“And the Federation of Small Businesses’ UK Small Business of the Year is….”. So said Clare Balding OBE, when compering our FSB UK Celebrating Small Business Awards Final in May. All breath was baited as we awaited what followed, “…Woodlands Glencoe!”
This was truly amazing news, first because Ballachulish-based Woodlands Glencoe, (formerly Glencoe Activities), is in the Highlands, and second, because, following in the footsteps of Cruise Loch Ness, it is the second time in succession that a Highland business has been named FSB UK Small Business of the Year. There are around 6 million private sector businesses in the UK and perhaps 25,000 in the Highlands, that’s 0.4%. So while one Highland win would be remarkable, two wins in succession is surely miraculous… or is it?
To get through to the final, businesses must first win their local heats, in our case the FSB Scotland final, and five of the twelve category winners were from the Highlands & Islands and Moray. In other words, an area with around 15% of Scotland’s businesses produced 42% of the winners. The same thing happened last time.
So let’s meet our two FSB UK Small Businesses of the Year.
Once a family business always a family business
The greatest strength of Woodlands Glencoe is the family behind it, the Youngs. Laurence, the ‘creator and captain’, joined his parents in the family hotel business in Ballachulish in 1984 and expanded it, eventually selling their four ‘Freedom of the Glen’ hotels in 2007 to focus on other interests, not least his role as principal of West Highland College UHI. However, once a family business always a family business, and, starting with the 9-hole Dragon’s Tooth Golf Course and café, and adding segways and now luxury lodges with hot tubs, Laurence has created the truly great, innovative business we see today – indeed it won the FSB’s ‘UK Business & Product Innovation Award’ too. He’s now in the process of passing it on to his children.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Great to see Laurence Young’s Woodlands Glencoe win the <a href=”
; UK Business & Product Innovation Award – what a worthy winner!!!! <a href=”
; <a href=”
; David Richardson FSB (@FSB_DRichardson) <a href=”
27, 2021</a></blockquote> <script async src=”
Similarly, Ronald MacKenzie, owner of Cruise Loch Ness, the last FSB UK Small Business of the Year, joined his father in the Fort Augustus-based family business when he left school, becoming MD in 2000.
He was joined by his banker wife Debi as co-director in 2013, and together they have expanded the size of their fleet and updated and enhanced their office systems. Cruise Loch Ness is 53 years old this year and the MacKenzies have a young family and a desire to hand on a success story to them if they want it. In fact they won the FSB’s ‘UK Family Business of the Year Award’ category before winning the main prize.
So what is it that makes Highlands & Islands businesses exceptional?
Most of this region has a highly seasonal and dominant visitor-based economy, and making a living is far from easy.”
Well, most of this region has a highly seasonal and dominant visitor-based economy, and making a living is far from easy. Entrepreneurs must be able to think outside the box and innovate, and they must have a deep understanding of their markets. Aside from being great leaders they must also be determined, resilient and nimble; able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances such as those we have experienced over the past fourteen months.
Moreover, the people behind our greatest businesses are not driven by a desire to make a fast buck, for they are in entirely the wrong part of the country for that. Instead, they are frequently driven by pride and passion for the area and community in which they live, and by desires to make a difference, to put quality of life ahead of standard of living, and to create solid and secure businesses that their children can inherit if they so choose. Success in Highlands & Islands terms is a lot about lifestyle, legacy and community – and it shows!