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Working In and On the Business

Sometimes, you have to take stock and step outside the business. No matter what stage it is at: pre-revenue, seeking investment, seed round, Series A or growing to $10MM. The person leading the vision must take some time out to think and reflect…

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while…you could miss it!”
– Ferris Bueller

I’m a candidate this week for the Ernst and Young Scottish Entrepreneur of the Year. I’ve no chance of winning as there are some amazing candidates like James Watt – Brewdog, The MD of Edinburgh airport and Josh Littlejon from Social Bite. People whom I really admire for the way they execute on their vision.

I have 45 minutes with three judges to convince them I’m worthy of the honour to be announced at Gleneagles in June. Dead Posh!!

My co-founder, Lucy-Rose Walker gave me the pack before she headed off with Gayle Heggie, Entrepreneurial Spark Excellence Engineer, Gordon Merrylees, Head of Entrepreneurship for RBS/NatWest and Darren Pirrie, Director of Entrepreneurship for RBS/NatWest. Together, they are hitting Brighton, Bristol and Leeds to interview great new startups and scaleups for our hatcheries opening there in August. Today they are presenting to over 130 folks at the amazing Engine Shed in Bristol with our other great partners – KPMG. So, I took the pack and said ‘yeh yeh yey – I’m happy with who I am and what I have to say.”


To treat a potential accolade like this with a ‘I’ll wing it on the day’ attitude would be sanctimonious and foolhardy. So, I ask myself, what do I need to do to play my part in promoting all the amazing efforts of my team and that of NatWest and KPMG to ensure I leave Ernst and Young and the judges with the impression that we definitely deserved to be there and compete?

I’m working that up. There’s a fair bit there, so I won’t bore you with the details [poor judges]. But, a few things struck me.

1. The power of team and collaboration, with trust and transparency.

2. Naysayers, who have now changed their strategy to reflect that of others. It’s a compliment.

3. What does first class execution really mean and do for a company? Some call it operating rhythm.

4. Do you have to tell your story or will others you have helped and supported tell the story?

5. Why a well thought out vision captures imagination and resource.

6. How do you breed Growth Mindset into a startup?

7. How the journey is far more rewarding than the accolade or end goal.

So, I took a day out from the business yesterday and reflected on what we have all achieved and where my vision for Entrepreneurial Spark is headed. And, yes, I treated myself to a few coffees…

I hope to leave the judges with this thought…. Entrepreneurial Spark’s vision is to inspire and enable positive social change through the action of Entrepreneuring. But, helping entrepreneurs achieve their dreams and livelihoods calls for real leadership and collaboration and indeed a willingness to be uncomfortable in going the extra mile to collaborate. This is where the real value lays in creating the next generation of great ‘pay it forward’ entrepreneurs. This is how we will make the UK the most entrepreneurial country in the world!!

And the entrepreneurs will tell the story….