Tag Archives: Scottish Enterprise

Collaborate to access new markets

Karen McLeod manages the export advisory service at Scottish Development International (SDI), the international arm of Scottish Enterprise.  SDI offers support to help Scottish Businesses trade overseas

Last year a record number of Scottish businesses, large and small, started thinking globally and branched out overseas.  We spoke to Karen to find out why it’s important to consider selling internationally and the ways in which you can do it successfully.

Why is exporting important? 

Overseas markets have become increasingly important to the Scottish economy and in 2014 Scotland’s international exports were valued at £27.5 billion*, a 17.3% increase from 2010.

Our research shows that many overseas markets are underserved and there is demand for Scottish products and services internationally. This, paired with the fact that SDI supported 2,500 businesses to export last year, shows that there is opportunity and the ambition for exporting to continue to grow.

What are the benefits?

Trading abroad can boost your profile, credibility and bottom line.  That applies whether you’re trading with established markets such as the EU and USA, or high-growth markets like Brazil, China, India, Colombia and Vietnam.

International markets like these offer you access to new customers, revenue and ideas. Crucially, they enable you to spread your business risk, increase the commercial lifespan of your products and services and secure economies of scale which are not always possible at home. In fact, exporting is now considered essential for Scottish businesses that want to safeguard future growth.

The figures are compelling, showing that those firms that choose to export become 34% more productive in their first year** while those already exporting achieve 59% faster productivity growth than non-exporters**, positively impacting on staffing and financial performance.

Doing business overseas brings further benefits such as fostering ideas for new products and services. Once a company has ‘dipped their toe’ into a new market this in turn tends to increase confidence and ambition and provides the momentum for further growth through exporting.

What are the barriers and how can you overcome them?

Exporting can seem daunting to smaller businesses and the thought of going it alone can often be off putting and seen as high risk.  Collaborating with others can be a way to address those risks and make the most of the opportunities that exporting brings.

Collaboration for international markets

Businesses can collaborate using the consortium co-operative business model. This model allows businesses to come together for a shared purpose; to buy or sell in scale, market more effectively, share facilities or jointly bid for contracts.

There are good examples of Scottish consortiums already collaborating on international strategy.  Examples of shared activities include creation of a portfolio brand for export, consolidated shipping and a joint e-commerce activity.

Winning support with the Collaboration Prize

We are supporting this year’s Collaboration Prize which encourages firms to think collaboratively and pitch an idea for a new collaborative enterprise that will help them to access new markets. This could be a new sector or a geographical market including international markets.

The winners selected by the judging panel will receive £5,000 (to implement their collaborative idea), support to set up as a consortium co-operative, up to £5,000 business support (delivered by Scottish Enterprise or Highlands and Islands Enterprise) and access to export advisor support from my team.  This includes a wide variety of services such as:

  • an export advisory service, backed by international trade advisers, offering tailored support and guidance;
  • online tools to help you create an export plan;
  • and business intelligence from 43 global offices as well as events to explore opportunities and network with valuable contacts.

The Collaboration Prize is being delivered by Co-operative Development Scotland on behalf of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Island Enterprise in partnership with Business Gateway and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

 

Sources:

*Scottish Government Export Statistics Scotland 2014 publication – click here to read.

**UK Government UK Trade & Investment research publication – Bringing home the benefits: how to grow through exporting click here to read.

Climbing to success with employee ownership

Peter Will, managing director of Tayplay

Scotland’s latest business to become employee-owned is Perth-based Tayplay, a manufacturer of rope, playground and climbing equipment for the playground and leisure industry. Since it was founded in 1994, it has developed into the UK’s leading supplier of rope playground equipment, shipping hundreds of products worldwide and turning over £2million annually.

Last month’s move to an employee-ownership model has seen Tayplay’s 14 members of staff given the opportunity to become owners in the business. Managing director Peter Will discusses why the company decided to go down the EO route and shares his experiences of the transition process. 

Following the recession we experienced a difficult trading period and we were considering a trade sale.  However, we could not agree terms and after a strategic review we decided to look more closely at the employee ownership business model.  Co-operative Development Scotland then conducted a feasibility study and we quickly discovered employee ownership ticked all of our boxes.  No other options were even seriously considered at that stage.

Our EO journey started in 2014 and so far we have been able to meet all of our targets in terms of the sale price, timescales and the fact we’ve been able to retain the business in Perth.  EO is the ideal solution for retiring owners who want to preserve the ethos of the business and retain employment locally.  It is also a reward for the staff as we wanted to recognise the contribution and commitment they’ve made to the company’s success.

An Employee Ownership Trust has acquired a controlling interest in the company and will hold these shares on behalf of the employees, with the view that our employees will eventually own 100% of the company.

We spent quite a bit of time working with specialist advisors at CDS, undertaking meetings with the staff to help them understand the concept of employee ownership.  Our employees now really believe in the new model and we expect the degree of buy-in to increase now that the deal has gone through.  As the employees begin to see and feel the reality of EO we expect their commitment to the company will grow and it will make recruitment easier.

The Tayplay team

CDS guided and supported Tayplay’s transition to employee ownership, providing expert advice on the implementation of the new ownership structure. If you would like to learn more about how employee-ownership could benefit your business, please get in touch and our expert advisers will be happy to chat with you.

Happy partners make for better business at John Lewis Partnership

David Jones started working for John Lewis Partnership as a Graduate Trainee in 1982. Since then he has held a number of roles, including running several Waitrose stores and some time as Waitrose’s Supply Chain Director.  His current role is Partnership Registrar, in which he is tasked with ensuring the business upholds the principles of the partnership. David gives some background to the Partnership’s employee ownership model, and how putting the happiness of the partners first makes for better business.

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David Jones, John Lewis Partnership

“John Lewis Partnership has not always been employee-owned.  The son of the founder, John Spedan Lewis, decided it was unacceptable that his family made more from the business than all other employees combined. His objection wasn’t just moral; he felt it was bad for business.

Spedan’s view was that if he created a more successful business that reinvested in itself, took a long term view, gave everybody a voice in how it was run, and actively contributed more to community and society, then more people would want to spend money in his shops.   In 1929, he sold his shares to a trust, that would hold the shares on the employees’ behalf, and he was repaid for these shares over the next 30 years.

John Lewis Partnership now has almost 400 shops, 90,000 employees and gross annual sales of over £11 billion.  The Partnership employs 3200 people in Scotland. There are seven Waitrose stores as well as John Lewis shops in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.  We also have a customer contact centre in Hamilton.  We support many Scottish companies in our supply chain.  Quality of produce is paramount for Waitrose, and we are pleased to support many Scottish producers. Indeed, Stoat’s Porridge and Mo’s Cookie Dough are two Scottish companies who started out selling products in Waitrose, and have gone on to be national businesses.  We build long term strategic partnerships with our suppliers, and are proud to have been working closely with Aquascot so closely for many years.  I’m thrilled the firm has also adopted the employee ownership model.

As Partners in the business, our employees share the rights and responsibilities that employee ownership entails. This doesn’t mean that everyone is involved in every decision the business makes – we couldn’t function like that.  What it means is that they hold our leadership to account for the decisions they take.  We have 5 employees elected to our Partnership Board. These employees do not have management or executive responsibilities; they are there to provide the link with our partners and to test and probe the management. We have a democratically elected Partnership Council that ensures the business is run for and on behalf of the partners. The Council shares the views of the Partners on key issues and makes recommendations on policy.   The Partnership Council has the authority to remove the Chairman – although I’m pleased to say this has never happened!

Our Partners are rewarded for their commitment. The Partnership’s profit , after investment is distributed to Partners. This can be through pay, discounts subsidised leisure or learning. Each year we announce our annual bonus, which in 2016 amounted to 5 weeks’ salary for each Partner. Fairness is a key value and each member of staff receives the same percentage of salary in their company bonus. The same bonus is paid to employees whether they work in John Lewis, Waitrose or one of the other companies.  If John Lewis has a bad year, and Waitrose do exceptionally well, one balances the other.  This is the dual strength of our model.

John Lewis Partnership can never be sold, which gives us a powerful competitive advantage.  Because we have no option to sell our shares and invest elsewhere, each of our 90,000 partners has a strong incentive to throw all their energy and passion into making this year better than the last.

And it works. In a ferociously competitive sector, where we’ve seen the demise of high street brands such as Woolworths, BHS, Comet and others, we have not only survived, we’ve thrived.  Employee ownership is fundamental to our commercial success.  If we are to build a more diverse, sustainable and inclusive economy, we need to see more companies choose employee ownership.“

David Jones is speaking at a breakfast seminar on 20th October 2016 hosted by Highlands and Islands Enterprise at their Inverness offices. More information can be found here.

The Collaboration Prize is now open for entries


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Scottish Enterprise director Sarah Deas discusses the Collaboration Prize and why businesses should enter.

We are pleased to announce that the Collaboration Prize 2016/17 in partnership with Business Gateway and Scottish Chamber of Commerce is now open for entries.

We want to encourage firms to think collaboratively and pitch an idea for a new enterprise that will help them to access new markets. This could be a new sector or a geographical market including international markets. With the winning entrants receiving £5,000 cash and up to £5,000 business support to bring their idea to life.

To be eligible to win businesses must be based in Scotland, have an innovative idea they would like to implement by setting up a consortium co-operative and have identified other like-minded members for the consortium.

Consortia are established when businesses come together for a shared purpose; to buy or sell in scale, market more effectively, share facilities or jointly bid for contracts.  By collaborating businesses can reduce costs, share risks and create new platforms for growth.  Members could be businesses, partnerships or individuals, and the co-operative may be for any purpose which supports the members.

The competition this year has a particular focus on consortia accessing new and international markets. Two of the five prizes will be awarded to those consortia who demonstrate strong international ambitions to be delivered using collaboration. As part of their prize the winners will be able to access export advisor support where appropriate.

At CDS we think the Prize offers a great opportunity for businesses to harness the benefits that emerge through collaboration. Working with others can help businesses grow, and reduce the costs and risks of tackling new markets or investing in new processes.

In our experience collaboration can make a company better at what it does. Whether it’s about sharing resources or finding new markets, collaboration can bring efficiency and lead to increased profits.

For more information about the Scottish Enterprise Collaboration Prize visit the website.

 

Learn more at our FREE event

We’re running a series of FREE events this Autumn on employee ownership for interested businesses.  Please find below details for our forthcoming event.

To book your place at any of our events, register online at www.scottish-enterprise.com/cds-events or call 0300 013 3385.

Sharing ownership: the employee stake

Date:                5 October 2016

Time:                9:30am to 1pm

Duration:          3 hours

Admission fee: Free

Venue:             Apex Waterloo Place Hotel, 23-27 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh EH1 3BH

Eligibility:         Open to all Scottish businesses and professional advisers with an                                   interest in employee ownership.

This event explores how to assess and improve employee engagement, and how shares can be used to reinforce and reward employee commitment and contribution.

Engaged employees make for a happier, more productive workforce.  Evidence demonstrates that company performance improves when employees have a stake in the firm.  Our workshop has been designed to help you improve employee engagement in your company.

Dean Hunter of Hunter Adams and Rodger Cairns of Shepherd & Wedderburn will lead a session on how to create the right scheme for your company and the pitfalls and success factors to consider.

What’s covered?

  • Ways to assess and improve employee engagement
  • How shares can be used to reinforce and reward your employees efforts

Speakers

Lirrie Craig, a member of Scottish Enterprise’s workplace innovation team, will explain the factors that enhance employee engagement within companies.

Dean Hunter, founder and managing director of Hunter Adams, will talk through why he divested 30% of his shareholding into the hands of employees.

Dean Hunter, founder and managing director of Hunter Adams

Dean Hunter, founder and managing director of Hunter Adams

 

Rodger Cairns, Scotland’s leading expert on share schemes, will explain the variety of options available and how to decide which scheme fits for you. Rodger will also talk about the importance of effective communication to the workforce when launching any kind of share plan.

Agenda

9.30am Registration and coffee
10am Welcome
10.15am Achieving employee engagement – Lirrie Craig, Scottish Enterprise
10.35am Giving employees a stake in the business – Dean Hunter, Hunter Adams
10.55am Shares as an engagement tool – Rodger Cairns, Shepherd & Wedderburn
11.30am Q&A
12pm Networking lunch
1pm Close

Register for this event

 

Collaboration: A step-by-step guide

Jaye Martin 03

Collaboration brings a number of benefits – including business growth, reduced costs and extra resources –but when should a business join or form a consortium? How does it go about doing so? And what specific benefits can it deliver?

Here, CDS specialist advisor Jaye Martin shares a brief step-by-step guide to consortium working.

Step 1: Identify barriers to growth
For many small and micro-enterprises, lack of scale, time, finance or resources can be a barrier to accessing new markets, tendering for larger contracts or simply marketing services. These challenges will be familiar to many businesses, particularly those with small teams or those who provide unique or niche products and services.

Step 2: Look for a potential solution
Teaming up with other like-minded businesses and forming a consortium is an excellent way to break down these barriers. Suitable for businesses of all sizes operating in any sector, this model can help businesses grow by reducing the costs and risks associated with tackling new markets and investing in new products and services. It can also enable businesses to share resources such as back office functions and premises. Meanwhile, member businesses are able to retain their own brands, independence and control. You can find out more here.

Step 3: Find collaborators
Carefully identifying like-minded businesses to work with is crucial. Trust is a key factor. It can help if the businesses have worked together informally before. In most cases, member businesses operate in similar or complementary fields, although a lot will depend on the rationale for collaboration. You can read about the experience of a number of successful consortia here.

Step 4: Choose the right structure
The consortium co-operative model is an effective collaborative business structure. In simple terms it is an organisation run in a shared and equal way by and for the benefit of its members. Members are independent businesses and the consortium can be for any purpose which supports them, for example marketing, tendering, innovating or exporting. Co-operative Development Scotland has a track record in helping businesses and we’d be happy to help you explore the options. You can contact us here.

Step 5: Benefit from your collaboration
Collaborating can be a real game-changer for businesses. Collaborating can be a real game-changer for businesses. For example, through collaboration, Adventures in Light – an Edinburgh-based consortium which brings together a 3D artist, a film-maker and a carpenter – have been able to invest in essential new kit which has supported them to keep experimenting and inventing. This, in turn, has helped them work on bigger projects such as the International Science Festival and the Kelburn Garden Party.

As well as supporting businesses to access new markets, share risks and costs and develop new products or services, many businesses involved in consortium working also report increased confidence, better business connections, improved knowledge-sharing and an enhanced profile.

The benefits are tangible and numerous – and definitely worth exploring when considering the future of your business.

CDS can help you to explore the options, structure the consortium, and get more members involved. 

If you would like to find out more about collaborative business models, or if you would like to get in touch, visit here.

 

Creative Consortium Sheds Light on Collaboration Prize Benefits

Scottish Enterprise's David Smith pictured with Adventures in Light's Cristina Spiteri and Richard Anstice

Scottish Enterprise’s David Smith pictured with Adventures in Light’s Cristina Spiteri and Richard Anstice

This Thursday 12 November, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop launched the 2015/16 Collaboration Prize – which aims to encourage companies to consider establishing a consortium.

Businesses from the creative industries are being invited to submit entries by 17 December for a chance to win £5,000 cash and up to £5,000 in support to set their idea in motion. Up to five winners will be selected to take a share of the prize fund.

Adventures in Light was one of last year’s Collaboration Prize winners. The consortium brings together a 3D artist, filmmaker and carpenter to create dynamic projected installations for musical and cultural performances.

Here, chairman Cristina Spiteri describes Adventures in Light’s experience of collaboration and how they have benefited from winning the Prize.

It all began when Susanna, Richard and I met serendipitously in a field whilst VJ-ing at a festival. As artists we believed that by pooling our expertise we could offer customers something completely new and exciting – delivered seamlessly from idea creation to execution. We also found that working together enabled us to collectively use resources to purchase more advanced equipment and embark on more ambitious installations.

After a year working together (during which we provided installations for T in the Park, Edinburgh Science Festival and the Scottish Dance Theatre) we decided to enter the Collaboration Prize to formalise our partnership and reach new heights.

Judges liked our streamlined approach to tendering which delivered value for money to customers and maximum return for the business. For us, it makes sense for clients to be talking to one body rather than three individual businesses. It also means we can grow to involve other companies and artists to go for bigger jobs. As a prize winner, we received support from CDS to formalise our arrangement and set up a consortium. We also received consultancy assistance to develop our collaboration further as well as £5,000 cash to inject into the business.

Winning the prize has opened so many doors for us. It has allowed us to invest in essential new kit which has supported us to keep experimenting and inventing – something all creative businesses should do. We’ve also had the opportunity to work on some fantastic new projects including the International Science Festival and the Kelburn Garden Party.

Collaborating is now at the core of our business. It has allowed us to bring in specialist skills, and together craft something truly unique and far beyond what we could produce on our own.

Our advice to anyone considering entering the Prize is ‘go for it’. It’s a fantastic opportunity and it has really helped us to grow and succeed.

Entries to the competition must be submitted by midnight, December 17. To enter, go towww.scottish-enterprise.com/collaborationprize.

Support with preparing submissions is available from CDS. For more information email info@cdscotland.co.uk.

The Collaboration Prize was launched by Scottish Enterprise (SE), in partnership with Creative Scotland, Cultural Enterprise Office, Interactive Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), and delivered by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS).

Transitioning to Employee Ownership – the Legal Perspective

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In January 2014, software developers Computer Application Services Ltd (CAS) moved from owner management to employee ownership.  Bruce Farquhar and Bruce Harvie, from the corporate team at lawyers Anderson Strathern, advised on the process.  Here partner, Bruce Farquhar gives his views on the transaction:

“The Corporate team at Anderson Strathern work mainly with the larger end of the SME market, and although we have advised a number of cooperatives, this is our first true “employee ownership” transition.  It was an excellent deal to be part of and I would say I’m now an enthusiastic advocate for the model.

“The transaction was quite straightforward, certainly no more complicated than any other business transfer transaction.   There were two main parties to the deal, the former owners as the vendors and the employees of CASLtd as the buyers.  It was in no way an adversarial process – indeed it was very collaborative with all parties wanting what was in the best long-term interest of the company.  We also involved an accountancy firm, Johnston Carmichael, which was able to give specialist advice on the tax implications for the parties.

“Like most employee owned firms, the majority of the shareholding is held in an Employee Benefit Trust.  This Trust retains the shares for the long term and provides stability to the company.  There is also a portion of shares available to employees as options.  In this way, employees are able to see their value in the business grow as the company prospers.

“The chair and chief executive both invested in the business and this meant there was no need to source any external finance for the deal. The intention is that both chair and chief executive will sell their shares back to the employee trust in the future.

“The sale to employees was not the first intention of the vendors. They had been pursuing a trade sale which had fallen through. However, the employee ownership option provided a satisfactory exit for them as owners, and was well received by the employees of CAS.

“As an adviser, it is a model I see fitting well with the aspirations of a number of business owners. Many entrepreneurs are reluctant to see their firm in the hands of a competitor.  The grueling process of preparing a business for a trade sale can be uncomfortable for a seller.

“A sale to employees can be a much easier process. An additional attraction for the owner is that they are able to control the pace of the transaction, and can influence their role in the business going forward.  The former owners of CAS had decided they wanted to exit at the point of sale.  Many owners would prefer to remain involved in some way, perhaps in a non-executive role.  The collegiate nature of an employee ownership transaction enables the vendor to do that.

“The benefits for employees are clear.  There is continuity of employment, they have a stake in their business, and more say in how that business is run.

“We’re delighted that we are now working with another successful Scottish business making the move to employee ownership. As awareness grows, I’m confident there will be many more following suit.”

You can learn more about  CAS Ltd’s transition to employee ownership at an event hosted by CDS and CAS Ltd in Edinburgh on Thursday 3 September.

For more information or to register go to: http://bit.ly/1Vh9aUy

Why working for an employee-owned company makes a real difference

sAt Aquascot’s ‘Successful Succession’ event on Employee Ownership Day, training assistant Sylwia Goluda described her experiences at the Alness-based company.

Her presentation provided real insight into an employee’s journey towards employee ownership and here she provides us with a summary of the talk that so many enjoyed on the day.

I arrived in Scotland from Poland in July 2006. It was a scary prospect coming to a strange country, having left behind my family, friends and job. Thankfully, everyone was so nice and friendly which made everything so much easier.

I came to work at Aquascot and immediately noticed a difference from how companies work in Poland. What struck me most was the attitude of the managers – they were open and helpful and told us how much they appreciated our hard work. They care for employees and this makes Aquascot a great place to work.

In 2008, the three directors announced at our annual conference that the company was moving to employee ownership. It was an exciting time and we all felt we were part of something bigger and better. A Partnership Council was formed and I was delighted to be elected to this with nine of my colleagues.

We meet on a monthly basis to discuss employee views and to propose ideas and suggestions for our business to grow and be successful. We have been involved in lots of projects including organising social events, charity initiatives, conferences and celebrations, such as the company’s 25th birthday party.

We are almost at the end of our journey to become 100 per cent employee-owned. You can tell that everybody is waiting for that milestone with great excitement. Personally, I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen and how it can lead to even more success.

I feel very proud to work here and I’m glad I have the opportunity to grow and be recognised and appreciated for going that extra mile. I believe that Aquascot’s future is very bright – not simply because we are employee-owned but because we have a great team of people who will make success happen.

Employee ownership – the key to a stronger Highland economy?

AquaScot Dennis Overton 94Earlier this month, Alness-based sustainable seafood company Aquascot opened its doors to the local business community for a ‘Successful Succession’ event jointly hosted with Co-operative Development Scotland.

Here, Aquascot chairman Dennis Overton reflects on the day and the company’s experience of employee ownership.

With 185 employees operating from two sites in the town, Aquascot is currently 85 per cent employee-owned and is set to complete the transition to 100 per cent employee ownership by 2017. As an enterprise, we have a 12 per cent share of the UK’s ‘ready to cook’ salmon market.

On 3 July – Employee Ownership Day – we welcomed employee owners, local business people and local MSP, Rob Gibson to our premises. We focused on how employee ownership has been a successful model for Aquascot, and how it can make a significant contribution to economic growth.

I believe the UK economy would be in a much healthier position if there were more employee-owned companies. At present, I feel we are overly focused on short-term gain to the detriment of long-term value creation.

Employee-owned firms are different. In ‘conventional’ businesses there is often disconnect between shareholders and the company they part own. This can be because shareholders have different, and often more immediate, objectives than the people inside the company who have its long-term success at heart.

In an employee-owned company, the employees control the shares. They are more likely to be concerned about the longevity of the business and know that innovation, productivity and profitability are key to achieving that. Indeed, as Aquascot partner Donald Beaton put it so articulately: “This isn’t just about creating good jobs for us, it’s about jobs being there for our children and their children.”

In the Highlands, succession is a concern. In a survey we conducted in 2005, we looked at what happens to non-family, first generation businesses when it comes to considering succession. The findings were not encouraging:

  • There were few independent businesses of any scale in the Highlands
  • The most common form of exit was a trade sale to a buyer out with the region
  • In the majority of cases , the acquired company no longer had a presence in the Highlands after five years

When our founders came to consider Aquascot’s future, they knew that the final decision had to consider the contribution made by its employees. We have exceptional staff and they have made the company the success it is today.

By selling to employees, our founders have enabled this success to continue, and Aquascot will remain in Alness providing jobs and opportunities for years to come.

Friday’s event encouraged several businesses to explore employee ownership more closely, and with Aquascot as an example, this can only be good news for the local economy and the people of the Highlands.