Head of External Affairs for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland
If you read some of comments made about the Scottish economy, you'd be forgiven for thinking we only have about three businessmen in the whole country.
The rest of us are either lounging about in safe, public sector jobs or lounging about on the dole, waiting to be handed said safe, public sector job.
If you're involved with any of Scotland's 300,000 businesses, you know that's nonsense.
Scotland is alive with talent, determination and entrepreneurial spirit. The problem is that we need to do better at tapping, channelling and maximising it.
And I don't use the word need lightly. With uncertainty and contracting budgets in the public sector set to continue, we know that the private sector is going to have to pick up the slack.
Government looks to our small, agile businesses to build on their impressive track record of job creation 67,400 new Scottish jobs over the last decade while big business shed 34,900.
It is businesses which will generate the increased revenues to get the public finances back on track. And it is an expanded private sector which will deliver the broader, more stable economic base required to be better able to withstand future external shocks.
None of this can happen, though, if we neglect to foster the entrepreneurial spirit.
Entrepreneurship can liberate, excite and inspire. But all too often, good stories go untold, the pessimists narrative takes hold and potential ideas lie unexplored.
That is why the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has launched a major new Real-Life Entrepreneurs campaign to help everyone encourage, support and celebrate the real businesses new, old, growing, surviving on which were pinning our hopes of recovery.
Our new campaign has already signed up Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians as champions. We expect a similar result next week at the Conservative party conference and next month when we are with the SNP.
Across the UK, we want a shift in policy focus toward real business owners. Our manifesto details six areas where we think government can help: increasing the routes to finance; improving cash flow; adopting a new approach to regulation; reducing and simplifying business tax; incentivising job creation; and opening up export markets.
We are not, though, simply demanding government action from the sidelines. We are also committing to what we as an organisation will do to help small businesses cut costs and negotiate bureaucracy.
The risks if we don't all start pulling together and backing Scotland's full range of entrepreneurs are great. But the rewards are even greater.
There are, as I mentioned above, just short of 300,000 businesses in Scotland. 98% of these are small businesses. Leaving medium-sized firms aside, small businesses alone already employ 573,550 people north of the border. Imagine the potential reward if some of their common difficulties were resolved.
Take finance. Only a quarter of FSB members in Scotland applied for bank finance in the twelve months to June this year. Of those who did apply, 36% were rejected outright. Imagine if these businesses (and those who do not wish to approach their bank for finance) could access the right funding solutions whether from a bank or elsewhere on affordable, realistic terms.
Consider the 200,000-strong army of self-employed individuals single-member enterprises in Scotland. For how many of them, given the right support, would taking the next step and becoming an employer be a smart move? Even if its one in 10, that's an extra 20,000 jobs in the economy.
With the world becoming ever smaller, what if our niche producers and retailers were selling, not just in different postcodes, but in different time-zones?
These are exactly the sort of questions big and small businesses, financiers, key utilities, business support agencies and others will be debating at tomorrows (Saturday 1 October) first ever National Business Convention, held in conjunction with the Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI) at Murrayfield Stadium.
A packed line-up includes a keynote address from Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Alex Neil MSP; advice on investment finance and growth from Ian Cowie, Chief Executive of Business & Commercial Banking at RSB; and a session on getting the most from your team with Stewart Regan, Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association and Sera Miller, Chief Executive, Materials Communications Group.
Closing the day will be the inspiring words of John Jones, creator of global brand Vanish. As he said looking forward to the event: "We need to use the advantages we have of flexibility, of market opportunity and our potential to be fleet of foot to be more successful."
Over more than thirty years of dealing with global businesses, I've found the Scottish business communities are the best to deal with and the most determined.
There is a very good reason why I have spent my business life working in Scotland and why I have retired here. Scottish businesses are amongst the greatest anywhere in the world!
Colin Borland is Head of External Affairs for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland