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3 Lessons Learnt From Our Meeting with Jim McColl OBE - Owner of Clydeblowers - Unpreneur

3 Lessons Learnt From Our Meeting with Jim McColl OBE – Owner of Clydeblowers

Recently, my business partner, Jerry Alexander and I sat down with Jim McColl OBE – one of Scotland’s entrepreneurial business leaders and owner of Clydeblowers – to have a conversation about the important work we’re doing here at Acorn Enterprise, to grow Scotland’s start-up business culture.

We were lucky enough to get an hour with Jim and we left with our minds expanded!

This blog will share three of the many incredible insights we took away from this meeting: analysis, perception and execution.

What Is Your Total Addressable Market (TAM)?

1. Analysis: most businesses don’t know the basics and many can’t answer this simple question, “what is your total addressable market?”

When Jim starts any new project or before he buys a business, he conducts thorough analysis. Who are the competitors? Who are the customers? And how can we differentiate ourselves?

Knowing where he stands, having completed this rigorous analysis, he then sets goals and gets others to buy into this vision. Easier said than done when you have to overcome challenges, such as: “that will never work”, “we’ve always done it this way” and “there’s no market for this”.

It’s All About Perception!

2. Perception: Jim stated that people claimed “shipbuilding was dead in Scotland” and some thought he was mad for buying Ferguson’s shipyard last year.

However, fast forward a year and not only did he save a lot of jobs, he proved that shipbuilding is very much alive in Scotland. In fact, the yard is now looking at expanding due to an increase in demand for much larger ships than they can currently manufacture there – not bad for a dead industry!

History has always been full of naysayers, did you know people thought that bottled water was a crazy idea in the 1980’s?! It’s now a £2 billion industry in the UK!

The 3 Main Factors That Prevent People Launching A New Business In Scotland

We’ve mentioned before that one of the biggest challenges to overcome when setting up or growing a new business is the Scottish psyche.

We make no apologies for labouring this point and reiterating the findings of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report 2014, conducted every year, by the University of Strathclyde, which compares entrepreneurial activity in Scotland, to its European counterparts. The study concluded that the three main issues preventing people from launching a business in Scotland are:

i. Fear of failure.

ii. Lack of opportunity perception.

iii. Lack of business skills.

We are tackling these three issues that prevent people launching a new business in Scotland head on with our work here at Acorn Enterprise and like Jim, our primary focus is on changing perceptions; getting others to see the opportunities that exist.

This attitude change is a major part of our work and it is not limited to the businesses (“Acorns”) we directly work with but also includes the public sector and wider population.

Jim shared with us how he changed perceptions on a number of projects he has been involved in: his approach has been to “open the curtains to show others the potential that exists”. This leads us nicely on to the final insight from our meeting which relates to how he does this.

It’s All About the Execution!

3. Execution: you can have passion, ideas and knowledge but unless this is implemented well, it won’t succeed.

Jim spoke about getting the team involved in setting the vision – something that many businesses avoid; opting instead for a select few making decisions that affect the entire company. By getting this buy-in from the entire team, they are more committed to achieving the mission because they own it; from strategy, through to execution and review.

However, if you’re a start-up or a sole trader, you may not have a team, therefore, YOU need to complete the analysis, attitude change and execution yourself. Don’t worry, there are tools and methods to help with each of these:

i. Analysis: Google, market research reports, industry magazines and blogs can inform you of your market place.

ii. Perception: your job here is to convince yourself and others of your offering, therefore, positive thinking, regular goal setting and review can aid you with this.

iii. Execution: deliver (or better OVER-deliver!) exactly what you promised, systems, processes, following up and intimately knowing your customers are crucial here.

It’s simple, most businesses are not good at delivering exactly as they promised they would: over budget, late, poor customer service, the wrong item, broken parts, useless advice, feeling neglected, onerous paperwork, the list is endless. But you’re better than that so don’t let it be your business.


Therefore, analysis + positive thinking + goal setting is only part of the formula, the missing piece is EXECUTION.


Let Us Share Our Vision With You

We want more people in Scotland (and further afield!) to consider running their own business as a viable alternative to just getting a job – whether students, graduates or non-academic individuals.

These do not necessarily need to be massive corporations, tech start-ups or “businesses of scale”, rather sustainable local businesses that may only employ 10 people but are of paramount importance to those they employ, the local economy and the wider economy.

Over to you now, do you have any tips you’d like to share on how to analyse, change perceptions and execute your vision?

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