Sage chief executive Stephen Kelly says the real “Northern Powerhouse” is in the North East, and not just the M62 corridor.
Speaking at event on Tyneside, he called on North East small businesses to “knock on his door” as he set out his ambitions for the FTSE 100 company’s relationship with the region.
Mr Kelly was at Newcastle’s Campus North to follow up on Sage’s founding sponsorship of the organisation that is home to the Ignite100 accelerator programme, and a growing collection of entrepreneurs, developers and designers.
Mr Kelly said his firm “loves to support small businesses” and was insistent that Sage would “walk-the-walk” by procuring from small businesses and collaborating with them on product development.
Mr Kelly said: “We have a policy which means we have to buy from small businesses. Sage has yearly revenues of around $2.5b and we need small firms to factor in that.
“We’re also concentrated on what we call compassionate capitalism. We want to be a hugely successful company and we want to bring people and the small businesses with us.”
It was the first public talk in Newcastle for the former Government chief operating officer, who joined North Park-based Sage in November last year.
He told the audience of entrepreneurs, technologists and business people that Sage’s 2,000 or so employees in the North East meant the company had a huge responsibility to the region.
Mr Kelly is due to meet Sage founder Graham Wylie in coming weeks, and remarked several times throughout his talk about “standing on the shoulders of giants” in his role.
Speaking to The Journal following his talk, the chief executive said his focus over the next 12 months was to continue growing Sage’s market share — also alluding to ambitions to grow presence in Asia. Mr Kelly did not rule out further acquisitions for the firm.
He explained: “Our stakeholders and investors love the growth in Sage’s margins, the company’s ability to generate strong cash flow and the maintenance of the positive dividend.
“They’re all aspects that we want to build on and continue to improve. Acquisitions might factor in that growth, but at the moment our focus is on growing market share.”
As well as detailing his 15 years spent in the US, including his time at the helms of software companies Oracle and Chordiant, Mr Kelly offered the audience some top tips on growing a company — including strategy, company culture and recruitment.
He also talked about his time as chief executive of MicroFocus International — where he was credited with a major turnaround of the company.
Introducing the talk, Ignite100 founder and director Paul Smith, said: “I’m delighted that Sage is a partner of Campus North.
“The North East is one of the few areas outside of London that has a full complement of grassroots organisations like Campus North, to Dynamo — which brings together the corporates, and the likes of Sage, Digital Union and Tech North. There are few places with such a supportive network for technology companies.”