The owners of retail chain Trespass, Afzal and Akmal Khushi, have been chosen as the joint winners of Insider’s Scottish Leaders of the Year title. The brothers were praised for “quietly getting on with running one of Scotland’s best retailing businesses”
The owners of retail chain Trespass, Afzal and Akmal Khushi, have been chosen as the joint winners of Insiders Scottish Leaders of the Year title. The brothers were praised for quietly getting on with running one of Scotlands best retailing businesses.
In the latest financial year they defied retail market conditions with a solid performance from their outdoor clothing manufacturing and retail company Jacobs & Turner. The company employs over 870 staff in more than 80 stores across the UK and also runs franchises overseas.
Public Sector Leader of the Year is Dr Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, who is recognised for his extraordinary enthusiasm and efforts to promote the country as a key tourist destination.
Cantlay has been trying to persuade businesses to do as much as they can to exploit the winning years during which Scotland will be hosting the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and the Year of Homecoming in 2014.
The International Scottish Business Leader of the Year is David Currie, global subsea operations director, FMC Technologies, who has helped to create 240 skilled research and development, and manufacturing jobs at its operations in Bellshill in Lanarkshire and Dunfermline in Fife in the past year.Currie was praised for helping to bring highly skilled jobs to Scotland and also for his contribution to promoting manufacturing.
Young Business Leader of the Year is Michael Welch, founder of online tyre retailer BlackCircles.com, who had a great year after signing a partnership agreement with supermarket giant Tesco as well as attracting its former chief executive Sir Terry Leahy as an investor. Welch was seen as a model entrepreneur who had worked hard to get his business into the mainstream.
The Lifetime Achievement award goes to Boyd Tunnock, chairman and managing director of celebrated confectioner, Thomas Tunnock. Tunnock, who is soon to celebrate his 80th birthday, is still very much involved in the business and always looking for ways of improving production at the company's Uddingston factory.
His company's products are iconic and continue to delight each generation, said one nomination. Boyd is a one off, said another.
All the winners are profiled in our leadership profiles section, together with many other leaders in the private and public sector.
According to an Insider survey among the leaders, two thirds are feeling optimistic about the next year with the remainder being a mix of optimistic and pessimistic.
Our survey also reveals the biggest major issue facing their organisations over the coming 12 months is cost control. Competition is the second biggest issue with the remaining top five issues being greater complexity in business planning, exchange rates and public sector cuts.
We also asked our leaders how they would they lead Scotland to overcome its current economic challenges and how indigenous companies could be helped to realise their full potential.
Jim McColl, chairman & chief executive of Clyde Blowers Capital, says he would reduce corporation tax to at least 12.5 per cent and set up an industrial bank to support growth of SMEs, putting in place incentives to attract new businesses to base themselves in Scotland. Provide practical assistance to help SMEs access growing emerging markets, he adds.
Keith Anderson, chief corporate officer of ScottishPower, says during an economic downturn anything a government can do to encourage investment in long-term infrastructure is to be welcomed. The energy sector is looking to invest billions of pounds over the next 10 years which will create long-term assets for the country, generate inward investment, create jobs and create wealth for the country.
Weir Group chief executive Keith Cochrane says Scotland is not alone in having economic challenges, given the current macro-economic uncertainty, but the country has a lot to offer in terms of quality businesses. We must always be aware of the potential of new markets, and particularly emerging markets where Scottish services and products would be well received, he says.
Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, would make the Scottish Parliament responsible for its own budget, run more efficient public services and create jobs. Simplify the tax system, lower the overall tax burden and deliver improved economic performance, he says. Consider turning Scotland into an offshore centre for funds in the way that Dublin and Luxembourg operate. Scotland would attract that business, help the economy grow again and increase the number of net contributors to the economy.
Ian Livingston, chief executive of BT Group, would focus on its key strengths of a strong education and skills base, reduce red tape and promote Scotland as a place where businesses are welcomed the Singapore of the West!
Calum Paterson, managing partner of Scottish Equity Partners, says austerity and quantitative easing are not solving the economic problems although these are UK government issues. There needs to be a significant in investment levels and spending to stimulate growth, he says.
Colin Robertson, chief executive of Alexander Dennis (ADL), says the country should focus on manufacturing and continuous investment in technology, innovation and people. A by-product of manufacturing is the vast supplier network that can be built around it. In ADL's case, our 1,000 jobs in Scotland support another 2,500 indirectly. It has to make sense to encourage collaboration between Scottish companies but the reality is that there are few meaningful opportunities on this front.
Sadly, it is also easier for inward investors to secure state aid than successful indigenous businesses. The world has changed dramatically in the past 30 years yet our approach to the provision of support funding remains stuck in a rut, still aimed at inward investors.
Craig Gallagher, chief executive of MB Aerospace, thinks Scotland should maintain its strong presence and contribution within the UK. He also thinks the UK as a whole should be more active in investing and supporting the manufacturing and engineering sector to help grow its exports and build on its strong innovative skills and positive brand perception internationally. The engineering sector growing would better balance the UK economy that has been previously too dependent on financial services/banking, consumer spending and construction.
