Sydneysider Daniel Houden was still in high school when he started working for Task Retail Technology in 2000. At the time, it was just a one-man show: Daniel’s dad Kym worked out of the family’s garage and his son would help out after school. Task Retail Technology is now a $10 million business and, as chief executive, 31-year-old Houden manages a staff of 40.
Task Retail Technology provides point-of-sale and business assistance to a range of different markets, including quick service restaurants, gaming and retail. We provide anything from point-of-sale to business intelligence reporting, to signage and applications that help our customers interact with their customers.
My father Kym started the business in 2000, 14 years ago when I was still at high school. Dad would work out of the garage and each afternoon after school I would help him.
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At the time, the business was a reseller for an existing product in the market. When I left high school I became more actively involved in the business, going from helping with printer cables to box delivery. I started working more closely with customers to really get to know what they were looking for.
We started to look at building our own products. I went missing-in-action for a while, building software in the garage and I came out with our own product. We’ve grown in leaps and bounds since.
We moved out of the garage and into an office and grew the support aspect of the business. After four or five years we were looking after some of the largest retail food groups in Australia and some of the top 20 gaming venues in New South Wales, and we moved into the US market three years ago.
It was a slow transition into the role of chief executive. I started writing the software myself, so I moved up the technical side of the business, and learning about the requirements of our software when expanding internationally got me more into the business activities to make those decisions.
Being in a family business helped with the transition.
It is challenging to work in a family business but we don’t know any different. It’s awesome to know that everyone is making decisions that are right for the family and for the business. And there is a wealth of knowledge within the business.
The business really is one big family. Two of our guys have been working with us for more 10 years. In technology companies, it’s hard to find examples of people staying at one company for so long.
Having a business plan is invaluable in keeping you on track, although we do deviate from it from time to time. We work with external companies to help us build our business model and to validate our internal plans.
We plan to grow the company by launching new products and expanding into more markets. The two things will go hand in hand.
We want to capitalise on our expansion into the US. It’s a huge market and not many people get to the stage we’re at where they add new customers easily and support them.
One large QSR company will be taking us with them to Asia in the next six-to-18 months. It’s very exciting. We’re also planning to launch new products in Australia and really take our base to the next level.
We don’t have a huge emphasis on self-promotion and we spend very little on marketing. Our opportunities usually come from other customers via word-of-mouth. We operate in a close-knit community.
What keeps me awake at night is thinking about how to capitalise on opportunities and come up with new ideas to help our customers achieve new things.
Personally I have a very strong belief that if we listen to our customer they will help create our future. We say to them: You dream it and we’ll build it.
The beautiful thing about our business is that we deal with transactions, people spending money. It means we can get into new markets quickly because we know where and how people are spending.