singapore for about two weeks per month on average.
Do you have a personal motto when it comes to business?
Our company motto is, ‘We make it POSsible’ – meaning that nothing is impossible when it comes to implementing a good POS system, and my beliefs are in line with that. On the other hand, my personal motto is to provide customers what they need, specifically systems that suit the nature of their operations and makes their business more efficient. This may not always be in line with what they want.
Sometimes, clients may request for systems with functions that are fancy but may be redundant. When this happens, it is imperative that we provide them with alternative solutions to meet their targets instead of just catering to their requests for initial, temporary customer satisfaction.
How would you define a ‘good’ POS system, then?
It should be flexible, easy to use, full of configurable functions and also auditable – meaning that it should leave a digital trail after every action to allow for one to trace any possible faults, errors, or even frauds.
Name us some clients that you are most proud of having in your portfolio.
Zouk is one of them. Everyone knows Zouk, and we are the ones who installed the POS systems for both the dance clubs in Singapore and KL. They have been with us since we started out in 2002, and it is a pleasure to be serving such a famous entertainment name in the nightlife industry. Another renowned dance club would be St James Powerhouse. When St James first started out, we installed close to 70 terminals because of the multiple sections within the building itself.
F&B-wise, I would say I’m most proud of working together with the RE&S restaurant chain, which we have been serving since day one of our operations. They started out with 8 – 10 restaurants and have since grown to nearly 60 brands in Singapore alone. Kuriya, where we are shooting and conducting the interview today, is one of them.
In the fast-moving world of technology, do you think POS systems will ever get ‘replaced’?
Even with the introduction of touchscreen tablets in the process of making orders and payments, these devices are simply co-existing with POS systems, but can never entirely replace them yet. I don’t know about ten years from now, but I am certain that within the next five years, POS will still be relevant to the majority of businesses in the F&B, entertainment and retail sectors, and more. By then, Epoint would have definitely evolved with the market changes.
What sort of feedback do you usually receive from your clients about Epoint Systems’ products?
We usually get comments that our POS systems are rather easy to use and are very flexible. In time, when a business’s strategies, operations and requirements have evolved, their new transactional needs can be met by simply configuring the system itself. This gives us a lot of flexibility to work with, and the functions and features that our system has are tremendous.
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced while bringing the company to where it is today?
Managing manpower is more of a challenge rather than products or clients. Products are fixed and predictable, while humans are not. Every staff has his/her own needs, working style and personality, so this is an aspect where more effort is needed from a management point of view.
For more information about Epoint Systems Pte Ltd, visit www.epoint.com.sg
Dickson Lee gives his two cents on what types of POS systems he would recommend for three different industries.
Restaurants: The functionalities for fast food and fine dining are slightly different. In the fast food sector, the process should be as simple as possible to ensure quick ordering to complete a transaction. On the other hand, for fine dining restaurants, it should have more features. For example, you should have the options of holding the payment, or in the case of ordering, some flexibility in cooking options such as requests for less oil, more chilli, sauce on the side – or even alternative payment options like splitting the bill. You won’t need these functions in fast food restaurants, as customers will never have to go Dutch.
Nightclubs: Something unique about the POS systems for nightclubs would be the option to select what we call ‘cover charge drinks’ – which is what we refer to the cover charge along with the complimentary drink that comes with the entrance fee. Transaction processes should also be quick and simplified, and there is no table system as customers are roving – that’s how systems in dance clubs are different from those of a fine dining establishment. We offer mobile solutions to add on to the POS system as well, but not many club owners take it up because the screens are smaller.
Retailers: Almost all retailers would implement the barcode scanning function to the systems, and flexibility of the POS systems is a must in this sector as retailers rely a lot on the system to conduct promotions. The ability to track and record inventory is a must for systems being used in the retail industry.