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Strathclyde Business School Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship

Growth Advantage Programme

Small Business Charter - Gold logo In 2015, with the support of Santander Corporate & Commercial, Strathclyde Business School launched the pioneering Growth Advantage Programme. This provided a unique opportunity for the leaders of growth-oriented Scottish SMEs to take a step back from the daily demands of scaling their business to develop a robust strategy for growth combined with a practical action plan to deliver sustained growth.

Now entering its third year, the Growth Advantage Programme is unique in Scotland and offers a fresh alternative to more established growth programmes only available in England and overseas. It's proven format is designed to deliver relevant, accessible and practical learning for the leaders of ambitious businesses in Scotland by combining world class executive education with the power of peer learning.

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 it winning UK Business School of the Year for 2016 at the Times Higher Education awards in November 2016.

The Growth Advantage Programme is nothing short of brilliant

Sherry Coutu, Chair, ScaleUp Institute

About the Growth Advantage Programme

Programme Design

The 10-month programme is structured around 5 intensive sessions comprising a one-day Orientation session followed by 4 two-day workshops:

  • Growth Advantage Orientation Session
  • Workshop 1 - Market Advantage
  • Workshop 2 - Operations Advantage
  • Workshop 3 - Resourcing the Growth Advantage
  • Workshop 4 - Leadership Advantage

Participants' learning is further enhanced through access to closed online communications platforms and a series of specialist masterclasses. Long experience with high-growth firms has taught us that there are a range of specific challenges and opportunities faced by some, but not all, ventures as they tackle acceleration and these masterclasses provide a responsive mechanism for the Growth Advantage Programme to add-value to participants learning and the growth of their ventures by providing tailored sessions on key topics requested by the cohort members.

The design of the Growth Advantage Programme allows participants to shape their own learning over time supported by diagnostic tools and take away tool kits for use back in their organisations with their own people. This encourages participants' to take ownership of their own development and coach their management team. It also ensures the direct relevance of the programme to the needs of each venture and its leadership team.

Programme Delivery

The Growth Advantage Programme is delivered by Scotland's top entrepreneurship faculty at the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship including Professor Eleanor Shaw (ranked in the global list of the 100 leading professors in the field of entrepreneurship) and Professor Jonathan Levie (MIT REAP Scotland's lead academic and UK co-director of Global Entrepreneurship Monitor). They are supported by visiting professors Sir Tom Hunter, the entrepreneur and philanthropist; MIT's Bill Aulet, author of the acclaimed Disciplined Entrepreneurship methodology; Ros Taylor, the internationally recognised psychologist, author and broadcaster; and Irene Graham, Chief Executive of the Scale Up Institute.

The programme is directed by peer learning expert John Anderson, former Chief Executive of The Entrepreneurial Exchange, whose 20 years of peer learning experience has been recognised by his inclusion in the 2016 Maserati 100 list.

Throughout the programme, participants have the opportunity to learn directly from inspirational entrepreneurs at our 'Pinnacles of Growth' Friday night dinners, a key feature of every two-day workshop, as well as panels of experts during workshop sessions. These have included Strathclyders Sir Tom Hunter, Rabinder Buttar of Clintech and Graeme Malcolm of M Squared Lasers; successful oil industry entrepreneur Bob Keiller; Mike Hughes co-founder and former CEO of software company Ciboodle; Chris van der Kuyl, Chairman of Entrepreneurial Scotland and award winning serial entrepreneurs Simon Howie and Iain MacRitchie well as human resource and digital media experts from Skyscanner and growth capital specialists from banking, venture capital and the London Stock Exchange.

Accessing Talent and Resources

A key feature of the Growth Advantage Programme is providing participants with access to further practical support to help them to scale-up. The resources available range from securing access to Santander's unique Trade Portal and international Trade Missions, signposting to support from Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Development International and Globalscot. Participants will also benefit from access to practical support from the University of Strathclyde, including Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and other forms of innovation services.

Accessing talent to support growth is another key feature of the programme with opportunities to secure project support from Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship undergraduates, postgraduates and MBA students; product design resource from the Engineering Faculty; the use of the University Careers Service, and sourcing interns via the Santander Universities Part-Funded Internship Programme.

Growth Advantage Programme participants benefit from being part of the Strathclyde Family and gain privileged access to a range of University events and through our strategic partnership with Entrepreneurial Scotland can also access to Entrepreneurial Scotland events.

