Jim Duffy: Bold vision is probably the best mission statement in the world

Sandy Kennedy is leading an organisation which is 'shining a beacon for many on the art of the possible' says Jim Duffy.
Sandy Kennedy is leading an organisation which is 'shining a beacon for many on the art of the possible' says Jim Duffy.
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Can Scotland become the most entrepreneurial society in the world? Well, we won’t know unless we try says Jim Duffy

So many companies and organisations create slogans that mean so little to many of us. These slogans or taglines are just there to grab headlines and do not stand the test of time. But every now and then, a slogan catches your eye and you can identify with it. I always remember the British Airways slogan, The world’s favourite airline. For a time in the eighties and nineties it certainly felt like BA was rocking all over the world. The airline game has changed so dramatically now that I don’t think any one company can claim to be the world’s favourite, although BA may argue differently. Carlsberg pulled off a cracker labeling their beer as probably the best lager in the world. Clever stuff in marketing terms.

But, what happens when a company or an organisation makes a claim that feels a bit lofty and a tad unattainable? Well, Entrepreneurial Scotland are not messing about when it comes to what they want to do – to make Scotland the most entrepreneurial society in the world. And with the current leadership of its CEO, Sandy Kennedy, that putative loftiness is grounded in hard graft coupled with genuine vision.

I’ve know Sandy Kennedy for over eight years and he has had a big mountain to climb in moving what was the Entrepreneurial Exchange of old to a new and bold initiative that has completely re-invented itself into the entity that is Entrepreneurial Scotland. Kennedy was appointed at a time when the Exchange was arguably on the wane. John Anderson had led the Exchange over many years and did a great job. Anyone will tell you that running a big membership organisation that has to keep things fresh and relevant is not an easy task, especially with some of the big egos that Anderson had to deal with. But, like all initiatives that have longevity, the sparkle starts to dim and new and exciting shiny things pop up elsewhere that attract interest. So, Kennedy really had his work cut out as the question at that time, I guess, was: should this great organisation continue or had it done its work (work that it had done well)?

Luckily for Scotland, it did live on and now is prospering under Kennedy’s leadership. Why? Well he is a genuine guy, who can work with others, manage some hefty big hitting entrepreneurs while keeping it real with the likes of the annual intakes of the Saltire Fellowship (an organisation that I am proud to support as I would not be writing in this newspaper without it’s impact on me). And this is why I believe that Kennedy’s vision for Entrepreneurial Scotland will become a reality. But, I am sure he knows that it will not happen overnight. And it will take collaboration from so many others who have to come to the table. At yesterday’s Annual Conference at Gleneagles, this was made clear to all attendees there at the event and on social media.

Throughout the past year I have sat on both Phase One and Phase Two of the Scottish Government’s Enterprise and Skills Review. It will report soon. My contribution to this has been on mindset and how if we can change mindsets we can change a nation. This is exactly what Kennedy and Entrepreneurial Scotland want to achieve. They should be applauded and supported for it as it is and will take bucket loads of energy and focus to make it happen, while the end results can only be a good thing for Scotland. The focus of the Entrepreneurial Scotland is scaleups. In short, rapidly scaling up new companies via investment to become bigger, valuable outfits that employ more people and contribute more effectively to the greater economy. I do know that having this ambition and focus sharpens people’s minds to what can be achieved.

Entrepreneurial Scotland is on a mission under Sandy Kennedy. It’s a Moonshot. NASA accomplished its very own Moonshot when Neil Armstrong stepped on to the surface of the moon and then came back again to tell the story. Many said it was not achievable, too risky and too costly. But, they did it… several times. Making Scotland the most entrepreneurial society in the world is also a hard one to pull off. But, why the hell should we not try? It is only by being bold and pushing the boundaries of what we do that we can make progress. Is it going to be uncomfortable for a few? Yes, but that is where the magic happens – outside our comfort zones.

As someone who has worked closely with Sandy Kennedy and watched him overcome some pretty tough hurdles over the last five years as he re-shaped Entrepreneurial Scotland, this week’s conference marked a real milestone. Entrepreneurial Scotland has got back its mojo and is quite rightly leading the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Scotland from a position of collaboration and thought leadership. It is shining as a beacon for many on the art of the possible. And Sandy Kennedy is powering this renaissance building on what John Anderson accomplished and moving it to the next level.

Can we become the most entrepreneurial society in the world? Well, we won’t know until we try and by working together there is no doubt that the team at Entrepreneurial Scotland will make sure we take action, focus hard and create our very own economic and cultural Moonshot.

My call to action? Join up and take part.