Fairsail to Sage People: how we went from start-up, to scale up, to Sage

Charlotte Nicol
Last updated on 3rd August 2020
4 min read

Are you reading this blog bored at work? Perhaps you don’t feel like your company truly engages you at work. Or, (here’s the big one) can you truly say you love your job?

There’s a reason we ask. Only one third of US employees are engaged at work, according to Gallup; they love their jobs and make their organization better every day. 16% of the US workforce are actively disengaged – they’re miserable in the workplace and extinguish what the most engaged employees build. The remaining 50 million employees aren’t engaged at all. In Gallup’s words: ‘they’re just there’.

The impact on productivity is huge – it’s at its lowest ever level.

It started with an idea
That’s one of the reasons why we set up Fairsail – now Sage People. There isn’t one single answer to fix the productivity problem, but we know that if companies engage their people better by creating great employee experiences, more people will love going to work. This ultimately makes a workforce happier, and makes good business sense too. It boosts a company’s growth and, in turn, adds to workplace productivity and national economic growth more widely.

It was just over 10 years ago that our founder, Colin Cooper, took this idea and took a plunge. He wanted to create the world’s best HR platform that enabled companies to engage their workforce and build great experiences for their staff.

In particular, he wanted to do this for mid-sized companies scaling up. The big guns could afford to buy or create big enterprise systems from the likes of SAP.  They could afford to have multiyear implementation projects.  But the mid-size companies needed simplicity, flexibility and agility, so that as their company grew, their systems and people could too.  And they needed this fast.

In Colin’s words, it took many days, nights, weekends, no holidays, a lot of sweat and over four years to lay down the crucial foundations for his idea – as well as a supportive and understanding family!

Ten years on, we’re now trusted by over 180,000 users in more than 140 countries; we’re the number one HR app on the Salesforce App Cloud, and are extremely proud of our 98% customer renewal rate. And, this year, we were acquired by Sage – one of the world’s biggest software companies.

It’s taken a lot of work, but there’s two things we credit to our success so far – our people and our customers.

Putting our people first
Our growth has, firstly, only been possible because of our people.

At Fairsail we strive to put our people first. We know that our people are our greatest asset for growth and, as a company, we have a responsibility to create a working environment where people love coming to work. Employees spend half their lives at work, so why shouldn’t they be happy here? Its why we talk a lot about People Companies – we know this is important.

If people have an idea and want to run with it, they can. If they want to work in a certain way, for example remotely or at different times, then we encourage that. Everyone’s ideas contribute towards the growth of the business, and we work as a team at all levels to make stuff happen. We have people who started at entry-level roles in the business who are now managing large teams. Ultimately, we try to create meaningful work and employee experiences for our people – we want to empower people to be their best.

We do the small things like free lunches on Mondays, exercise bootcamps, employer branded hoodies and lego keyrings with employees’ joiner numbers on. But ultimately, these aren’t what keeps our people – it’s our commitment and investment in them and their careers.

Creating customers for life
We also wouldn’t have gotten to where we are without our customers. In particular, our two or three early customers who were willing to take a risk on new software that was built on an existing product (Salesforce).

We’re truly passionate about their success and put all of our customers at the heart of what we do – there’s a reason why our customer team is called ‘customers for life’ and we have a 98% renewal rate. We literally make it our business to have a clear understanding of what success means for them and their people and deliver that.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve helped SDL to gain a clear overall picture of their workforce after significant M&A activity, creating a sense of unity in their workforce. We’ve helped education non-profit Rocketship Education to boost productivity and provide mobile on-demand support for their workforce (their teachers don’t work 9 to 5, so why should their systems?) We’ve enabled global specialist recruitment company, Spencer Ogden, to cut time on routine HR admin and reporting tasks by roughly 40% to allow their people team con focus on developing skills across the business to drive better service and business growth. And we’ve got IT software management company, SolarWinds, up and running within 90 days on a platform that could pace with their rapid growth, like none of the larger vendors were able to.

And we’ve improved employee experiences for over a hundred thousand people by creating an on-demand, mobile, flexible and scalable platform that can grow with a business and its people. Employees can submit leave requests on their phone. Managers can see performance across their teams. And HR and people teams can automate tasks, to free them up to concentrate on creating the great employee experience.

Most of all, (and this is one of the things we’re most proud of) we’ve built a community of mid-sized organizations who are passionate about delivering great workforce experiences to engage their people.

Just the beginning
The first 10 years is just the beginning though. Now we’re part of Sage, that turbo charges our plans for the future. We won’t stop helping companies to grow their employees. Because, after all everyone wants to go to work to do a job they love. We want to help companies do just that.

10 years, 10 milestones
2007 – Fairsail was founded by Colin Cooper. His vision was a cloud-based HR system just for mid-sized global businesses.

2009 – Fairsail launches with talent acquisition, people management and analytics services, and gains its first international customers.

2012 – The end-to-end Fairsail HR system is fully rolled out. Customers in more than 50 countries are using Fairsail to connect with their people in a whole new way.

2014 – Fairsail is recognized by leading industry analysts across the UK and US. 

2015 – Fairsail expands into the USA with a new HQ in Chicago.  

2015 – Fairsail becomes a Salesforce Platinum ISV and wins HCM product of the Year.  

2015 – The partnership with Sage is announced.  

2016 – Sage becomes a 20% stakeholder. 

2016 – With over 100,000 users in 130 countries, employing over 100 dedicated people in the UK and USA, Fairsail is a leader in workforce experience management.  

2017 – Fairsail becomes Sage People, part of Sage – the UK’s #1 tech company.

How well do you know your people? Use our free, easy, quick profile tool to see how you compare to others. Or, want to join the Sage People community? Request a demo now.

Browse more topics from this article

Employee Engagement Fairsail HR Strategy Workforce Experience
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