Supporting SMEs in challenging times
Sage’s decentralised structure helps us to remain close to customers and their issues as our teams are working in local markets with people in business every day. This unique perspective has ensured that we are close to the problems and our customers feel every day.
Providing practical help
We have amended our pricing and introduced new payment terms as well as free offerings to provide customers with more flexibility to manage their cash flow. We have also developed services to provide help in managing their businesses more efficiently.
For example Sage in Germany launched a new module in its HWP 2009 construction software designed to help its customers assess the health of their businesses in light of the current economic crisis. The online questionnaire, called Auftrags-Schnellcheck, is helping customers to analyse what they need to do to combat decreasing order books, for example by analysing whether their company is putting enough resources into marketing and customer retention. Following the healthcheck, customers can then download two free guides from Sage on marketing and customer retention.
In Spain Sage’s Small Business Division hosted roadshows across the country during the summer to give business partners more information and assistance to help them during the economic downturn. The roadshows took place in seven of the largest cities in Spain; Santiago de Compostela, Palma de Mallorca, Seville, Valencia, Bilbao, Barcelona and Madrid.
The aim was to reassure Business Partners and to give practical help by providing a toolkit to enable them to continue to help customers effectively with the new economic challenges they face. A series of initiatives to help business partners through the economic crisis were also launched at the roadshows. These included a full adaptation of all Sage products to the new VAT Law Reform in Spain, modifications to the business partner program to reflect the economic challenges and the implementation of various financing solutions for SMEs to enable easier purchase of Sage software.
The rapid destabilisation of the economy has led to interventions by Governments in a number of countries and in some cases this has resulted in changes in legislation which affects business.
In many countries we have helped our customers navigate through these changes. For example, Sage Portugal launched a new website designed to help SMEs understand the changes surrounding the implementation of the new International Accounting Standards that will come into effect in Portugal in January 2010. The International Accounting Standards are known as the SNC in Portugal. The website, www.sncpt.com, contains information for SMEs on the implications of the new regulations and details on potential difficulties in transferring from existing accounting systems to a new compliant one. Sage Portugal is providing a conversion tool which will help an estimated 80,000 Sage customers prepare for this new legislation.
In December 2008, the UK’s value added tax (VAT) rate was decreased with less than a week’s notice. This affected the majority of Sage UK’s customers, resulting in a surge in call activity and the need to quickly adapt our software. However, we were able to leverage our resources to make these changes within the 5 working days notice we were given as well as support our customers through this considerable upheaval, further enhancing our position as a trusted business partner.
Managing online fraud
According to Sage research more than two thirds of businesses in the UK admit payment fraud remains one of the most daunting elements of running an online business and it is reported that incidents of fraud are expected to rise during recession. Sage Pay, Sage UK’s payment processing division, has signed a deal with BT Business, the business division of UK telecoms provider BT to help small businesses avoid the threat of online payment fraud. Sage Pay has provided the online secure payment processing tools for BT Business’ new eShop service. This new service is designed to help small businesses to be able to set up a secure online store quickly and to reduce the risk of fraud across all of their online transactions.
Helping businesses get back on their feet
In Atlanta businesses have not only had to deal with economic challenges but also when a state of emergency was declared in 17 Georgia counties when the area was devastated by floods in late September 2009. The Sage team offered free copies of software and volunteers to help SMEs get back on their feet.
Developing the entrepreneurs of tomorrow
The values on which Sage was founded (Simplicity, Trust, Integrity, Innovation Agility) capture the spirit of entrepreneurship and are the lifeblood of business. Helping to create the entrepreneurs of tomorrow is something we are passionate about.
The next generation of entrepreneurs
Ivan Epstein, CEO of Softline in South Africa has become a ‘Life Champion’ as part of the Life Champion Leadership Programme at Life College. The scheme helps current students gain insights into the work of work whilst empowering disadvantaged pupils to recognise their leadership potential. This programme forms part of the leadership module in the curriculum and the Life Champions have all volunteered 10 hours a year to motivate and mentor students.
Softline has also sponsored the Life College Xchange programme to promote the development of entrepreneurial skills amongst the Life College students. The Xchange is a trading floor for ideas and opportunities which these young entrepreneurs can use to interact with prospective funders and investors.