Why the Growth Advantage Programme Works

The learning philosophy behind the Growth Advantage Programme is firmly built on research findings on entrepreneurial learning styles. There are four fundamental characteristics of entrepreneurial learning that the HCE draws upon to maximize relevance and impact for participants:

Entrepreneurs and business owners learn best from other business leaders. For this reason, we support peer-peer learning, action sets and involve successful entrepreneurs in delivery.

  • "Massive takeaways from peers. Everyone was so open and supportive."
  • "One of the really superb things has been the interaction and experience of others on the programme - learning and listening to them, sharing ideas, strategies, problem-solving."
  • "Peer to peer learning has been as important as class based teaching."

Entrepreneurs and business owners learn best by doing, through action learning. For this reason the Growth Advantage Programme is focused on tool kits and practical take-aways such as the Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas to support the cascading of learning and growth ambitions when participants return to their ventures following each weekend session.

  • "We are using Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas to review and refine our value propositions for all customer segments"
  • "Changing the value proposition enabled us approach customers we wouldn’t have done before and acquire business from them."
  • "Worked out workflows for key operations of the company and challenged everyone to come up with "marginal gains" improvements for 2016 as New Year's resolutions."

Successful rapid-growth leaders develop a broad portfolio of frames for thinking about the world around them, the pathways ahead, and for making informed yet creative decisions. For this reason, as well as providing participants with experience in using practical tool kits, we include diverse examples from a variety of business sectors and encourage participants to collect the data needed to validate and drive their intuition and hunch for entrepreneurial growth.

  • "it has been great mixing with and learning from people in such a wide variety of industries."
  • "Monitoring and measuring: using a lot more tabs to keep growth and productivity on track."
  • "We have had the confidence to know we have sound symbolic capital and that we are worthy of increasing our pricing."
  • "Looking at working "smarter and leaner", started complete review of admin and customer services based on this. So full process improvement using what learned from engineering department!"
  • "The speakers especially have helped remind me what my ambitions looked like previously where I’d come to expect far less from being so close to the coalface and I feel I’ve returned to my previous outlook."

Entrepreneurial leaders learn best when they can immediately apply new skills, frames and knowledge to their own firms. At each workshop, participants are introduced to practical tool kits they can immediately apply on returning to their businesses on Monday morning.

  • "Engaging with the team on the Business Model Canvas is a great communication tool. We did the Future SME quick diagnostic together and that led to introducing various common objectives. Interestingly - chins were up even in response to bad news/ setbacks."
  • "Ran Belbin assessments for all staff and then as teams. Pretty revolutionary outcomes for some of the staff, especially some of the technical staff."
  • "Booked our first company retreat so we can learn in a similar environment to GAP as a company."

By involving successful entrepreneurs throughout the programme as panel members, speakers, case studies and high profile Pinnacles of Growth which precedes every dinner, the Growth Advantage Programme is providing highly-focused SME CEOs with unique opportunities to extend their networks, learn from experienced entrepreneurs and engage in successful peer-to-peer learning which would be out-with their grasp without this programme. The first cohort has strongly bonded and this is borne out in a determination to use peers in the future and also to give back to future Growth Advantage Programme cohorts in participant recruitment and selection, in programme development and delivery and in mentoring roles.

Advantage - The Private Network for Alumni of the Growth Advantage Programme

Exclusively for alumni of the Growth Advantage Programme at Strathclyde Business School, Advantage is designed to maintain ongoing relationships and peer support, built on the core values of Openness, Trust and Sharing that are central to the Growth Advantage Programme.

The key benefits of joining Advantage are:

  • Access to a programme of events to bring Advantage members together
  • Ongoing communication between GAP participants and with the Strathclyde delivery team
  • Continued signposting to further support for growth
  • Regular briefings and insights from Strathclyde Business School
  • Privileged access to GAP Masterclasses
  • Privileged access to relevant Strathclyde events
  • Privileged access to relevant Santander events

Programme of Events

With so many competing opportunities to attend events, the core principle behind the Advantage events programme is to provide something that is not available elsewhere.

The programme of events will run from September to June each year and will comprise 4 formal, facilitated events and 2 informal social events.

From time to time there may be opportunities to add special events to the programmes, particularly when these arise from guest speakers on the Growth Advantage Programme.

Administration and Oversight

Administrative support with be provided by Strathclyde Business School and the activities of Advantage will be overseen by a steering group drawn from the Advantage membership.

Further information and how to apply

For more information about the Growth Advantage Programme, please contact the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship:

Growth Advantage Programme brochure


Applications for 2017/18 are now closed.

Contact details

 Undergraduate admissions
 +44 (0)141 548 4114 

 Postgraduate admissions
 +44(0)141 553 6105 / 4590


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University of Strathclyde
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