Sage North America announced the wrap-up on Wednesday of its Sage Peachtree listening tour, in which the software developer heard feedback suggesting that small businesses are cautiously optimistic about their prospects for 2011. 

Sage spent the past three months talking with small-business clients that use Peachtree, along with accountants and partners in New York, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

Each daylong event on the listening tour featured a morning session for Sage Peachtree certified consultants and Sage Accountants Network members, followed by lunch and an afternoon session for partners and customers.  At each stop, dialogue with the partners explored the issues faced by small businesses, along with their top concerns, questions and opinions. 

These anecdotal results further reinforced a recent Sage Business Index survey, conducted in late 2010, in which 46 percent of the small-business owners surveyed said they believe the U.S. economy is on the mend. At the same time, only 36 percent have greater confidence in their prospects for improved business.

Sage also learned from its listening tour that it could do more to foster collaboration, improve its products and communicate.

“The biggest takeaway [from these meetings] was that we think of ourselves as supportive, but we forget the amazing community they form themselves and how valuable collaboration between accountants and partners can be,” said Jennifer Warawa, senior director of partner programs at Sage. “We can do a better job of facilitating collaboration. We can take a more active role in formalizing that process. That’s something in the short term you will see us act on.”

The company heard about product improvements for specific industries, as well as preferences on how Sage communicates with partners and customers. The company plans to rely less on e-mail and will explore different ways to “diversify its communication strategy,” according to Warawa.
Additional Sage Business Index survey results found that the top concerns cited by small businesses are reduction of bureaucracy (56 percent), business taxes (48 percent) and the national debt (48 percent).  The survey respondents also noted challenges in rising costs, maintaining or growing revenue, and gaining new customers as concerns for 2011. 

For additional survey results, visit http://businessindex.sage.com.

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