South African-born software company Softline Pastel is celebrating its 18th birthday and reports some impressive growth statistics. 

The company is currently growing at about 35% per annum, with more than 2 000 accounting and 500 payroll packages being sold every month.
MD Steven Cohen attributes Pastel’s success to it focus on the small and medium enterprise (SME) space.
“The psychologies and paradigms that operate in the SME sector are quite specific and we’ve never deviated from addressing them in the most appropriate way," he says.
This focus has paid off, he says, with nine out of 10 accountants serving the South African SME market recommending Pastel, and more than 180 000 SMEs running their businesses on the software – in 52 countries on five continents.
Cohen is proud of the fact that the company has successfully ridden the relentless waves of change in the IT industry.
“We’ve seen the market shift radically over the years since the introduction of the IBM personal computer made it affordable for small companies to computerise their businesses," he says.
"At that time, that meant moving your accounting and bookkeeping from a manual format to a computerised one and, consequently, achieving better efficiency and accuracy.
“Sales of accounting solutions were easy and reactive. There was a lot of competition but there were also a lot of customers.
“Then, both the software and the customer began to mature at an ever-increasing speed. With their books getting done accurately and on time, customers wanted to be more pro-active in the way they ran their businesses. And accounting software began to evolve to involve not just the bookkeeper and the accountant but everyone else in the organisation.
“Customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, serial number tracking, warehousing, business intelligence and other niche applications appeared to help the move from a purely historical, accounting-based approach to a business process methodology for running a business.
“Resellers had to learn to help their customers achieve operational as well as administrative efficiencies – or fall by the wayside."
He explains that Pastel created a special Accountants’ Forum, since it is accountants who give their clients business advice on which the software must deliver.