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Wise Words from a Sage

Stephen Kelly CEO of Sage chose Campus North, Newcastle to deliver a “first impressions” talk, after his first 100 days in post.  Campus North is the centre of the digital start-up community in Newcastle and Sage has invested £10k in the project.  The talk was attended by some 100 people, comprised of the start-ups, journalists and interested members of the digital community.

Whenever, you talk you have the chance to see a FTSE 100 leader speak, it’s always interesting to compare them to peers; are they polished speakers, do they know their sector well and do they have a personality.  It’s fair to say that Stephen Kelly ticks all the boxes – he’s had a very successful career in the IT sector, he’s worked globally, easily able to recall a wide array of figures and he is an accomplished speaker.

His approach to the talk was a run through his career, so we understood his background, not an excuse for him to tell us how wonderful he is and then a section on how to build a great company.  This included the stat that 20 years ago, fifteen of the world’s leading IT companies included nine from the United Kingdom, today there are only 2 UK based companies in the leading fifteen global IT companies.  This reflects the UK’s typical conservatism, but also that we need to sell ourselves better on the global stage. Mr Kelly’s last posting before Sage, was leading the HM Government’s approach to make better use of IT to improve customer service – and has resulted in savings of £30 billion.  Despite those great successes, there were some claims, that did not resonate with the customer experience at the coalface, but these are the experience’s typical of any CEO of a decent sized business and being slightly removed from the customer coalface.

10 ways to build a great company, was based on 10 words, with each word beginning with C, was then discussed; with Customer, colleagues and culture being highlighted as the three key areas to focus on.  It would appear that Friday evening’s in the pub are also an essential staple of the high performing business. One point that did come was that Sage need to be a “compassionate capitalist” and needed to engage more actively with the local business.  Also, where growth over the past 20 years has been driven from SE Asia and opportunities still exist in several countries e.g. China, Thailand, expect Africa to deliver great growth opportunity in the next 20 years.

The talk was finished off with a Q and A session, where Stephen Kelly did admit that one of his key focuses would be to ensure that Sage “got its mojo back”. So an evening where Sage and Mr Kelly gained a number of brownie points was ended positively.  For Sage they have an intelligent, energetic and very successful CEO, for the staff there will be a clear remit on performance – “if they can’t be successful at Sage, then it’s best for everybody if they are allowed to move onto companies, where they will be successful”, for customers a move to a more digitally focussed company and for competitors   ?

LangdonHamblin is a sales consultancy business. Looking to accelerate your sales performance, then contact me at dermot@langdonhamblin.co.uk for a 15 minute strategy session.

Published by on April 8, 2015. Comments Off on Wise Words from a Sage

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