THE Sage Group plc is a remarkable North-East success story.
Founded 25 years ago, the organisation has grown to become a world leading provider of business management software with 13,000 staff in a global operation that last year turned over £935m.
The Sage story starts in a printing works on Newcastle’s Quayside when business owner and entrepreneur David Goldman looked for a way to automate his print estimating process.
He worked with a team of Newcastle University students, led by Paul Muller, who developed some software to manage both print estimating and basic accounting.
David realised other companies would benefit from the software and formed a business to begin selling it.
Initially just a few sold, then when Amstrad launched its first desktop PC, the software was adapted to run on it.
Sales soared from around 30 to more than 300 copies a month.
To help manage demand and design more software to tap into the lucrative market, Sage recruited new staff, including a commercially-minded accountant to help run the business – Paul Walker – who is now the group’s chief executive and chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.
Paul Stobart was appointed managing director of Sage UK and Eire in May 2003 following the retirement of Graham Wylie.
Paul joined the company in 1996 and has worked in a number of roles, including business development director and chief operating officer for the Sage Group plc.
In his most recent role, he oversaw service and operational issues in the American, French and German operations.
Paul read law at Oxford before qualifying as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse in London in 1983.
He worked in investment banking for Hill Samuel and chaired the European business Interbrand plc, an international branding and marketing services company.
While at Interbrand, he was instrumental in developing techniques for valuing brands, a practice that has since become well established as a means of monitoring the effectiveness of marketing investment in many of the world’s leading brands.
Paul freely admits that it’s a rare privilege being a marketing man with an accounting background.
He says: “It means that marketing departments can’t get away with unrealistic budget requests, but it also means that finance can’t demand cuts in spend that will harm the business. It’s all about getting the balance right.”
Sage, of course, has gone from strength to strength, floating on the London Stock Exchange in 1989 and entering the FTSE 100 in 1999.
Today 700,000 businesses in the UK alone rely on Sage to manage their key business processes and one in four people in the UK are paid using Sage Payroll.