Four leading entrepreneurs from across the Highlands and Islands have returned inspired by one of the worlds globally renowned businesses executive development programmes.
Since 2007, over 100 of Scotland’s most ambitious businesses have been sponsored by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Enterprise to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP), delivered by the Sloan School of Management in Boston, USA.
HIE sponsored four Highlands and Islands entrepreneurs to attend the 2014 program in January this year. These were Barnaby Mercer of The Kildrummy Corporation, Shetland; Giles Huby of Copernicus Technology, Moray; Ben Murray of Keltic Seafare, Dingwall and Ben Wilson of Inverlussa Marine Services, Isle of Mull.
The EDP course is run onsite in Boston each year and is led by Bill Aulet, Managing Director of the Entrepreneurship Center. It is delivered by the faculty staff and invited external entrepreneurs, investors and venture capitalists.
Each year HIE sponsors up to five businesses, who apply through a competitive process, to take part in the five day course. Around 120 entrepreneurs from across the globe take part each year to gain inspiration, insight and learn the tools they need to drive the growth of their businesses in national and international markets. Using MIT’s entrepreneurial culture as a model, participants learn what they need to know in order to develop ideas into successful businesses and to increase entrepreneurial opportunities in their businesses, organisations, and regions.
Stephanie Anderson of HIE supports each of the companies from the applications process to their return from Boston. She commented: “The impact on participating businesses of taking part on this course has been seen to be transformational. Businesses gain the inspiration, confidence and tools to take strategic decisions within their organisations and in some cases radically overhaul their vision, strategies, structures, markets, profitability and success.
“Our strategic partnership with MIT has been ongoing now for almost 10 years and has benefitted many businesses across the Highlands and Islands. Our relationship with MIT, particularly its Sloan School of Management, is going from strength to strength and we’re delighted that another four of our companies have come back from Boston invigorated and inspired and proving that they are amongst the top talent in the world.”
HIE leads on sending a cohort of companies from across Scotland to take part in EDP and runs this programme in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, Informatics Ventures and Edinburgh BioQuarter.
The competition for sponsored places on EDP 2015 will open in August 2014.
The 2014 MIT EDP attendees:
Giles Huby, Managing Director at Copernicus Technology Ltd
Established in 2008, Copernicus Technology Ltd provides unique and proven specialist testing and data solutions to help aerospace and rail clients successfully fix the causes of 'downtime' and 'No Fault Found' - a reported fault for which the root cause cannot be found. With a head office in Elgin, the business also operates from sites in the Netherlands and Australia.
Giles commented: “We've been growing the business slowly but surely since starting up and, whilst we consider that we've taken the best of our RAF experience and blended it with modern business thinking, we wanted to learn more because we want to grow faster. The MIT EDP offered a superb opportunity to gain exposure to world-class thinking on the best strategies, insights and techniques to be applied to new and growing businesses. It has allowed us to expand our thinking through meeting with staff and students from all over the world and from a dizzying array of industries.
“From attending, the key lessons learned included the need to absolutely identify and quantify your intended market; the vital need to have the right culture and values in place in your business, to focus and simplify the message behind your product or products and most importantly, it's never too late to learn.
“The hardest part of the whole process is getting back to the office and starting to make the changes needed instead of simply being sucked straight back into doing exactly what you always did in the exactly same way. But growing the business is too important to simply revert back to old ways, and the whole team at Copernicus Technology Ltd are determined to work with me to use the new found knowledge from the MIT EDP to accelerate us toward bigger and better things.”
Barnaby Mercer, Director, the Kildrummy Corporation.
The Kildrummy Corporation develops project control solutions for the oil and gas sector. Based in Lerwick in Shetland, the company supports projects in every corner of the globe. In addition to its Lerwick office, it has a subsidiary in Houston, Texas (Kildrummy Inc.) which accounts for more than half of the business’s global revenues.
Barnaby commented: “I applied to EDP to learn how to best bring our new technologies to market, and to develop my skills as an entrepreneur. The program taught me a great deal on how to structure my thinking around the problems inherent in taking a new technology to market. I intend to apply the 24-step process to our new technology to establish a sound investment opportunity. Our new technology combined with the EDP process will enable us to expand into new markets and sectors.”
Ben Wilson, Operations Director of Inverlussa Marine Services
Based on the Isle of Mull, Inverlussa is a family run company with vast experience within the marine industry, originally from a fishing and shellfish farming background on the west coast before diversifying into marine services with the delivery of the first vessel in 2006.
Inverlussa Marine Services is a provider of modern work vessels servicing contracts throughout the UK and Europe and the company has more than doubled its work force over the past 2 years. It plans to continue to grow both within the aquaculture sector as well as diversifying into renewable energy.
Ben commented: “Taking part on the EDP course was suggested to me by a couple of people who had been on the course through HIE in 2010 and 2011 and they highly recommended it. Having left school at the age of 15 with two standard grades I joined family business and as the company moves forward I felt it was of importance that I grow and develop my business skills.
“From attending EDP, the number one thing for me was to think more strategically which will help our business going forward. There is also a feeling of wanting to achieve more and to think around the problem.
“We were told over and over again when moving into a new sector the importance of knowing the market inside out and that you can never have too much detail on your new customer. Some of this seems obvious but there are some things we will do differently as we diversify into new sectors.
“In recent years we have focused on growth and, having just ordered a new vessel with Macduff Shipyards, we will continue with our plans to expand within the aquacuture sector and diversify into the renewables industry.
“I have no doubt my experience at MIT will have a positive effect on our business.”
Ben Murray, Managing Director of Keltic Seafare
Keltic Seafare is a supplier of premium Scottish shellfish to fine dining restaurants across the UK and France as well as to wholesalers and supermarkets in France and Spain. The company is in its twenty first year and continues to operate from its original location in Dingwall.
Ben commented: “I applied to EDP to understand how to manage a business start up with particular focus on identifying the market opportunities, customer acquisition and funding opportunities. Although I am managing an existing business we are looking at growing specific areas which have not been looked at previously and a start up mentality is the best way to do this.
“One of the main lessons I took from EDP was that the ‘team’ is everything and that if you don’t have ‘focus’ then forget it. An important learning was the amount of time you need to spend of understanding your market and customer, including who is your actual customer, as it’s not always the person that ends up using your product or service. This ground work sounds like common sense but how many times have you developed a new product before you have properly assessed the market requirements and potential customers’ needs?
“My initial plan is to ensure the structure of the business is sound for the next phase of growth and to address any weaknesses should they be identified.
“There was an immense amount of information given to us during the week and much of it confirmed what I’m trying to do is indeed right!”