Many of you will have seen @Mark Bell’s name connected with entrepreneurship and particularly young entrepreneurs over many years. Mark is passionate about providing high quality support to business leaders and drives the work that we do with @Highlands & Islands Enterprise on IMPACT30 - www.hie.co.uk/support/browse-all-support-services/impact30/ His enthusiasm is infectious and I wanted to find out a bit more so when we won the contract to deliver the programme a few years ago, I asked him if I could be a Business Enabler on the programme. Mark said he would think about it! To be honest, I was a little bit disheartened. Mark then explained that there are a number of roles performed by the IMPACT30 Business Enablers and he wanted to make sure I was up for all that is involved:
- Coach - providing support and encouragement by asking the right questions to guide and challenge business leaders
- Proxy for a potential investor – pushing and prodding the business plan and the business performance to ensure the business is moving forward
- Consultant – helping to address problems and develop solutions on all aspects of the business
- Confidant and critical friend – critique can feel harsh and personal; particularly when you are growing your business but it is important. We therefore need our Business Enablers to build trust to ensure all feedback is received in the right way
- Scrum Master (I’m guessing you didn’t expect that one) – Mark and the team plan and deliver the support in sprints therefore the Business Enabler needs to facilitate this – keeping the business leader on track and maintaining pace and momentum
- Finally, Connector – we always try to connect leaders with others and with opportunities to learn. This is particularly valuable as our Business Enablers have different networks from which they can access people and skills.
After Mark satisfied himself that I was up for it (he didn’t quite set me an exam but he may as well have 😊), I was connected to the young business leaders I would support.
I have been fortunate to work with 3 companies: a fabulous wedding designer - Kirsty MacLennan at www.kirstyelizabethstudio.com, an amazing sleep nanny (the only certified one in Scotland) Eileen Macdonald at www.fairysleepmother.co.uk and a hugely talented landscape photographer - Eilidh Cameron at eilidhcameronphotography.com. It has been a real privilege to work with these young women as they build their businesses. I have been so impressed (but not surprised) by their energy, their talent, their hard work and their resilience. Growing a business is not without its ups and downs; particularly during a global pandemic but each of them has demonstrated perseverance, adaptability and positivity. Please check out their websites and give them a shout if you know of anyone who may be interested in their services.
What would these 3 young business leaders say about the experience of working with a Business Enabler on IMPACT30? Well, we asked them…
“I feel that I can approach Lesley with any concerns and questions, and even just to voice ideas, I know that I will always receive reliable and honest feedback. Lesley is also quick to steer me in the right direction in terms of helpful contacts which has been valuable for somebody with a busy schedule! Lesley has backed my ambition and helped me to grow as a woman who is very new to the world of business. I feel incredibly lucky to have met and worked with Lesley over the last 1.5 years.”
“A balance of constructive feedback and a gentle push out of my comfort zone have helped me consider other options that I wouldn’t have thought of had I not been part of IMPACT30. Over the next 8 months, I can see Lesley supporting me in taking my business to the next level helping me create a sustainable and rewarding company.”
“Lesley was the backbone and number 1 cheerleader you needed when the year of 2020 was pushing your limits. To have Lesley behind me when I was navigating not only a start-up year, but a year where the industry had been shut down was everything I needed. She knew where and when I needed encouragement, and was always there with an answer when I was feeling lost. I felt like any problem I came across Lesley was there to wave her wand and find me a solution. She would challenge my ideas and make me think further out the box while keeping me on track. If I could hire Lesley as a member of my team I would!”
Now before you start to think ‘this is a bit self-indulgent Lesley’, it’s absolutely not intended that way. Yes, I have drawn on my personal experience as a Business Enabler but my point is simple - this is about the cohort of amazing Business Enablers we have on IMPACT30 who work with many more businesses than I do and who get incredible feedback from the leaders they work with. This is a shout out to them. It is not easy to juggle all the demands we make of them but we never apologise for being demanding because that is what differentiates the support we provide to businesses from other support arrangements out there.
It is also a shout out to the talented business leaders who participate in IMPACT30. We know how fortunate we are to work with you and we never take that for granted.
Finally, it is a great opportunity to recognise the sponsorship and support provided by HIE; in particular, Charlotte Wright, Steven Hutcheon, Claire Munro and Lizi Blackwood – without whom there would be no IMPACT30.