First of all, how are you and your Family doing in these COVID-19 Times?
Tim Seithe: Like almost everyone, the beginning of the pandemic hit us more or less by surprise. Within a few days, we got confronted with new social regulations and a nationwide lockdown that changed not only our social interactions but life as we knew it. At first, we needed some time to get used to the situation, and not being able to do something about it was an uncomfortable feeling. However, we were able to adapt our lives accordingly, and luckily my family was not affected by the virus itself. Up until now, we are all safe and healthy.
However, I had to restructure my daily routine completely, and especially as the CEO of a start-up, my main concerns regarded our still young company and how to bring the whole team through these hard times without losing all of the success we have worked so hard on in the last years.
Simultaneously, we were concerned with the retailers in our clientele who were also hit quite hard by the pandemic so that we had to find ways to support them in the best way possible.
Tell us about you, your Career, how you Founded Tillhub
Tim Seithe: I am CEO of Tillhub, a Berlin-based fintech start-up for POS in the retail sector. However, my career as a business owner already started years before Tillhub in 2014. Back then, I was a medicine student at Charité Berlin and became the co-founder of ‘viomedo.’ This medical platform enables patients to find and participate in clinical studies and thereby increase their chances of finding an effective therapy method.
Later in 2015, I co-founded Tillhub, with the vision of paving the way for retailers into digitalization. Together with my father, Frank Seithe, co-founder Oliver Mickler (COO), and a team of highly motivated colleagues, we developed a digital all-in-one POS solution that combines classic checkout with a lot of helpful features. Inventory, employee and customer management, live access to sales statistics, data exports, and many more useful features to help business owners and cashiers save a lot of time and nerves in the day to day business.
How does Tillhub Innovate?
Tim Seithe: With our Tillhub checkout system, we do not only facilitate the classic Point of Sale, but we also support business owners by providing them with a scalable system that can be integrated and customized for any kind of store or business model. This is a huge step, especially for the whole retail sector, which will eventually be forced to follow digitalization to keep up with the competition.
At the same time, we optimized our system for the needs of bigger corporations and helped them enter into digitalization with an all-around system that performs as the centerpiece of their business.
How the Coronavirus Pandemic affects your Business, and how are you coping?
Tim Seithe: The coronavirus affects the whole industry but weakens, especially the smaller retailers. During the lockdown, most of our clients had to close their shops and had been having a hard time since then. This had direct consequences for our company, as well. We had to adapt our sales and marketing strategies to meet the needs of a completely changed economic environment. On the positive side, the lockdown period gave us some time to focus on some internal processes that were long overdue.
Despite everything that was going on during lockdown, we won a new investor and managed to keep all our employees in the company as well. Now, as the regulations have been loosened more and more, we brought everyone back into the office. At the moment, we can see our sales and marketing numbers going back to pre-corona levels.
Did you have to make Difficult Choices, and what are the Lessons Learned?
Tim Seithe: Shortly before the government called out the social lockdown, we already started to send all our employees into the home office to avoid spreading the virus internally in case somebody got infected. To manage the whole company remotely was the first challenge we had to face in this pandemic. If you cannot supervise your employees and have to leave them more or less on their own, things can end up very chaotic. So we had to put a lot of trust and self-responsibility on each and everyone in the team.
However, the bigger challenge came when we had to send our employees into Kurzarbeit (short work), which means we had to cut their working hours to a minimum of sometimes 0 hours a week. For some colleagues, this meant fewer or no income at all.
So we tried to hold up the company at the same time as we tried not to let down our employees and help them as much as we could. Still, in an unforeseen situation like this, you cannot give reliable statements when or even if things will go back to normal. That’s why we weren’t able to answer employees’ questions regarding the future and how corona might affect them and the company with confidence. All we could do is calculate possible scenarios, take precautions, and hope for the best.
Luckily, in the end, it had less impact on our business than expected, but as a business owner, you have to prepare for the worst in situations like this, because you are not only responsible for yourself.
How do you deal with Stress and Anxiety? How do you Protect yourself and Tillhub in the Future?
Tim Seithe: I always try to see problems as rational as possible and focus on solutions. As a founder, I learned to love ambiguity, and this is what I try to pass on to my team, as well. We are working on becoming Europe’s leading provider for POS software. This is a big objective, and it comes with a lot of different obstacles we have to solve.
Who are your Competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the Game?
Tim Seithe: Our competition is, of course, all other digital checkout system providers in the German market and also internationally. To boost Tillhub up against these competitors, we continuously innovate our system and develop new products along the way. Only last year, we launched two new products, a merchandise management system, as well as a customer-facing display for the POS to innovate retail store checkouts even further.
At the same time, we focus on acquiring more clients and larger accounts, like the KLIER Hair Group, that we won as a customer last year. Our product has a competitive edge because we have the best one in the market when it comes to integrating other products like SAP into our system.
Your Final Thoughts
Tim Seithe: Stay healthy!
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