Meet Insider's Rising Stars of 2012. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and locations, range in age from 25 to 48 with an average age of 35 and around 78 per cent of them went to university. On average they work 60.62 hours a week ranging from 40 to 85
Meet Insider's Rising Stars of 2012. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and locations, range in age from 25 to 48 with an average age of 35 and around 78 per cent of them went to university.
On average they work 60.62 hours a week ranging from 40 to 85. Three are unable to calculate how many. "I hate to think," says one. "too many," quips another, while a third proclaims it is "impossible to judge".
But whatever age they are, wherever they come from or how many hours they work these are all business people who are worth watching.
This year we are profiling 35 Rising Stars, the vast majority of whom have filled in our questionnaire which has helped us build a picture of what is happening to growing companies in Scotland.
Some 37 per cent of Rising Stars' companies have been helped by Scottish enterprise and are account managed by them. Three Rising Stars have been helped by Business Gateway, three by Scottish Development International, two by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and four by the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust. Other publicly funded organisations which have assisted Rising Stars include the east of Scotland Investment Fund, the Technology Strategy Board, Scottish Textiles and Glasgow City Council.
Some 78 per cent of companies are either already trading internationally or want to.
Not surprisingly, those who have been helped by Scotland's public organisations have good things to say about them.
Craig Clark, chief executive of Clyde Space, says Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow City Council, the Technology Strategy Board and Scottish Development International had all helped his company get a foothold. "I can't thank them enough," he says. "In a way it has been easy for us to get support as we are a highly skilled, high technology, export business. But without them Clyde Space wouldn't exist and we wouldn't be making satellites in Scotland."
He says whether we have more SMEs or more large businesses, we need more businesses exporting and bringing fresh money into the economy. "We can't grow an economy on cutting each other's hair," he argues. "SMEs should look for, and take advantage of, growth opportunities. Some will end up as giants, some won't. I started the business to grow it as large as I could. I'm not interested in having a lifestyle business. Its important that we continue to strive for better but this needs to be done with a level head."
Fashion designer Henrietta Ludgate says Highlands and Islands Enterprise were very helpful when she first started her business."They assisted me in networking with other businesses," she says. "Scottish enterprise were kind enough to invite me to take part in their Scottish textile catwalk show in New York. It gave me a fantastic opportunity to raise my brand's profile in the US."
Ludgate says that without the help and advice of experienced professionals a young business can find it incredibly difficult to expand in this ever more competitive economic climate. "Indeed I think some people are discouraged from growing or even starting their own business by the shortage of support available for small companies. I know I would never have been able to grown my label if it had not been for the support and advice I received."
Anton Manley, director of strategic accounts at call centre company HEROtsc, says he benefited from Scottish Enterprise's work when he was nominated by his then employer to attend one of its missions in San Fransisco and Seattle to meet blue chip CEOs and gain an understanding of business culture in that part of the world. "I brought back learning I could apply to my role on home territory," he explains.
He feels publicly funded organisations ought to be more proactive and engage more with business. "It was only through an informal chat with a contact that I recently learned more about the funding and assistance that is out there. There needs to be a more clearly defined channel of who to approach and how to approach them."
Julie Inglis, co-director and owner of Kube Networks, says her company is now in its third year with Scottish Enterprise as one of their fastest-growing, account-managed businesses and she is delighted with the level of support it receives. "We have been extremely fortunate with our account manager who continues to show a great level of interest, commitment and understanding of our business and where Scottish Enterprise can assist with our ongoing growth."
However she believes there are too many areas where public money is continually invested - in either supporting inward investment, which she says has had a less than successful track record in recent years, or projects that simply won't fly.
Inglis says Scotland needs more big brand, home grown businesses. "There simply are not enough," she says. "We all need to support both emerging and established businesses so they can be the success stories of tomorrow and inspire future generations of entrepreneurs. However, the funding gap has been a huge concern for businesses recently whether you are a fledgling organisation which can be an iconic successful Scottish brand of the future or an established family business looking to grow and working with reduced sales and margins.
"Companies need support to grow. The lack of cash in circulation and the ongoing uncertainty with both financial institutions and the economy continues to impact businesses both financially and in confidence. Unless the situation improves the growth of businesses in Scotland will continue to be stifled."
Joe Tree, who is founder and CEO of Blipfoto, says Scottish Enterprise has been - and continues to be - a huge help. "They prepared us for investment and match funded it when it finally came through," he says. "They also took me to MIT last year, something I could never have considered putting myself through.
