More and more companies looking to grow their small or medium-sized enterprises are enrolling in an innovative programme developed by Strathclyde Business School (SBS) to get a competitive edge. Running for the third time in September, the programme has had proven results for the companies who have taken part so far.
Targeted at companies wishing to grow substantially, the Growth Advantage Programme (GAP) was developed by Strathclyde Business School with support from Santander in 2014. They are currently selecting the cohort for the third delivery of their programme, which starts at the end of September.
The 10-month programme run by the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at SBS allows business leaders of growth-oriented SMEs to take a step back from the day-to-day running of their organisations to develop their growth plans. It is designed to deliver relevant, accessible and practical learning for the leaders of ambitious businesses and combines world-class executive education with the power of peer learning.
GAP played a significant part in SBS winning UK Business School of the Year for 2016 at the Times Higher Education awards last November. Collectively, previous participants have seen a 19% growth in employment and an uptick in sales of 22% since taking part.
Before starting, participants were asked to state their current annual employment and sales before the programme began, at the end of the programme, and projections for three years from the end of the programme. Coming into the programme companies averaged almost Â£2 million in sales with 20 people.
By the end of the programme, total employment was 598, up 19% for cohort 2 and 434, up 10% for cohort 1. Total turnover was Â£41.9 million (up 22%) for cohort 2 and Â£47.3m (up 13%) for cohort 1.
Projected total employment in three years from the end of the programme was 975 (up 63%) for cohort 2; 876 (up 102%) for cohort 1; and projected total turnover in three years was Â£99.6m (up 138%) for cohort 2 from the end of the programme and Â£100.6m (up 113%) for cohort 1.
This represents an average annualised growth in sales of 33.5% (28.5%) and employment of 17.7% (26.5%) – both cohorts exceeding the OECD growth threshold for a high growth firm of 20% annualised growth in sales or turnover.
One of GAP’s recent graduates, Alistair Cameron, is the Managing Director of Scotmas, a Kelso-based firm that designs and manufactures chlorine dioxide water purification systems. As a participant in the 2016 programme, Alistair was enthusiastic about the support the programme offered:
“A key differentiator of this programme is sustainability. By delivering the inputs over a nine-month period, the Hunter Centre has facilitated 'bite-sized' learning and an element of peer support/pressure that ensures that the cohort is able to apply the learning in their businesses immediately and feedback on progress to the group at the next session. Where problems are encountered, they are shared and worked through as a group.”
Emma Marriott, the Managing Director of Contract Scotland, also took part in GAP. She said, "The course was life-changing. The quality of the lecturers and the cohort was excellent due to such a vast arrangement of skills and intelligence.
“I also really valued the opportunity to speak to other women in business and have found some great role models. Another impact to me personally was that GAP provided me with the confidence and understanding to support my husband in starting up his own new venture, further contributing to the entrepreneurial spirit and the Scottish economy".
GAP is structured around five intensive sessions between September and May comprising a one-day orientation session, followed by four two-day workshops covering the advantages that successful growth companies are known to have - market, operations, resourcing and leadership. Participants contribute Â£4,500 each to the cost of the course, with the rest provided by Santander.
Networking and learning from peers is a key aspect of GAP and the programme’s graduates have so far used word of mouth to spread the message that GAP delivers impressive results and helps businesses grow and scale up. In a hyper competitive business world, ambitious companies are starting to heed the message: mind the GAP.