Abigail Stevens: The secret of Scotland’s entrepreneurial spark

Scotland is a country full of entrepreneurial flair. As of March 2016, there were over 348,000 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Scotland, providing an estimated 1.2 million jobs. Scotland’s two biggest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, rank inside the Top 5 UK cities for Start-ups outside London, with the latter also being crowned the UK’s ‘Entrepreneurial City of the Year’ last year. So, what’s the secret behind Scotland’s entrepreneurial spark?

Scotland is a country full of entrepreneurial flair. As of March 2016, there were over 348,000 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Scotland, providing an estimated 1.2 million jobs. Scotland’s two biggest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, rank inside the Top 5 UK cities for Start-ups outside London, with the latter also being crowned the UK’s ‘Entrepreneurial City of the Year’ last year. So, what’s the secret behind Scotland’s entrepreneurial spark?

I have been part of the Scottish business community for the past 17 years, having started an international accountancy and finance recruitment agency, Think Global Recruitment, in 2000.  I have benefitted from the likes of Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway and Scottish Development International. All of these are Scottish government-led bodies that offer assistance and support to entrepreneurs. Since starting my company, they have helped with financial support, assistance with technical aspects and offered impartial advice. However, as the challenges that entrepreneurs can face are often quite immense, business networks have also helped play a crucial role. Groups such as Entrepreneurial Scotland and WeDo, provide the perfect opportunity for people to engage outside of government schemes and, importantly, are run by entrepreneurs themselves. These networks turn a group of entrepreneurs into a community. Having a social space where you can also benefit from networking, is both productive and serves as a much-needed respite from running a business. These groups also provide workshops, business connections and the opportunity to listen to how other entrepreneurs have driven their businesses to where they are today.

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I did not go to college or university, so I found the combined support from these sources invaluable when setting up my business. Nearly two decades later, Think Global Recruitment has assisted over 2000 accountants to make their international career moves, allowing for us to continually employ staff and invest back into the Scottish economy.

Recently, I had the opportunity to go on a course run by Can Do Scotland which brought together new and established companies which had plans to grow and expand in the coming year. One of those speaking at the event, Bill Aulet, a successful American author, businessman and MIT Professor said “The support you have in Scotland is tremendous. I could choose to go anywhere to speak in the world and but I choose to come here. When we leave after teaching here, we know there will be follow up.”

People rely a lot on support structures, be that family, friends or partners. However, that alone is not sufficient for success in the business world. Scotland has managed to form an ecosystem whereby businesses and government work in tandem to create a successful entrepreneurial hub. This support and nurturing of start-ups and SMEs is a key strategic component of our economy’s future prosperity. We must ensure that we work together to keep our entrepreneurial spark alight.

Abigail Stevens is Managing Director of Think Global Recruitment