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Step aside big business, it's small businesses that are already leading us to recovery

CEO Steve Hare points out that it's smaller businesses - not enterprises - leading the UK into post-pandemic recovery.


"We have been working hard to enhance our digital network which underpins our new ambition, to be the trusted network for small and mid-sized businesses."

17 NOV 2021

“Actually, it’s OK to be small and make a really big impact in a small amount of people’s lives, than be massive and make no impact at all”. These are the words of Natalie Bannister, an inspiring, creative and outdoors-loving entrepreneur, speaking to Sage’s Sound Advice podcast recently.

Small business owners like Natalie may feel like they only touch a few people – but the cumulative economic impact of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), who make up over 90% of all businesses and create two thirds of all jobs, is significant. Arguably, far more significant than the impact of large businesses. And beyond their economic contribution, they provide valuable opportunities for financial independence and improved wellbeing. That is why it is so encouraging to see that they are not just surviving – they are thriving, showing optimism and confidence. Companies like Sage are here to smooth their path and remove friction. The Full Year results we’ve announced today show that we continue to serve millions of businesses and we are adding more and more to our network every day, so that they can continue to fuel the recovery and drive prosperity in their communities, and for the global economy. And we’re just getting started.

Our customers

I spoke to the owner of a gym in Germany who told me using Sage HR Suite Connected has enabled them to certify personal trainers quicker and manage employees’ personal information (such as payslips, change of address and uploading of new training certificates). The employee portal allowed supervisors to reduce time spent emailing HR employee information and speed up the process of generating training certificates - saving 21 working days per year on issuing certificates alone.

Foxglove Cocktails, a supplier of craft cocktail mixers in Cork, Ireland, who I also spoke to recently told me Sage Accounting saves them two to three hours per day through the automated input of receipts – but they’ve also enjoyed the broader support Sage provides, through online learning via Sage University – and through helpful advice on the phone when needed. This is a story I have heard repeated by many customers.

And one of our US hospitality customers recently shared at our Sage Transform event how they’re using Sage Intacct to manage their energy consumption across different sites, even down to a room level, driving efficiencies and sustainability all through their financial management software.

Thanks to Sage solutions, these businesses can now spend less time on admin and finance and more time doing what is important, serving their customers. The exciting thing is – there’s so much more we can do for them.

We have been working hard to enhance our digital network which underpins our new ambition, to be the trusted network for small and mid-sized businesses. Our digital network enables us to digitise business relationships and elevate human work. Through our network we can connect organisations, with their banks, regulatory bodies, customers, suppliers and employees – providing a variety of online services, including banking, payment and compliance services. This could look like a supplier that trusts an invoice because it arrives with a digital network ID attached and is identifiable on the directory; or a user, with their own assigned ID, can ask their bank to verify their salary directly with their employer when filling out a mortgage application.

Through Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, more data powers the insights we need to build better customer experiences; in turn, attracting more customers to the digital network. We already have access to huge amounts of data. In the UK 43% of businesses pay their colleagues via Sage and in Sage Intacct alone, we’re managing 65 million customer records, and 35 million vendor relationships – and this is growing at a rate of about 50% per year.

Sustainable business

Our purpose and ambition do not stop at supporting businesses. For five years now we’ve engaged directly with our communities through Sage Foundation – in FY21 colleagues contributed over 22,000 volunteering days to good causes. We’ve broadened that impact with our Sustainability and Society strategy, to tackle the digital divide, economic inequality and the climate crisis. We’ve pledged our time, money and expertise committed to delivering STEM skills teaching to 14,000 children in the most deprived areas of our hometown of Newcastle. We’ve partnered with organisations that help people from underrepresented groups start their own businesses, such as Connectr in the UK and The BOSS Network in the US. We’ve pledged to help protect the planet, with a commitment to halve our carbon emissions by 2030, and achieve net zero by 2040, across scope 1, 2 and 3. And we’ve joined up with organisations like The Purpose Coalition and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to ensure we’re playing our part in accelerating the transition to a sustainable world and more equitable society.

Importantly, that means helping our customers address their own impact, so we’re lobbying for clearer guidance and a consistent approach for SMB carbon reporting, including at COP26 earlier this month. We’ve also launched an online Sustainability Hub, providing SMBs with expertise and advice on how they can reduce their carbon.

Our colleagues

Key to achieving all of this or course is the collective contribution and commitment of everyone at Sage. Our colleagues globally should all feel very proud of what we’ve delivered, and of the value we continue to create for all our stakeholders. We will continue to focus on building an innovative, high-performing culture through programs like our hybrid working model, Flexible Human Work, to ensure we continue to attract the best talent, and promote and create a culture in which everyone feels valued and empowered to thrive. 

We do this not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because we need diverse perspectives to help us generate the best ideas to help us solve our customers’ problems and to deliver great outcomes for customers, colleagues, communities and our shareholders.

The truth is, we don’t know exactly what the world will look like in a year’s time. But we do know that our customers will continue to adopt digital technology to boost their productivity - powering local economies around the world and creating many new jobs. We know too that they create a ripple effect within their communities, bringing prosperity and wellbeing. We must continue knocking down barriers for them, so they can fuel the economic recovery and play an increasingly meaningful role in building a better society and a more inclusive economy. 

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