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Sage's Journey: From Square One to Number One!


Until the 1980s, accounting was deemed a bootless errand of manual data analysis and storage. Having worked at a printing company for over two decades, no one knew this better than David Goldman.

Not only was it unreliable and brought with itself only a tiny amount of strategic insights, but also accounting took an enormous amount of his small business' resources. Consequently, the information being outdated, caused his decision-making to be extremely slow - and he wanted to fix it!

Sick and tired of encountering the same problem over and over, it would be also David who'd put old-fashioned accounting to rest. What he'd bring to the table instead would be a software method no one had considered developing before.

Before he did it, though, David had to gather the right team to execute his vision to perfection.

An intriguing journey for a team of three, read on to learn how David and his associates gave birth to Sage, today's second largest tech company in the UK. Read more about it here:

The Three Co-founders

Born in Sunderland, UK in 1937, David Goldman immersed himself in work from an early age. Despite his other ventures, David expressed a deep interest in accounting throughout his youth and adolescence.

With a little help from numbers and cyphers, David would manage to expand his accounting skills onto advertising, public relations and, eventually, sales.

With just enough experience to get him going, David first became the managing director of a printing business called Campbell Graphics. As faith would have it, this position would later turn David's life around and drive him to develop a superb marketing potential.

On the other end of the island, in Scotland, Graham Whyle was born in 1959. Right after he was born, his parents, who worked as a miner and landlady respectively, moved to the North East with no job prospects in sight. Their destination was of crucial importance to Graham, as it would lead him to enrol in computer sciences at Newcastle University – the same place that would bring him and David together.

Moving all the way to sunny California, Paul Milford Muller was born in 1937. Most of his education revolved around mathematics and history studies. Paul also worked on the Apollo moon-shots before publishing his astronomy and planetary science book, for which Newcastle University awarded him with a PhD in physics.

At the time, none of the three men knew of one another, let alone imagined working together. However, through the ways of life and chance, the trio would not only meet soon but also achieve once-unimaginable greatness in the world of tech!

The Right Idea

Having gathered the experience of working both as an accountant and solving accounting problems at Campbell Graphics, David was the first to trigger the idea of automating the process of estimation for his business niche.

The idea came quietly and unannounced, and in David's mind, it would become one heck of software to develop. Although he had the software already envisioned, David still needed one essential thing to consider- finding a team to write it.

What looked like a mission impossible would soon become a very plausible concept, and it all began when David met Graham. A student at the time, Graham was already building software for a small accounting firm, to help them keep a record of their documents.

Once the task was completed, Graham joined David on a mission to develop something completely new. With a strong belief in assessing risks and grasping new opportunities, David wanted his software to become applicable in various businesses. Impressed by Graham's work, and having already estimated the risks, David moved all of his machines from Campbell Graphics into his new collaborative brand- Sage Systems.

Soon after, David reached out to the third and final co-founder, Paul Milford Muller, who at the time, still taught at Newcastle University.

The now-trio of founders, David, Graham and Paul, combined their knowledge and skills to not just perfect the software but also sell it to printing companies of interest. Fortunately, as companies moved on to desktop computers, the need for Sage's software grew onwards.

All in all, it took the team three whole years to proclaim Sage a well-earning business.

Growing with the Market

1984 was of vital importance for the success of The Sage Group and it was all due to the launch of their recognizable software. In just one year, Sage succeeded in amplifying their sales from thirty to three hundred copies.

Come 1989, the company obtained access to real-time pricing and was publicly offered a place on the London Stock Exchange list. This move earned Sage one of its first awards- Company of the Year, courtesy of the Newcastle Journal. That same year, Sage reached sales of $152 million and pre-tax earnings of $38 million.

Five years later came David's retirement, which was also when Paul Muller was named the new company CEO, who didn't hold back and introduced Sage on the London stock market.

With him in charge, Sage thrived even further, sparking up the interest of Thorn EMI that wanted to buy Sage for approximately one million pounds. The smooth negotiator he was, Paul Muller convinced David to reconsider selling the company, noting 'That is not the figure in my pocket '. At the close of the 90s, Sage Group entered the Financial Times Stock Exchange as a mid-zed company, which additionally fortified its clientele and spoke volumes on just how far the company had come.

The Arrival of the 21st Century

In the early 00s, the UK business press recognized Sage's shares as the 'best-performing share of the 90s'- a stellar homage to the century past.

By 2003, however, the inventor of Sage's software, Graham, retired from the company with $146 million worth of shares, which earned him the 109th spot on London Sunday Times richest people list.

Although now retired, the trio's legacy continues with even more customers and exponential market expansion. With nowhere to go from here but forward, Sage multiplied the two million customers it counted in 2000 to seven million before 2010 came to close.

But, as with every great brand, this was barely the beginning of Sage's success.

By expanding onto the global market, Sage recruited 13,000 employees, established headquarters in various countries around the world, or five to be exact, and earned three million customers across the globe.

As a very rich and delicious treat, this level of expansion earned Sage a revenue of stunning £1.936 billion.

A Tribute to David Goldman

“We all started out because we needed to make money to live, and for most people, that's where it ends. We've obviously gone further and I have to say that, when you float, it's rather like winning the pools. I'd always thought that I'd buy two cars and three yachts and all that but when we did float I discovered that it wasn't to do with that - it was to do with security and peace of mind.” - David Goldman

David Goldman passed away in 1999, leaving behind loyal colleagues and a loving family. To them, David was nothing short of a calm and sensible presence in business and elsewhere. His dedication and passion continue to live on through his company and everything he managed to achieve throughout the course of his life.

He cared deeply for his employees, was always there for his family, and lent a helping hand to everyone in need - it just wasn't about money for him!

Sage, Today

Originally, Sage intended to develop software for small accountant firms. Nowadays, over 20% of worldwide accountants use Sage's format because of its sophisticated, up-to-date performance.

With its main headquarter still located in Newcastle upon Tyne, and a few others in the US, Canada, South America, Africa, the Middle East, France and Australia, Sage remains a global leader in providing applicable and multifunctional software solutions worldwide.