The Power of a Resilient Mindset

With Entrepreneur in Residence Scott Weir, CEO of Pillow Partners.

A passionate alumni supporter of our Saltire Leader Programmes, with a great deal of insight to share, Scott is our latest ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’.

Pillow Partners is an award-winning property management company, with a franchise network, operating across the whole of the UK and will soon launch in the USA. Scott is also an award-winning entrepreneur and a passionate alumni supporter of our Saltire Leader programmes.

Today, Scott shares his personal story of nurturing a resilient mindset, his contagious enthusiasm and reminds us about the importance of building a community of like-minded peers plus being creative in seeking opportunities for a business to thrive


My Journey

In 2006, I founded a lettings and estate agency with two high street branches in Ayrshire. In early 2015, I began to spot a trend of people wanting to stay in people’s houses and cottages, through sites like Airbnb, and decided to rethink our business model focusing on short-term lets.

From there, we launched Pillow Partners and introduced a franchise structure into the business and now have 20 franchises. Franchising allows people to start on their ‘own’ business who wouldn’t normally be able to do so. It’s a partnership - they are experts in their local area but benefit from the support we provide from HQ.

Today, we have 50 people - who we call partners - in our team across the UK meaning we are less than 30 minutes away from any property, apart from the Islands.

Here, I share insight into my journey of growing Pillow Partners and how you can leverage resilience to help lead your team and business through a crisis.

#1 - Get Out of The Trenches

Prior to Lockdown, the business was doing amazingly well. I was in Silicon Valley and we were looking to expand in the US. I was pitching to investors and having amazing conversations with businesses like Facebook and Silicon Valley Bank. Then, COVID happened and we barely got home. It just shows the entrepreneurial journey. One minute you’re pitching and next, your trip is cut short and the industry shuts down.

I admit, there were a couple of difficult days when things affected me. But, I focussed on who I am and my core principles. I took comfort from positive affirmations and made a decision to get out of the trenches. My amazing team and I pulled together and made some major changes to the business model in order to operate during the pandemic.

#2 - The Right Mindset

A difficult childhood gave me a strong foundation for life and forced me to develop a resilience mindset from an early age. But, I still had to overcome more challenges. I barely made it through the first year of my HND, I was really struggling, and was encouraged to get tested for dyslexia. The person conducting the assessment said to me: “Never ever say you’re stupid again, Scott! You’re just different.”

With a new mindset and encouragement, to play to my strengths, I was able to achieve the best marks in the history of the course and I won student of the year. Nothing changed but my mindset. So, engaging in the right mindset has been a significant game changer for my success as an entrepreneur.

#3 - Embrace Change

When lockdown hit, and with Government restrictions in place, we needed to change how we operated. Specifically, we focussed our attention on who we could help - long term corporate guests and key workers - plus we saw an opportunity to give back to the community.

I realised we could generate meaningful impact by auctioning off vacant holiday homes for charities. For example, we raised £1,000 for the ‘Beautiful Inside and Out’ charity and our actions allowed the charity to save lives.

Soon, we’ll launch our own charity ‘Pillow Safe Havens’ and continue making a real difference in the community. We’re setting up 40 safe havens, with support from corporate partners, and will help with end of life care and those suffering from domestic violence. Plus, future guests will be able to support us by donating to a safe haven.

#4 - Strong Core Values

One of our business core values is ‘make it happen’ and our core value number one is: ‘stronger together.’ So, we feel that bringing everyone together is better.

For Pillow Partners, these values are fundamental to our company culture and a guiding principle when it comes to recruiting new team members and partners. Having resilience is important because this is a hard business to be in and being able to handle stressful situations is vital. Recently, we introduced a Kickstart Scheme to support 70 young people, between 16 and 24 years old, with opportunities that they might not have otherwise.

A former Kickstarter, Chloe, secured a permanent role in our marketing department as a result of her tremendous efforts. She was doing things that I could never have done and that ‘make it happen’ attitude got her the job.

It’s amazing because they [Kickstarters] have the ‘make it happen’ attitude - when you’re part of Pillow Partners, you get it. ‘Make it happen’ was just how the business was built

#5 - Building A Solid Network

During Lockdown, I reached out to my network and began establishing new connections in the US via Zoom. There were things I couldn’t control: what the Government does; the pandemic as a whole. But, what I could control was where I could focus my time. Every evening, I spent time with millionaires and billionaires on Zoom in the US. Their mindset was different; they’ve seen these ups and downs and crashes. Their mindset wasn’t a disaster mindset. So, spending time with the right people with the right mindset made all the difference.

When I think back to my time at Babson College as part of the Entrepreneurial Scotland Leadership Development Programme, my biggest takeaway was from Bill Aulet who said: “The best advice I could give a Scottish business owner is to go and experience another culture”. Honestly, looking at things from a different perspective and applying this new perspective has allowed me to make real progress as a leader.

Plus, the global Entrepreneurial Scotland network has been really advantageous for discussing problems with other leaders. The level of support from organisations like Entrepreneurial Scotland and the Scale Up Scotland programme is great. Any challenge I had, there was someone in the room who had dealt with a similar challenge. To be honest, I’ve seen me avoid a mistake and save our business tens of thousands of pounds from one conversation. So, that’s the power of good networks. You’re probably saving 6 months of stress, hassle and tens of thousands of pounds by just one conversation. That’s powerful.

I could have been down. But finding people with the right mindset was great for me.

#6 - Final Lessons

Despite the challenges, I have come out the other side stronger and more determined than ever. Andrew Henderson’s book ‘Nomad Capitalist’ has been a great source of inspiration and one important lesson stuck with me: your home market may not be your best market and your core product may not be your best product.

I think it’s really important to look beyond your comfort zone and seek opportunities in places you might not have thought about before.

We’re excited to launch Pillow Partners in Florida soon and, based on our projections, we’re confident we can grow quickly in this new market. If we can do the business then we can scale up and, within a year, we’ll get to the same size as we are here.


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