Nancy Harris: A Tech Veteran Transforming Traditional Business Management To Cloud-Based Services

Nancy Harris

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Digitization has caused companies to make a big move from traditional ‘bookkeeping’ to cloud storage. The opportunities these cloud-based services offer is vast. Nancy Harris (Managing Director of Sage, North America) believes that there are more opportunities on the horizon to move business management and accounting tasks to cloud-based services.  Nancy has more than 30 years of experience in sales, marketing, and partner development, successfully leading large SaaS and enterprise software companies including BMC Software and Asure Software. She joined Sage in 2011, serving as Vice President and General Manager of Sage 50 Accounting, Canadian Edition and later as Managing Director of Sage North America where she is responsible for the company’s daily performance in the U.S. and Canada.

In a talk with Mirror Review, Nancy shared some of her insights on cloud migration and what the future holds for her company. Here are the excerpts,

Identifying the Solution to the Problem

Can you share the story behind the establishment of Sage?

Sage began the same way many businesses have been established, by identifying the solution to a problem. Our founder David Goldman was fed up with old-school accounting processes and wanted to automate them inside his own practice. When he decided to work with a team of Newcastle University students in the U.K. to develop software, he realized that other businesses could benefit from this as well. As a result, Sage was established in 1981. Later in 1998, with the acquisition of Peachtree Accounting, we moved to the U.S. Today, our company has more than 13,000 colleagues and serves over 2 million customers around the world.

One-Stop-Shop for the Customers

What is that one unique quality that differentiates Sage from its competitors?

Our Sage Business Cloud is the one and only business management solution that small and medium businesses need to scale and grow. The one quality that sets us apart from competitors is our ability to support customers at any step of their digital business journey—from a small business operation to a full-scale organization that operates in multiple markets and has deep vertical complexities.

Other vendors require customers to evaluate new products and solutions when their business evolves and becomes more complex. We are the one stop shop for all our customer’s business management needs with purpose-built solutions and a thriving ecosystem of applications.

Responsible For the Company’s Performance

How will you describe your daily routine?

As a Managing Director, I am responsible for the company’s performance in the U.S. and Canada. I work with Sage’s North American teams to advance the company’s presence throughout the continent, strengthening the relationship with Sage’s customers, partners, accountant partners and colleagues. On a daily basis, this means speaking with customers and partners frequently. It means having my finger on the pulse of how they are doing in the market, where we are winning, how we are serving them and where do we need to improve and determine next steps.

Make Every Effort Count

Is there any secret to how you keep yourself and your team members motivated in stressful situations?

We are driven by our purpose to transform the way people think and work so their organizations can thrive. This purpose in and of itself is a great motivator for me and our team.

There may be times where my team gets overwhelmed, so I try my best to motivate our colleagues by  painting the picture of where we are headed—what our mission is—and why they are critically important to the end objective of building a great SaaS company for the customers, partners and colleagues. In sum, I remind our colleagues how they fit into our strategy and that what they do is important. I also remind our colleagues to be mindful of their health and wellbeing. I encourage them to take their 5 paid days a year to give back to a non-profit of their choice. We know that when colleagues take time out to volunteer in their communities, they are happier.

Inclusiveness Makes Everything Better

Have any of your personal experiences helped you to become a good leader?

We all are a product of our upbringing, and in that regard, yes, my family experiences shaped the type of leader I am and the type of leader to whom I respond best. I was taught at an early age that no one person is better than the next. While we may have similarities to other people, it’s the different perspectives and unique views that each person brings to the table that we need to listen to and embrace. I strongly believe that inclusiveness makes everything better—including business results.

Failure Is the Best Teacher

How did you embrace your failure? Did your failure change you in any way?

I think failure is the best teacher. While I was serving as part of the management team in the previous company, it went through a hostile takeover by a hedge fund. It was a difficult experience in many ways but it was one of the most profound learning experiences of my career. Ultimately, we lost the proxy battle and the company was taken over.

This failure changed me in many ways. I learned how to remain calm under pressure; I learned how to communicate with colleagues with the utmost transparency, regardless of the difficulty of the message; I learned you never know how people will react when put into a pressure situation and that people’s true colors tend to come out. More than anything, it underscored the importance of integrity for me, and I’ve continued to hold that as one of my most important personal values.

Health Routine to Stay Mentally and Physically Fit

Despite your busy schedule, how do you keep yourself healthy?

I exercise regularly. That is my health routine and I cannot skip it. I run at least 3x a week and try to do weights and core strengthening in between. Running is not only for my physical health, but it’s also great for my mental health.  It’s my go-to for stress relief.

I also try to eat healthy, particularly because I travel so much.  As with everyone, some weeks are better than others, but that is how I do my best to stay mentally and physically fit.

Stronger Focus, Stronger Deliberation

What are your future plans for the company?

I am excited about the future of Sage. We now have a stronger focus and stronger deliberation.  We’ve announced the divestment of some smaller parts of the business that don’t fit with our vision while expanding and doubling-down on others.

We recently launched the Sage Business Cloud marketplace in the U.S. and U.K. We are growing our team and making strategic acquisitions, most recently with Cake HR and AutoEntry, and a few years ago, Intacct and Fairsale. We’re increasing R&D investment to build out Sage Business Cloud, including embedding emerging technology and enhancing the ‘service fabric’ of Sage Business Cloud.

Nancy Harris Quotes

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