I’d like to start by adding my own congratulations to the leaders in our region who were successful in the recent Director of the Year Awards.
Reflecting on the success of these leaders and the recent publication of the annual listing of top 100 companies in Highland, Moray and Banffshire got me thinking of the attributes businesses in the north of Scotland will need to demonstrate in order to thrive in what is going to be a very challenging market over the next 12 months.
While the companies listed are diverse, there are commonalities as to what has made those companies on the list the cream of the crop; it’s all down to the three T’s – Technology, Trade and Talent. Three attributes that businesses across Scotland can take note of and consider in looking to make their businesses be as successful as possible.
Technology is evolving at an exponential speed, with new trends and technologies shaking up business practice at a faster pace than ever before. From experience of listening to IoD members, there is no doubt that there is a race to embrace emerging technologies, move to the cloud before anyone else and be the ones to lead on disruptive business models. Those businesses that embrace this change will be the winners, as they will be able to gain more insight from the data they hold, as well as increase their productivity. This, in turn, benefits the bottom line.
Currently, Scotland trades 3.6 times more with the rest of the UK than with the EU. But that shouldn’t limit businesses in where they should trade. Whatever your current markets, use the next 12 months to expand your reach. By looking further afield to new markets, be they the central belt, south of the border or beyond, businesses will benefit not just in the case of increased tariffs or customs delays and difficulties post Brexit, but to expand their trading opportunities.
Last, but not least, is what I consider will be the most important element for businesses to consider this year. Companies must be free to find quality leaders and employees, and this includes being encouraged to step outside the traditional structures and embrace diversity.
With less than a year until the Government’s target of having a 50/50 split of men and women in the boardroom, businesses need to take diversity seriously. However, at the same time, we need to see not only greater gender diversity, but diversity of thought too. The best boardrooms are host to a variety of backgrounds, education, age, gender and skills. They must be the home of ideas and challenge if businesses are to be successful – the boardroom is not a place for dogma.
We need to make the case that being a business leader is not about being part of a status quo.
In fact, it is the exact opposite. All businesses, one way or another, are about changing the status quo. It doesn’t matter if you are a small business owner or CEO of a household name; all of us are trying to change something, trying to find the solutions for the challenges of the future.
The short-term future will the see biggest changes and challenges that British businesses have faced for years, yet at the moment, we’re blind as to the consequences of what may happen over the next few weeks; our prime minister, our EU status, our party of government. However, there are many core qualities that help to hold the economy together.
Talent, innovation, integrity, ambition and determination have seen us through crises in the past, and these will hold true as we face the future on our doorstep.
If we want to reach the top then we must take the lead.
Donald Forsyth is the chairman of the Institute of Directors in the Highlands
and Islands and a partner with Saffery Champness LLP.