Driving Profits With Windows POS Software
Former golf pro turned POS VAR grows his business by 105% in one year by targeting the golf course vertical market.
Who better to design and sell golf course management software than a golf professional and a computer programmer? In 1992, Thomas Robshaw was working as a golf professional at Willowbrook Country Club, a Pittsburgh-area country club. Part of his job at the country club was handwriting bills for the 300 members every month, along with the pro shop manager. "It took the two of us four days to handwrite and send all the bills," says Robshaw. Knowing that an automated system would eliminate this process, he approached his brother, Richard, a computer programmer, to develop software for Willowbrook's pro shop.
"The pro shop was literally operating out of a cigar box," says Robshaw. After investigating what software was on the market, the brothers found the UNIX platform expensive and the DOS-based systems hard to use. The pair wanted an easy-to-use system. The Robshaws opted to develop a Windows-based software program that would specifically address the POS needs of private country clubs as well as public golf courses. They enlisted the help of other golf professionals and pro shop managers and developed Pro-ShopKeeper in 1993.
Advantages Of Windows Software
"I've worked with pro shop managers who were afraid to turn on a computer," says Robshaw. Having an easy-to-use program was essential. One benefit of the Windows-based software is its graphical user interface (GUI). "Unlike using a DOS-based program, the pro shop manager doesn't have to memorize and use a series of keystrokes. It's all point and click at a graphic icon," says Robshaw. Completing a sales transaction is easily done following on-screen prompts. Because of its GUI, Pro-ShopKeeper can be accessed using a mouse or a touch screen monitor.
The more significant advantage of the Windows-based system is its integration with other software programs,Robshaw says. Pro-ShopKeeper was developed in Microsoft Access, part of the Microsoft Office suite. It is fully ODBC (Open Database Connectivity)-compliant. "A pro shop manager can, for example, use Microsoft Word to merge correspondence with the club's membership list or use Excel spreadsheets to analyze sales data," explains Robshaw.
Software Supports Inventory Bar Coding
Pro-ShopKeeper also tracks pro shop inventory, such as shirts and golf balls, by scanning bar-coded items. The software can produce inventory bar codes using a laser or ink jet printer. Pro shop managers can also scan items that arrive at the shop with a bar code already attached and add them to inventory. "Pro shop managers get real-time information about what is and isn't selling in the pro shop and the profit margins for each item," says Robshaw.
Robshaw says the pro shop inventory tracking alone helps golf courses quickly realize a return on their investment in the system. Pro-ShopKeeper also computes members' golf handicaps, which also results in a cost-savings. "Golf courses typically hire an outside computing firm to figure handicaps. Members are charged approximately $10 for this service," says Robshaw. A course with 400 members, for example, pays $4,000 a year for a handicapping service. Computing these figures using Pro-ShopKeeper's handicap module, while still charging members for the service, nets the course $4,000.
The Robshaw brothers initially sold only the software, but gradually moved into reselling point of sale (POS) hardware peripherals. They recommend industry-standard personal computers (PCs), however, which customers purchase on their own.
To sell in the golf course market, Robshaw says it's important to stay close to the golf industry. The brothers exhibit their golf management software at two large tradeshows sponsored each year by the Professional Golf Association (PGA). Up to 60,000 golfers and golf course owners and club managers attend these events. "We've sold our software in 32 states and Japan by attending these two shows," says Robshaw. Pro-ShopKeeper is also marketed on its own Web site (www.Pro-ShopKeeper.com) (see sidebar page 79). "The Web site generates numerous requests for information," explains Robshaw, resulting in several sales. Pro-ShopKeeper also uses the Web site to download new software versions to its customers.
Partnering In The Hospitality Market
"Software development is never ending," says Robshaw. The most recent release of Pro-ShopKeeper, version 4.0, was developed with feedback from existing customers. In addition to working on the next version of Pro-Shop-Keeper, the Robshaws partnered with Club Technology, another software developer, to sell its food and beverage software as a complement to Pro-ShopKeeper. "Our software interfaces with Club Technology's food and beverage software. This allows us to market a complete package that addresses the needs of country club restaurants, for example," says Robshaw. Club Technology, in turn, benefits by offering Pro-ShopKeeper's golf management software package.