Sandy Kennedy: 'Governments are facing their own moment of truth'

There is a moment. A moment to step forward or to step back. A moment of truth

As we peer into the months ahead and imagine what it holds, the people who seize that moment will shape our collective future. You will create the vital jobs, the taxes and help solve the challenges we face.

Many of you will face this moment. How will you respond?

For some, passion alone will drive you forward. You have committed before you know it. This is especially the case for social entrepreneurs who see a challenge, a need and feel compelled to act. Sylvia Douglas founded MsMissMrs in 2014, to support female empowerment and has never stopped, now running life-changing, practical courses on healthy living, self-care and educational support.

For some, necessity will force the decision for you. Sadly, we are going to see many redundancies ahead. Yet with the right support, like Elevator’s Grey Matters programme, you can unlock new opportunities.

For some, you will be held back by fear of the unknown or comfort with the status quo. Scotland is rightly proud of its university-based innovation, consistently ranking in the top quartile for higher education research and development. Yet we have too few firms of scale (the job creators) that have grown out of this R&D investment. Innovation alone is not enough; execution is the differential. If you are a tenured academic with a guaranteed income esteemed by colleagues for journal publications and conference papers then why risk it? We need to unleash our university-based innovators, like Professor Martin Tangney, the founder of Celtic Renewables.

If you need a nudge there is support: check out Scottish EDGE16, Converge Challenge, SIE, CivTech 5.0, The Lens – all working hard and together as part of the CANDO Collective.

For some, you will drive change from within – you are the intrapreneurs. My father, along with his partner John Bowie, for 20 years was worn down by a relentless need for efficiencies as the market for laundries and dry cleaning was battered by the arrival of a technological revolution – the washing machine. In the 1980s, they flipped it. For the next 20 years they used their high street footfall, production know-how and friendly customer service to grow the UK’s largest independent photo processing business (Klick, SupaSnaps, Max Spielmann, Munro for those who remember). The firm employed over 3000 staff at its peak from a head office above a restaurant in Byres Road. That is before the arrival of another technological revolution – the digital camera. It was still worth it.

Entrepreneurial leadership is more than starting a business. Entrepreneurial leadership can grow an existing firm, a social enterprise or even transform a corporate or Government department from within.

Our governments are facing their own moment of truth. The strategic ambition for Scotland to become a “world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation” is good and now vital. It is our best chance to create the inclusive, sustainable economy benefiting the whole of society. However, words are empty without consistent action. Like the entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, the Government and its officials must commit utterly to this goal to have a chance to succeed. Mark Logan’s Tech Ecosystem Review, due shortly, will set out an ambitious blueprint that is within our collective gift. The question is will we step forward or step back.

On a personal note, my dad, Alick, passed away last week at the age of 77. He reflected on his working life as three parts of 20 years each – driving efficiency, creating jobs and giving back. Scotland will need to be brilliant at all three at once.

Sandy Kennedy is CEO of the Entrepreneurial Scotland Foundation

(Article originally published in The Herald: