SAGE One & SAGE Instant Accounts Plus – My Experience

DISCLOSURE

I was recently asked to become a SAGE Business Expert. I’m still wondering why but, anyway, they asked and I said yes. More on that over here. I was already a SAGE customer prior to becoming a SAGE Business Expert. I had bought and was using both of the products I’m going to talk about below well before SAGE asked me to get involved with the Business Expert program. This post is not a sales pitch from / for SAGE. It’s just me giving my experience with 2 of their products. 

My experience with SAGE software

I’ve been using SAGE software for a couple of years now. I’m not an accountant. I studied business in college so I did some accounting along the way, but my brain isn’t really wired for figures. I’m more of the entrepreneurial, creative sort.

I did honours maths for the Leaving Cert until just before Easter in 6th year. I’d sat down and done a cost / benefit analysis (that’s accounting talk, right?) on the time I was spending on learning higher level maths. It turned out it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t need it for points and the fact was it was taking me too long to learn it. My head was regularly fit to explode trying to make sense of it all. My teacher at the time said ‘You can DO this stuff Breen!’ and he was right. The thing was it was taking me 3 times as long as the rest of the lads to understand it. I had other subjects that I’d natural talent for and would get me more points. My time could be better spent elsewhere than struggling with differentiation and the likes. I thought differentiation was tough enough. When we proceeded on to integration, I knew the jig was up. So off I went to ordinary level maths, delighted with myself.

My point in sharing that story is this – to my mind, I’m a reasonably intelligent person who does not really have a brain suited to figures and accounting. The thing is, as a businessman, there’s no getting away from accounting. If you’re in the business to make money, then you need to be keeping track of what’s coming in and what’s going out.

So I need software that I can understand and use myself, without necessarily needing an accountant to work with me all the time.

That’s where SAGE software comes in.

A couple of quick thingsmother knows best mug

It’s important for me that you all understand a couple of things before we get into this:

  • I have not used any OTHER accounting software. So I’m not comparing SAGE software with any of the others out there. I’m just giving my input on the software I HAVE used. 
  • I’ve ONLY used SAGE simply because my mother is an Accountant and Tax Consultant and she has always used SAGE. So, when I needed something she recommended what she knew worked and would work for me and that was SAGE One.

SAGE One

I began using SAGE One in 2011.

I was working full-time for someone else but have always worked part-time for myself. I was getting busier and busier with the part-time stuff and I decided I needed something better than Excel and a fairly decent looking invoice template I’d pulled together in Word.

I wanted something simple and effective that would produce professional looking invoices. Ideally I wanted something cloud based as I’d often find myself needing to issue or reissue invoices or check up on invoices for clients during my normal work day when my laptop with my Excel and Word files was at home. Obviously, as it was only to use on stuff I was doing part-time I needed something that was reasonably inexpensive too.

My mother suggested I look at SAGE One and the rest, as they say, is history.

Why SAGE One works for me SAGE One Accounts

SAGE One literally ticks all the boxes for me and I’m still using it, even though I’m also now using Sage Instant Accounts Plus for my own main business, Cuckoo Events. More on that later on.

Here’s why SAGE One still works for me for my small, part-time business:

  • It’s cloud-based.  Originally this was one of my criteria for as the business was a part-time one. While my full-time employment situation has since changed, I still have that part-time business and I still need to be able to access my invoicing on the go. I don’t have to have my laptop with me which makes it very handy. 
  • It’s nice and simple. It’s a very intuitive and straight-forward system. It’s easy set up clients and create invoices. You don’t need to be a financial whizz kid to use it by any means. My mother knew this was key as she was obviously around during that LC story I told you earlier!
  • Integrated emailing. One of the features I really like about SAGE One is that you can assign an email address to a client and then when you create an invoice for that client, you can email it to them from within SAGE one with just a couple of clicks. It means I don’t have to save it and attach it to a mail myself. It’s a small thing but it’s a time-saving feature and I like it.
  • Summary screen. I like that, once you log in, the first screen you get is a Summary screen. The Summary screen tells you your Sales, Expenses and Profit for the year to date as well as giving you a nice graphical representation of your Sales and a Top 5 list of any unpaid invoices. It gives a very quick ‘at a glance’ impression of where you’re at.

I’m pretty sure the nice people at SAGE will be thinking ‘eh, it does WAY more than that, Mark’ and it may well do!

They’re the things I like about it. I use it for a small part-time business and it does everything I need and does it well.

I’m liking SAGE Instant Accounts Plus SAGE Instant Accounts Plus

When setting up Cuckoo Events, my full-time events business, I knew I’d be needing an accounting software package that could do more for me than SAGE One. There’d be VAT returns to be outputted, a larger numbers of customers and suppliers compared to the business I am still using SAGE One for, stock to be integrated and controlled as well as (I figured) other functionality I didn’t even KNOW I needed yet. So I turned to the mother again.

I told her, to her slight amazement, that I wanted something that would DO everything I needed it to do but that it also needed to be ‘simple’ enough for ME to use, learn and understand. This new business was to be my future and I wanted to be able to know and understand every bit of it, including the accounting side.

SAGE Instant Accounts Plus, says she. Right so.

Next month (July 2013) will be our year-end so I’ve almost a year of use behind me as well as numerous VAT returns.

Here’s why I’m liking it:

  • It does quotations. Now, I’m sure all decent accounting software packages do quotations, but, for me, this was the first thing I discovered it did that I hadn’t even THOUGHT of needing it to do. In fairness, I was always going to need to do quotations. It does them very well too. 
  • It has lists. Again, all packages may have lists. I don’t know. I DO know that being able to click on ‘Customer List’ ‘Invoice List’ or ‘Quotations List’ allows me to see, at a glance, what I’m owed, what quotes are outstanding, who my best customers are etc. It’s great to be able to get a really quick handle on that as soon as the software is opened.
  • It does my VAT returns. The whole VAT thing has always scared me a little bit. With SAGE Instant Accounts Plus it scares me a bit less. The software produces my VAT returns, when due, and it seems to be doing a good job of it so far. I like that dealing with the VAT man has been made much less of a headache than I thought it would be.
  • It seems like it’s designed for the likes of me. In as much as accounting software can be intuitive, I feel this is. It’s straight-forward and logical. It works the way you’d expect it to. While I wouldn’t have the confidence to do things like VAT Returns and Year End Accounts etc. without the back up of an accountant, that’s no reflection on my confidence in the SAGE software. My accountant relies heavily on what SAGE gives her and she trusts it. That gives me confidence in it.
  • It gives me stock control. I knew from the outset with Cuckoo that I’d have stock and that I’d need to control it. I didn’t really think this was something my accounting software would do, but it is. The Plus in Sage Instant Accounts Plus gives me great stock control features. It stops me selling stock I don’t have which is something I could be doing otherwise. You never want to turn down a sale but not having the stock to fulfil it could be an issue. SAGE tracks my stock levels by cross-referencing my sales and stock purchases.
  • It gives me up to date info on my business bank account. It’s very handy to be able to keep an eye on the bank account from within SAGE too as well as being able to deal with transactions on the business credit cards. I use this feature more than looking at my actual bank account online, except for when I’m doing bank reconciliations.

I am genuinely enjoying using this software and learning its capabilities. I know I’m not yet using it to its full potential; my accountant keeps telling me that. Even so, it’s allowing me to get to grips with my new business and control and monitor every element of it from sales, debtors, creditors and stock to VAT returns and bank recs.

So there you have it.

It’s a case of horses for courses, I guess, isn’t it? For me, both SAGE One and SAGE Instant Accounts Plus are good pieces of software that each suit different needs for my different businesses.

If you want to get in touch with the SAGE people to see which of their products may work for you, you can get them on Twitter @SageIreland or head on over to www.sage.ie and talk to them. They’re nice people.

Did I miss anything? 

Anyone have any other experiences with the SAGE software? 

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