Getting to know the people behind a large, established company can help to remind consumers of the human element behind all the success. At the end of the day, without people, a brand wouldn’t exist, and without customers, it wouldn’t flourish. We caught up with the Head of Sage One in the AAMEA region, Mr. Steven Cohen, to find out a little more not only about the exciting world of online accounting software, but also more about the man behind the title.
Getting to know the people behind a large, established company can help to remind consumers of the human element behind all the success. At the end of the day, without people, a brand wouldn’t exist, and without customers, it wouldn’t flourish. We caught up with the Head of Sage One in the AAMEA region, Mr. Steven Cohen, to find out a little more not only about the exciting world of online accounting software, but also more about the man behind the title. Here’s what he had to share.
What is your career background and how did you find yourself in the world of online accounting? Also, for those who don’t know, what is Sage One, how did it start and who can benefit from it the most.
SC: I’m a qualified CASA (since 1987) and I was one of the founders of Softline, a provider of business management software to small and medium sized companies. That was, in essence, my first real job. We listed on the JSE in 1997, before being bought out by Sage in 2003, after which a rebrand took place and we became known as Sage.
I then moved from a group role to MD at Sage Pastel in the same year. It was during this time that a group of programmers and myself started to develop the online initiative for which Sage is well known. What started out as a “let’s see what we can do” sort of thing turned into something much greater and its success recently led me to resign from my role as MD of Pastel and take up the position of Head of Sage One in the AAMEA region. I still work from the very same desk though – in the support office, close to the customers and right in the middle of all the action.
Simply put, Sage One is a cloud accounting program. I tell people that it’s just like Facebook, except for the fact that it’s not social software, but rather geared towards business and accounting. Sage One offers all the conveniences that come with the cloud: it offers mobility, so that you have the freedom to work from where ever, whenever, as long as you have access to a computer and a browser. All your data is kept safe and secure with the help of an internet service provider (complete with generators, mirrored backups, 24/7 security etc).
And who can benefit from it the most? The short answer: any SME with an internet connection! It’s a full accounting system so it looks to satisfy the business needs of a range of companies. Some people use it solely for the online payroll option while others in the service industry use it for billing time and services.
Why do you think online accounting (and online systems) are the way forward for small businesses?
SC: Two reasons:
1) It’s accounting software for the “new age” and therefore the user experience is far simpler and easier. Whilst many accounting software vendors have evolved their software over the last 20 years, it’s still hard to use, as the majority of people using it tend to have a lack of the necessary accounting knowledge that would make using that specific software easier. Sage One is designed for the cloud so it’s fresh and beautiful form makes it simple for anyone to navigate and utilise. Using the knowledge and lessons acquired over two decades, Sage One has been developed in such a way so as to ensure it contains all the necessary functionality, yet not at the cost of simplicity when it comes to the user’s experience.
2) The convenience the cloud offers is compelling in every way possible. The best part is that this convenience extends beyond the PC to include other platforms (such as mobile), making it an incredible option when it comes to mobility. Because all the necessary information is stored in the cloud, gone are the days when it all sits in the “domain” of the admin staff – now everyone who needs to have access does, wherever they may be. It’s the ultimate software for businesses and will change how they operate on a daily basis.
Sage One software is based on the same trusted Pastel software, but what makes it different and unique?
SC: Sage One software is not like Pastel software; in fact, it’s entirely new. Of course, they do share the same parents though: the same people who originally developed it. Sage One has the same engineering and philosophy behind it, yet it’s new. As I like to put it: it’s like your grandmother always drove a Volkswagen Beetle back in 1950 and now you drive the latest golf in the 21st Century – same design, same ethos, yet more current.
Where do you see online accounting in the next five years? What do you predict the developments will be?
SC: It’s undoubtedly going to be at the centre of most SMEs, more than likely integrating with third party applications through APIs, facilitating automatic bank and payment integrations, and of course promoting, more than ever, the ongoing importance of mobility in the business world.
As time passes, online accounting software is bound to become more than simply something that helps you electronically organise the books and records of your business – it’s set to become a “business tool”, in every sense of the term. It will allow business owners to use it as so much more than just its original record keeping purpose – it will also show you who owes you money, who you owe and what profits and losses you’ve made. Simply put: it’ll be about so much more than just the numbers. You’ll be able to operate your entire business from this single platform, from managing your to-dos, to using it for marketing purposes and bettering customer relationships. Operational information will be able to merge seamlessly with accounting information, making it a breeze to manage your business with user-friendly and reliable software.
What is it about this industry that gets you fired up?
SC: Many things, but the fact that we are manufacturers, artists, creators, really gets me fired up. I’ve always been excited about businesses in which people are making things, building things that are essentially making other peoples’ lives easier. I feel we do that here at Sage. We want to create things that people can benefit from, things that can change the way businesses do business. Nothing makes me happier than getting feedback such as this from a satisfied Sage user and knowing it’s something we built that has led to such satisfaction: “I’m working on it and I think I’m falling in love with the software.”
What advice can you offer to the future Sir Richard Bransons out there?
SC: Employ the right people.
Don’t patronise them.
AND SHARE THEIR PASSION.
And lastly: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not online?
SC: I enjoy guitar, chess, history, philosophy and riding my motorcycle. I also love movies and listening to Van Morrison and Radiohead.
Thanks to Steven for taking the time to answer our questions.
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