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James Ashton, co-founder, GoProposal by Sage
James Ashford_GoProposal by Sage

GoProposal becomes part of Sage

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The pricing and onboarding app GoProposal was acquired by Sage this week for an undisclosed sum.

5th Oct 2021
Editor in Chief AccountingWEB
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GoProposal went from strength to strength during the pandemic as accounting practices went into paramedic mode and started working remotely to support their business clients.

Explaining the backdrop to the sale of his software “baby”, GoProposal founder James Ashford said that accounting services got a lot more complicated over the past 18 months, for example with payroll and furlough calculations, Brexit and how it affects VAT.

“Clients have become far more complex in nature. And if you don’t get the intersection of complicated services and complicated clients right, you start to lose profitability and there’s more risk. All these elements make a perfect storm,” he told AccountingWEB.

“If your letter of engagement doesn’t reflect those things, you could be exposed to that risk, or it might come to light during a quality audit.” 

Those concerns and the need to price and structure services more consistently prompted a lot of practitioners to invest in onboarding tools. GoProposal made a lot of inroads among smaller firms, supported by the enthusiastic presence of Ashford across multiple media platforms. 

Built to sell

On the back of this surge, Ashford said he had started to entertain offers towards the end of 2020 and started engaging seriously with suitors early this year. 

“I built the business from the start to sell. It’s what I advocate for accounts and I always had that plan for GoProposal,” Ashford told AccountingWEB.

Already based in Salford, Ashford and the rest of the GoProposal team will join Sage’s global accountants team based in nearby Salford Quays. The program will now be known as GoProposal by Sage. While work is underway to link the app into Sage’s evolving online practice suite, it will continue to integrate with QuickBooks and Xero. 

For Sage, chief strategy and development officer Derk Bleeker described the GoProposal deal as part of the company’s broader mission to build a platform to help accounting firms operate efficiently and profitably.

“It was a real meeting of the minds,” Bleeker said. “We wouldn’t be buying GoProposal if we didn’t think it was a critical fit - it’s the spearhead of our strategy to build great solutions for accountants.” 

Culture fit

In true honeymoon spirit, both executives emphasised the cultural fit between Sage and GoProposal and how the software giant’s backing would enable Ashford and GoProposal to carry on doing what they do to accelerate growth.

“Our joint intent is to scale this business in the UK and beyond. There’s a huge market opportunity in the UK, but there’s no reason why proposal management wouldn’t be a good value proposition to accounts in other part of the world.”

The road ahead

The deal also got the thumbs up from Chris Downing, director of product marketing for accountants and bookkeepers Sage UK. “Accountants have been through a pivotal 18 months and over the next 18 months they have to get through the MTD ITSA transition. We’re still coming out of the pandemic and they’re thinking about how to survive, what direction their cashflow is going and how they are going to price and provide their services,” he said. 

“You need to do that with complete visibility and confidence about where the practice is going. Proposal management is key to ensuring that accounting firms can maintain profitability in the long term.”

Ashford, too, was looking ahead to the new look GoProposal by Sage and listed 15 new programmers and support staff he was taking on to accelerate the development of a “fully real-time, events-based experience” for practitioners from pricing and costing their work into an engagement letter. 

“That’s just a start. Because circumstances change on an ongoing basis, that spec can always adapt and be agile to help the firm grown,” he said.

Have onboarding and GoProposal become part of your practice technology stack over the past year or two? And if you are a user, what are hoping for from the revamped GoProposal by Sage? Let us know by commenting below?
 
To hear more from James Ashford about his philiosphy of client service, be sure to catch him at the panel session on Saying No to Clients and Staying Sane at the AccountingWEB Live Expo on Wednesday 1 December, 2:30pm.
 
AccountingWEB Live Expo 2021
 
 

Replies (8)

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By North East Accountant
05th Oct 2021 13:37

At Accountex North in Manchester recently Sage trailed "The Future of Accountancy" kicking off in November.

Seeing as it's October still........if this is the starter I can't wait to see the main course.

Very smart move from Sage and a real powerful statement of intent.

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By AdamMurphy
05th Oct 2021 14:47

Is there any point any more in being a customer of smaller software companies? May as well just go straight to being a Sage or IRIS customer for goodness sake.

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By johnt27
05th Oct 2021 20:18

An interesting set up for Sage who are sadly lacking good PM tools. This is the first promising development on this journey. Sage, so far, appear to be less inclined to damage the goodwill of existing customers connected to competitor products, if their forays into Intacct and AutoEntry are anything to go by, which compares favourably to Intuit's general acquisition strategy.

With Sage's significant presence still in the UK and mainland Europe lots of opportunity for the GP team to get into new markets, where Xero/QBO still lack penetration. I also wonder if this lays the basis for Sage's approach to the market? GP has been succesful predominantly with smaller practices, building up a significant community, so are Sage going to target this market going forward? Their other cloud products favour this end of the market.

For those whose reaction is to get out, the proposal app space is rich with competitors

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FirstTab
By FirstTab
05th Oct 2021 21:33

I hope Practice Ignition does not go the same way.

Good for the seller in terms of their investment. Not good for the customers - price hikes tend to follow for the new acquirer to make a return on their investment.

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By Ian McTernan CTA
06th Oct 2021 13:56

I expect the usual 100% price increase within 12 months followed by yearly 6-10% increase...as has happened to every Sage takeover company I have used.

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
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By PatMac
07th Oct 2021 10:34

I agree Ian - I've enjoyed the relationship with the GoProposal team over the past 6 months - good to work with and great customer service - unfortunately I think we might be seeing prices up and service down in the coming years.

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By JD
07th Oct 2021 10:55

How many will now, quite rightly, be running a mile from Go Proposal, because of this

Not a good move for them at all

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Replying to JD:
By Ray051
12th Oct 2021 14:38

Was disappointed to hear the news. It is not going to be good for small practices. Sage are a techie dinosaur. They hoped cloud accounting would go away and not upset their desktop cash cow. Left it too late to get a decent foothold.

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