24 (119) 2016
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British Investment

The local roots of international success

by Piotr Ciski, country manager, Sage Poland
Header piotr ciski


The UK is one of the most thriving business incubators in the world.

Richard Branson and James Dyson were able to develop their business talents in this climate. The UK market creates trends in entrepreneurship that are followed by other countries. The history of economic cooperation between Poland and the UK dates back several hundred years, with the most recent, years of truly flourishing relations.

The first stable economic relations between Poland and England took place in the 16th century. In March of 1585, the Eastland Company, a monopolist trader on the Baltic Sea signed an agreement with the authorities of the port town of Elbląg. Under the agreement, the town became a major hub for the exchange of goods between Poland and England. The Deputy Governor of the Company settled in Elbląg thus commencing a period of fruitful economic cooperation between the countries. The agreement had a significant impact on the development of the emerging naval power of Great Britain.

It also spawned a rare example of a Polish word becoming adopted into the English language. Apart from the export of grain and wool, the traders imported flax for sail-making and wood of a slender spruce that was used as a building material for England's growing ship fleet. The English term 'spruce' originates, according to some sources, from the expression 'from Prussia' (which in Polish - z Prus - sounds exactly like 'spruce'), from where the wood was sourced.

Polish lands attracted investors from the British Isles during the industrial revolution. For example, in 1884, the Scottish Briggs brothers built a wool spinning mill near Warsaw. It was one of the largest and most modern facilities of this type at that time in Europe. An estate for workers was built, with a school for their children and a pharmacy which operates to this day. Moreover, railway access was launched and a church was constructed.

Then, the wars and historical turmoil inhibited the development of mutual economic relations. It was not until the late 1980s when political changes in Poland and Europe made trade and business contacts flourish again. In the early 1990s, economic relations between the UK and Poland were steadily and stably developing to rapidly thrive after Poland's accession to the EU.

From local start-up to global success

The history behind the Polish branch of Sage is a perfect example of a well-functioning Polish-British business relationship. In 1981, Poland was about to be placed under martial law, meanwhile in Newcastle, David Goldman, Paul Muller and Graham Wylie founded a company with the goal of creating and developing software that supports accounting activities and financial management at small companies. Mr Wylie, while still a student at Newcastle University, found a job at a local accounting firm to see how they managed their accounting records. This experience formed the foundations for the Sage Line 50 software. The first software produced by the company, namely Sage Accounts, was sold through a network of partners mostly to small printing companies. In 1984, Sage presented software intended for use on Amstrad computers, and sales went up from 30 to 300 copies per month. Five years later, the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange.

At the same time in the Polish market, there was a company called Altkom run by Marek Kobiałka. It was transformed into Matrix Altkom in 1993. This was the first Polish computer program created to support business management dedicated for the MS Windows operating system. The Symfonia System was designed for SMEs and soon became the business software leader in the market in Poland.

The dynamic development of management software in the Polish market coincided with the start of Sage's international expansion. In 1991, the company entered the US market and a year later the French one. Branch offices were opened in Portugal and Switzerland in 1999. Sage made its debut on the London stock exchange FTSE 100 index made up of a the hundred largest companies as one of two new technology companies in this group. By 2000, Sage had two million active customers.

First of all, support business management

Sage appeared in Poland in 2005 when the company's acquisition of Symfonia from Matrix was approved by the State Securities Commission. By then, it had passed a few more significant milestones. In 2002, the company was recognised as Company of the Year in the UK. Five years later, the number of Sage customers around the world had increased to five million. The following years brought further development, consolidating the position of Sage in global markets and locally.

Today, Sage is one of the three largest producers of business management software, employing over 13,000 employees in 25 countries, with a market value of more than £6.6 billion. In Poland, it's the market leader in financial and accounting software for SMEs, and it is Europe's second largest software producer.

At the same time, Sage is demonstrating how global values bring employees from different countries, continents and cultures together. Each employee can apply for any position in the world within the group. For several years, the company has been organising the world's largest conference for small and medium-sized companies, the so-called Sage Summit. It's a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to share ideas and establish business networking, and to derive knowledge from the largest and most well-known business leaders.

This year's Sage Summit will be held in Chicago in July, with Sir Richard Branson being the special guest. He is a treasure trove of inspiration, knowledge and ideas for almost every entrepreneur at every latitude.

Over the last year and half of activity, the Polish branch has adopted the operating model, which has been in place in other Sage group companies around the world. Today, Sage Poland operates in the same manner as Sage in the UK, the USA and other countries. With our international experience and know-how the company is able to develop and implement the Sage e-Auditor project in record time.

Sage has responded to the introduction of the Standard Audit File for Tax (SAF-T) in Poland (it comes into force for large companies on 1 July this year and for smaller ones in 2018)  e-Auditor is a unique platform to validate SAF-Ts (for electronic tax audits as well as internal audits).

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