"I know some like to complain that the public sector doesn't do enough to help, or they're slow and excessively bureaucratic, but my experience has been quite the opposite - the help is there by the bucketload if you're driven enough to get it.
"Something I do think Scotland needs is a big change in attitude. We need to stop being embarrassed about promoting ourselves and fearing failure - those two things do more to constrain us than anything else. The public sector can help by encouraging cultural change, but it's always going to be down to the rest of us to make it happen."
Rae Younger, managing director of Cognity, says his company has been working with Scottish Enterprise for the last year, receiving project manager funding, a business strategy workshop, an international strategy workshop; International Manager for Hire funding and some training, including the Managing People for Growth course.
He thinks public agencies could look at setting up a new business accounting service that could provide basic tax, payroll and book-keeping services for companies in their first year. "It's one of the things that can be most daunting for a new business owner," he says.
"I also strongly believe in the importance of business parks run by organisations like Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise, where office space is affordable, and the necessary facilities are available on site," he says. "They seem to be on the decline at the moment, but I think they've never been more important. They could develop them further by offering business advice and mentoring based in the actual offices themselves."
Sam Sarkar, director of Sarkar Defence Solutions, agrees premises are an area where agencies could improve. "I feel there should be more physical help and financial support with rent and leases for the first couple of years," he says. "This would give businesses a real chance at establishing themselves."
However, he believes public agencies are doing a great job with the limited resources they have and is grateful for the assistance they provided when they offered to fund 40 per cent of his company's exhibition costs for Milipol Paris 2011. "We found this help absolutely invaluable," he says.
Paul Bodger, managing director of Anytime Leisure and Cardinal Sports, says his company has recently been introduced to Business Gateway and they are looking at ways they can assist. He believes publicly funded organisations could do more to help remove bureaucracy and costs involved in areas like HR, health and safety, and legal.
Bodger argues that the small businesses of today won't become the next big thing without assistance. "The key areas which always seem to be big barriers to earlystage growth are VAT, business rates and all the other bureaucracy," he says. "The current VAT threshold, to me, is crazy and needs to be addressed. We're now through that period but I have many friends in business for whom VAT kicking in at circa £70,000 is almost enough to put them under as they grow and it is the same with business rates."
Mark Hogarth, creative director of Harris Tweed Hebrides, says Scottish Development International, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Textiles have all been a great help and an integral part of Harris Tweed's renaissance. He suggests that perhaps public sector funding could be used to help young people into artisan skills. "In a global market Scotland has to look at its unique industries like specialist fabrics and whisky where we have renowned brands."
Gregor Lawson of AFG Media, which has had no support from any publicly funded agency, says they should make it easier and quicker to get funding. He would love entrepreneurship to play a bigger part in school and university.
Fraser Smeaton, also of AFG Media, argues that entrepreneurs' relief currently gives new business owners the incentive to sell out early. "The relief is a great incentive to start a business and should stay for that reason," he says. "But why are you going to continue running it when your earnings will be taxed at circa 50 per cent when you can sell it and be taxed at ten per cent? You should be able to take dividends up to the entrepreneurs' relief threshold at the same level as capital gains."
Kenny Murray, managing director of Coretrax Technology, says Scottish Development International (SDI) has been "wonderful". "They have aided international travel to the new markets and strategy meetings which allow us to strategise away from the office," he explains. "We are also discussing support with a number of R&D projects we are working on."
Murray believes a break or reduction in national insurance for long-term unemployed or school/university graduates would incentivise businesses of all sizes to employ from this area.
Leigh Wilson, owner and CEO of Jetlogic, says it hasn't received any help or funding from any of the publicly funded agencies. "Jetlogic was entirely privately funded," she says. "Personally I'm not so interested in publicly funded organisational support. What I think might make a difference would be if the powers-that-be would take a look at corporation tax for SMEs and start-ups. When it comes to taxes it's clear there is no such thing as a level playing field."
Steven McLeod, founder and CEO of the Aurora Hotel Collection, is not impressed by Scottish Enterprise. "You ask them for help to grow your company and propose things for support, and you end up being caught up in loads of unnecessary red-tape and nonsense," he says. "I don't believe Scottish Enterprise can help many people these days, particularly those of us in business who can quickly contribute to economic improvement and deliver the results even faster. The bureaucracy of these organisations just annoys me and I've given up even bothering with them."
McLeod believes the focus needs to be changed. "I sometimes think publiclyfunded agencies are too quick to support businesses that don't contribute much to the Scottish economy, rather than focusing on existing, hungry, growing businesses in Scotland who are crying out for help," he says. "The leaders of these organisations should listen carefully to those of us who are on the frontline and react positively."