60 Seconds with... Iain Scott - one of 1001 Enterprising Scots

Published: 9 Dec 2014 09:30

Why big isn't necessarily clever

A history teacher-turned- enterprise guru, Glasgow-born Iain Scott is fresh from the ninth annual Business in Parliament conference, where he continued to champion the rise of the community as a means of boosting Scotland’s economy – a campaign that’s close to his heart.

“Forget what they taught you in business school – it’s dangerous” ~ Iain Scott

“Forget what they taught you in business school – it’s dangerous” ~ Iain Scott

He’s worked with organisations up and down the UK – through a series of cleverly-crafted enterprise programmes – and has even coaxed the NHS into losing some of its inhibitions to find better ways of working.

His latest endeavours include helping Kirkcaldy 4 All and other communities across Scotland to unleash their creativity and collaborate more effectively in a bid to breathe new life into Scotland’s town centres.

Not only that, but Scott has recently finished penning the book ‘An Entrepreneurial A to Z: Useful Stuff for Your Entrepreneurial Journey’ and helped coin the phrase ‘intrapreneurship’ – the art of being enterprising while being employed and keeping your job.

He’s also the founder of 1001 Enterprising Scots, an online platform where entrepreneurs can tell their stories – warts and all.

Q: How did you get involved in enterprise?

A: I taught history for five years and really enjoyed it but I also had an interest in preservative and additive-free food, which isn’t new now but it was then. I launched a range of preservative and additive-free home baking and microwave meals, which were big news at that time. The business was one of the first to make the likes of chocolate orange cake, carrot cake and brownies in this way and I sold them into Harrods. There ended up being a food scare, however, and the orders dried up. That was the end of that but I went on to do a high-growth business start-up programme and got involved in helping six independent tomato growers in the Clyde Valley collaborate and then then form Scotland’s Tomatoes which sold into supermarkets.

I’ve always been a big believer in teaching people to create their own job rather than looking for jobs in which to be employed. There is work out there but it may on a contract basis or as a freelancer. We need to stop thinking about employment and start thinking about enterprise.

Q: Tell us about Can Do Towns...

A: Can Do Towns is all about breathing life into much loved places and spaces to help revitalise our town centres and communities through enterprise creation. Enterprise and innopvation is inherent in every community the Can Do Towns Challenge unlocks it. I try to get people talking, explore the challenges, have lots of fun and learn the techniques needed to take their ideas forward. I’ve been working closely with Kirkcaldy and Falkirk BIDs and am about to start working with Dunfermline Delivers. We’re helping local people to create a new breed of entrepreneurs using their town centres differently. This is just what Fife needs as we all know, every £1 spent locally circulates 10 times.

Q: How was speaking at Business in Parliament 2014?

A: Speaking at Holyrood was exciting. There was a right, old buzz about the place. We were lucky getting to hear one of the last speeches from Alex Salmond, who was really talking up the potential for Scottish business. Then we heard from John Swinney, who echoed what I’d been saying for years – that it’s all about the local people. There was a wave of support I’d never experienced before. I guess that’s the difference between dealing with MSPs rather than MPs. They’re so much more ‘on the ground’. All the political parties were asking ‘how can we help people become entrepreneurs?’ The wind is definitely changing direction.

Q: What is 1001 Enterprising Scots?

A: 1001 Enterprising Scots came from a sense of irritation at the likes of Dragon’s Den and the BBC’s approach to starting a business. The BBC would iron out all the bumps before broadcasting yet all I was hearing were business start-up problems. I decided I would take on a new way of interviewing and let business owners talk about their themselves. I first interviewed a cafe owner during a break from a Scottish government town centre review group meeting and he told me that VAT was his biggest problem, while other people were focusing on the rates. He also told me that he closed his first restaurant because it was bad for family life. It was very interesting and a real eye opener. In short, the website encourages people to tell their stories of what starting out in business is really like.

Q: What is your advice to those starting out in business?

A: 1) Ignore the business plan; it’ll kill you 2) Be curious; consider ‘what if?’ 3) Talk to lots of people 4) Do something small and learn from it.

Forget what they taught you in business school – it’s dangerous. Forget the business plan and market research; go out and sell something and see what happens. Leave all that other stuff for the big organisations and take up a market stall. Become a child again.

Find out more at www.enterpriseiain.scot

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