Invaluable advice from Scotland’s female business leaders on International Women’s Day

I can’t remember who told me “It’s not what you say that you’ll be judged on; it’s the questions that you ask”, but this sage advice left me an exponent of the good question

I can’t remember who told me “It’s not what you say that you’ll be judged on; it’s the questions that you ask”, but this sage advice left me an exponent of the good question.

Questions are the cornerstone of innovation; which isn’t necessarily about coming up with a big idea that’s fully formed, rather the process of interrogating an idea to uncover how it can be translated into a successful commercial proposition.

To mark International Women’s Day (on Wednesday 8 March), Converge Challenge and Women’s Enterprise Scotland brought together two panels of business leaders; the first representing some of Converge Challenge’s inspirational alumni and the second comprising experienced entrepreneurs, ecosystem experts and partners, to deliver a lively and insightful event that took place at Adam & Company, Edinburgh, framed around a series of well curated questions. 

There’s something about a panel event that really gets me on the edge of my seat. It wasn’t just Women’s Enterprise Scotland’s Carolyn Currie and Lynne Cadenhead’s probing interview style that encouraged the panel of entrepreneurs to share the kind of insights that are invaluable to those starting out.  It was also the opportunity to listen to what matters to the jam-packed audience of women (and handful of men) many of who are inspirational in their own right.

The first panel talked about the stages of starting up from the challenge of writing a business plan, deciding on company structure, growing your team and board, ethics and values through their own personal stories. My favourite question from the floor touched on the early stage dilemma “How do you sustain yourself and keep a roof over your head while your business is just starting up?” The panels’ experience covered a wide range of scenarios from competitions like Converge Challenge and Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards to exhausting savings, working a day job, and finally finding equity investment.

The second panel focused in on some of the support available within the entrepreneurial ecosystem from Scottish Enterprise’s range of training and support, access to debt, and touched on Prof. Eleanor Shaw’s research around women’s business ownership and financing for female entrepreneurs. As the discussion moved onto networking, Linda Urquhart OBE, Chairman of Morton Fraser underscored the importance of spending time on your network, distinct from ‘networking’ to build and nurture a board of virtual experts who you can call on for advice when you need it.

Leading on the development and growth of Entrepreneurial Scotland’s member network, this is something that resonated with me. Connecting people is what we do. We believe that by putting yourself in different environments and surrounding yourself with great people you’re more likely to connect with the people who can inspire you and help you succeed. Join us to ensure your network is one where you’ll find those peers who are going to ask you the tough questions you need to keep on asking yourself, to ensure you know where you want to go and whether you are on the right path to getting there.

With 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 fast approaching (which gave women over the age of 30 the right to vote) I’m anticipating that there are many more events on the horizon that will encourage female leadership and celebrate the impact of female entrepreneurship on Scotland’s economic growth. Our Annual Conference on 4th May at Gleneagles includes a strong line up of female entrepreneurial leaders including Sherry Coutu, CBE, Chair of the Board, Founders4Schools, Executive Chair of the Board, ScaleUp Institute; Maureen McGuire, Independent Consultant & former CMO at Bloomberg and Claire Howell, CEO, The Really Effective Development Company. Focusing on the theme of scaling-up, join us as they and many more inspirational speakers share their knowledge, experience and insights to help you transform your own business or the organisation you work within.

@sarahlmathieson

Membership Director, Entrepreneurial Scotland

Entrepreneurial Scotland are proud partners of Converge Challenge

Photo credit: Lesley Martin