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Scaling up with GAP

By John Anderson - Posted on 23 May 2017

Participants on the second cohort of the Growth Advantage Programme concluded their studies at the weekend. Head of SME Engagement at Strathclyde Business School John Anderson reflects on the programme so far.

This past weekend saw the conclusion of the 2016 Growth Advantage Programme (GAP) at Strathclyde Business School and what a journey it has been for the cohort since we kicked off last September.

We will be measuring formally the impact of GAP on the participants’ businesses and on them personally over the next month but anecdotally there are some tremendous stories of the impact that this proven blend of relevant executive education and peer learning has on real growth companies. We fully expect the results of the evaluation to match those from the 2015 cohort - average annualised growth in employment and sales across the cohort exceeding the ScaleUp Institute/OECD high growth threshold of 20% and the substantial personal impact on the participants as leaders - greater confidence, more energy, more growth orientation and growing networks as a result of taking part.

Several GAP participants have blogged about their experience – Claire Kinloch of Genoa Black, Ryan Longmuir of Regis Banqueting and Billy Lyle of Redspire – whilst others have gone on camera to talk about their experience – David Frame of Barum & Dewar, Jane Wylie-Roberts of Stafffinders, Jennifer MacKenzie Hallwood of TEFL Org, Joyce Onuonga of John White & Son, and Emma Marriott of Contract Scotland.

This programme really does work and at times like this I like to reflect on why we created the Growth Advantage Programme in 2015 and why it has such an impact on participants.

Throughout the UK, and in Scotland in particular, there is a significant and well established programme of support for pre-start and start-up businesses. Executive education programmes for the leaders and executives of multi-national corporations are again well established but, like those for start-ups, the content of these programmes does not relate to the real issues facing leaders of real growth companies with ambition to scale up. As Sir Tom Hunter has said “start-ups are good but scale-ups are great” and we believed that it was important to design and launch a core growth programme to meet the needs of the existing business owner who had created, bought or inherited a reasonably substantial business and wanted to scale it up.

In recent years, there has been an increased awareness of the importance of scale-ups at a UK level with the creation of the ScaleUp Institute following the publication of Sherry Coutu’s ScaleUp Report in 2014 and in Scotland with the publication of the MIT REAP Scotland Report also in 2014 – two projects that Strathclyde Business School plays a key role in. Professor Eleanor Shaw, Head of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Vice Dean Enterprise & Knowledge Exchange is a member of the ScaleUp Institute advisory board, and Institute Chief Executive, Irene Graham, is a Visiting Professor in the Hunter Centre. The Hunter Centre’s Professor Jonathan Levie was the lead academic on the REAP Scotland project and I too was involved in the REAP Scotland skills for growth workstream when I was Chief Executive of The Entrepreneurial Exchange. Strathclyde provided an immediate response to one of the recommendations of the REAP Scotland Report – the provision of a coherent, world class programme of training in Scotland for entrepreneurs, drawing on industry experience and international best practice – with Jonathan Levie developing what is now the Growth Advantage Programme – known to most as GAP.

The programme is aimed at existing businesses with a minimum £1 million turnover with real growth ambitions and all applications are reviewed against a model of growth based on over 20 years of experience of working with growth companies. With the support of Santander, we started our first Growth Advantage Programme in May 2015 with a carefully selected cohort of 20 business owners from all over Scotland.

A year on from completing GAP, the 2015 cohort continues to support each other as they grow their businesses and they are still taking advantage of the many opportunities of additional support available from Strathclyde, in particular Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and Santander Internships. They will soon be joined by the 2016 cohort and will have a bigger community of GAP alumni to draw upon and learn from.

The overall impact of the Growth Advantage Programme has been recognised by the award of a Gold Small Business Charter mark, making Strathclyde Business School one of only five UK business schools to hold the UK’s top accreditation and the only one in Scotland and played a significant part in us winning UK Business School of the Year for 2016 at the Times Higher Education awards last November.

We look forward to welcoming our third cohort in September and are confident that the next group will get as much from participating as the 40 growth businesses that have come through the Growth Advantage Programme over the past two years.



Contact details

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 +44 (0)141 548 4114
 sbs-adviser@strath.ac.uk 

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 sbs.admissions@strath.ac.uk

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