In Poland Sage has been granted Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (“ACCA”) Approved Employer status to recognise the support it gives to ACCA members for continuing professional development and to trainers studying towards their ACCA status.
Other education activities include:
- Sponsorship of the Lipski Award for young IT and computer science students in Poland
- Summer internships to students in Portugal
- Free accounting software provided to schools across Canada
- Sage in France has a ‘school strategy’ to help bring the business closer to local schools through events and participation in education
- The Thuthuka programme in South African schools continues to support the advancement of previously disadvantaged learners at school level. The focus is on accountancy, maths and science and 60 state schools took part in the programme sponsored by Softline this year.
Helping people start out in business
Aside from education, a daunting prospect for entrepreneurs when getting started in business can be learning new skills such as writing business plans, managing cash flow, networking, marketing or advertising. Sage in the UK has launched a partnership with one of the UK’s leading high-street banks, Lloyds TSB, to provide new start up businesses with help and advice during the planning phase of setting up their new businesses.
The new partnership is with Lloyds TSB Commercial, the division of the bank dedicated to providing business services to customers with a turnover of up to £15 million per year. Sage will be providing free planning tools along with a 90 day trial of either Sage Start-up or Sage Instant accounts to SMEs as part of the scheme.
Sage in France has founded a new Institute for French small businesses and entrepreneurs to provide them with support and advice on how to make their businesses successful. The ‘Sage Institute’ has been founded to create an environment in which French entrepreneurs can meet to discuss business topics and issues that are pertinent to their businesses, enabling them to harness the experience of other businesses or Sage experts to take their businesses forward.
Each year, Sage in France interviews 60,000 companies, including customers and non customers, to find out more about their views on the current business climate. Following these surveys, Sage in France decided to set up the Sage Institute to provide SMEs with additional support and tools to thrive. The Sage Institute will work by providing entrepreneurs and SMEs with a chance to interact, both face to face in meetings across France but also online, through forums and blogs on the website www.institut-sage.com.
Two similar web based portals have also been developed in North America for the start-up community. www.sagespark.com has numerous free tools for download such as Sage Billing Boss, an easy to use web based invoicing tool as well as many advice papers and a community forum where entrepreneurs can exchange ideas and feedback. To help busy entrepreneurs stay up to date it also has a twitter feed. www.mybizcounts.com is a more financially oriented learning portal which again provides entrepreneurs with customised tools, information and resources as well as the opportunity to network.
Celebrating entrepreneurial excellence
Sage is very focused on delivering the best possible customer experiences and in South Africa our Softline business partnered with a South African radio station to raise the profile of small businesses across South Africa who provided outstanding service to their customers. Talk Radio 702 and Softline ran a month long campaign to find a South African small business who truly did provide their customers with outstanding service.
The campaign launched with an invitation to listeners and members of the public to nominate small businesses they knew that had provided excellent service. More than 1,100 business were nominated and from these, 30 finalists were chosen, two of which were then interviewed live on air each day, on two of Talk Radio 702’s most popular shows. The 30 finalists were then invited to an awards ceremony where the winner was announced. The winner was cleaning company Nteta Cleaning Services, based in Johannesburg and run by founder Daisy Nteta.
Highlighting business talent
In 2009 Sage UK & Ireland Raised the profile of what it takes to be run your own business through its ‘Train your Business Brain’ campaign. The campaign was linked to a TV Game show called the Krypton Factor which was designed to test contestants’ intelligence, memory, problem solving ability and stamina through a series of mental and physical challenges.
Sage UK decided to sponsor the Krypton Factor as part of its ‘Business Brains’ campaign, which explored the qualities people need to be successful in business, which are similar to the qualities needed to be successful on the Krypton Factor.
Alongside Sage branding on the programme, Sage UK launched a new ‘Business IQ’ website, www.trainyourbusinessbrain.com, to enable members of the public to find out more about the show, as well as participate in a series of fun challenges designed to test their own business IQ.
One very direct way of supporting business and recognising talent is through awards. Sage businesses have supported many local business awards including:
- Softline VIP was the national sponsor of the 2009 Small Business Conference – a world class business to business and networking event
- Poland sponsors and organises the national ‘Accountant of the Year’ competition which is the most admired competition in the profession.
- Micropay in Australia sponsors the Australian HR Institute Annual Awards, Payroll Week and HR leader awards