Dougal Sharp, CEO of The Innis & Gunn Brewing Company, says until we see a clear, un-politicised case for and against independence, then make a decision about what to do, we will remain stuck where we are. A lot of time is being spent navel gazing while the debate rages, he says. I believe energies would be better spent working out how to get our (UK) economy growing again.
Scottish Friendly Group chief executive Fiona McBain says the uncertainty created by the prolonged debate on the timing and nature of a referendum on devolution, and the uncertainty as to the economic environment and fiscal regime thereafter, needs to be removed. We need to clarify the position one way or the other asap so people have fewer reservations about investing here, she says.
Gareth Williams, CEO and co-founder of Skyscanner, says, leaving the independence debate to one side, he sees the question as one that is both relative to other countries and in absolute terms. In relative terms, it is about the fate of Europe. European countries great advantages are a heritage of relative independence, freedom, tolerance and invention. Their disadvantages are of dependency culture, atomisation, and the decline from past glories. We need to encourage greater innovation and risk taking, but leverage European advantages.
Richard Dixon, found of Vets Now, would change the political cycle to 10-yearly so the government in power was freed to make long-term decisions, not short-term, election-driven prioritisation of needs.
Professor Dame Joan Stringer, principal & vice chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, says all leaders in Scotland, not just political, have a role to play to help build economic success. There is great strength and economic potential in Scotland and we need to ensure we reach out to the whole population, removing barriers to skills development and focusing our expertise to add value and retain our competitive edge into the future.
Rob Woodward, chief executive of STV Group, says implementing tax incentives to stimulate growth in key sectors such as the creative industries would be a great start. Instilling a greater sense of self-belief and ambition about our ability to succeed and greater celebration of success would go a long way to rebuilding confidence and overcoming current challenges, he says.
Lindsay Gardiner, regional leader, Scotland, PwC, says we need to harness and encourage our entrepreneurial spirit.
Philip Grant, managing director, UK Wealth, and chair of the Scottish Executive Committee, Lloyds Banking Group, says he would remind everyone every day that the social model we all value requires economic growth. He would drive a collective effort between private and public sectors around a clear set of priority sectors and opportunities. We need the world to value more of what we can do. We will never succeed at everything. Together we could excel at a few things. That could be transformational.
Our survey also asked business leaders how indigenous companies could be helped to realise their full potential. Cutting red tape and tax incentives was suggested by a number of leaders and there were also other ideas.
VisitScotland's Cantlay says if you want to be in business long term you need to differentiate your product. Scottish tourism has USPs in abundance which allow us to compete and beat our competition, he says. So to be successful long term and truly sustainable, my advice for indigenous companies would be to focus on their USPs.
Sharon Munro, chief executive of Barrhead Travel, says companies could learn from other firms in different sectors by exchanging knowledge learning from others who have already been there and done that. Creating a wow through service will also differentiate your product and increase your market share.
Also, those driving Scotland's companies need a huge amount of self-motivation to overcome the challenges that come their way. No one can be protected from the difficulties businesses face meet them head on and you'll emerge stronger.
Innis & Gunn's Sharp says the business regimen in the UK and Scotland must encourage entrepreneurial spirit, endeavour and risk taking. Business training and developmental support should be widely available to companies with the right spirit, he says. Success should not be frowned upon or dismissed in the media and successful people should not be encouraged to leave our shores because of tax.
Dame Joan Stringer says universities are in a great position to help companies and vice versa if they listen to, and are responsive to, their needs. We have an important role to play in helping companies realise their full potential and to help them develop the skills and expertise of their employees.
There is a great opportunity for learning from each other. For example, at Edinburgh Napier our work on biofuels has been hugely successful and collaborative with the industries who have been able to benefit from technology to minimise what would have been waste product.
I suspect school technology curriculums are still bad. Free Raspberry PIs to all school children that want one would be a good start and signal.
Lady Susan Rice, managing director, Scotland, of Lloyds Banking Group, says companies should ensure they know their full potential may lie in markets outside Scotland. While infrastructure, training and education all manner of things are important, I believe its down to the individuals running a business at the end of the day to run it with care, clarity and conviction, but also with a desire to reach beyond our shores.
The Scottish Governments initiatives are spelled out by Permanent Secretary Sir Peter Housden, who says much of its support is focused on the key growth sectors identified in the Governments Economic Strategy, such as food and drink, life sciences, tourism, or financial services.
Many of these sectors are performing well in these challenging times, he says. For example, s5.4bn worth of food and drink products were exported in 2011, surpassing industry targets six years ahead of schedule.
We also recognise that different businesses have different needs. Business support is more local, relevant and accessible in Scotland than in other parts of the UK, through the differentiated public sector offer available through local authorities, including their responsibility for the Business Gateway service, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Development International and VisitScotland. Figures for 2011-12 show Business Gateway helped 11,027 start-up businesses.
Those bodies work well with the network of local chambers of commerce, and other business organisations who are key partners, for example, in procurement reform where 46 per cent of the public sectors spend of s9bn per annum is now secured by small and medium-sized businesses and the Smart Exporter programme, which has helped 1650 Scottish businesses to export since being launched in September 2010.
There are lots of very successful businesses across Scotland who do not look to government for support, but work with other businesses sometimes in supply-chains to help them succeed. Business-to-business mentoring is extremely powerful.