Growth Advantage Programme participants see sales increase

Participants in cohort 1 of Strathclyde Business School's Growth Advantage Programme run in association with Santander

Strathclyde’s Growth Advantage Programme 2017 has opened to applications from companies ready to take their business to the next level.

The 9-month Programme allows business leaders of growth-oriented SMEs to take a step back from the day-to-day running of their organisations to learn from their peers and leading scholars.

Collectively, previous participants have seen a 19% growth in employment and an uptick in sales of 22% since taking part in the Programme, which is delivered by the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde Business School.

Santander commissioned GAP from Strathclyde Business School in 2014 with the first cohort of 20 SMEs starting in May 2015 and the second group in May 2016.

Intensive sessions

Before starting participants were asked to state their current annual employment and sales before the programme began, at the end of the programme, and projections for three years from the end of the programme. Coming into the programme companies averaged almost £2 million in sales with 20 people.

At the end of the programme, total employment was 598, up 19% for cohort 2 and 434, up 10% for cohort 1. Total sales was £41.9 million, up 22% for cohort 2 and £47.3m, up 13% for cohort 1.

Projected total employment in three years from the end of the programme was 975, up 63% for cohort 2; 876, up 102% for cohort 1; and projected total sales in three years was £99.6m, up 138% for cohort 2 from the end of the programme and £100.6m, up 113% for cohort 1.

This represents an average annualised growth in employment of 17.7% (26.5%) and sales of 33.5% (28.5%), exceeding the OECD growth threshold for a high-growth firm of 20% annualised growth in sales or turnover.

GAP is structured around five intensive sessions between September and May comprising a one-day orientation session, followed by four two-day workshops covering the advantages that successful growth companies are known to have - market, operations, resourcing and leadership. Participants contribute £4,500 each to the cost of the course, with the rest provided by Santander.

John Anderson, Director of the Growth Advantage Programme and former Chief Executive of the Entrepreneurial Exchange, said: “The learning philosophy behind GAP is firmly built on research findings on entrepreneurial learning styles and combines the strengths of peer learning with world class executive education.

The sales and employment growth reported by previous participants in our impact report demonstrates how effective the programme is.

“I was particularly struck by the significant increase in productivity noted by participants given recent warnings that Scotland’s productivity performance needs to be addressed.  Taking change in sales per employee as a measure of productivity improvement, participants projected an average annual increase in productivity of 13.9% for the next three years, or almost eight times faster improvement than all registered Scottish-based non-financial businesses.”

Participants on GAP benefit from the expertise of leading academics including: Professor Eleanor Shaw, ranked in the global list of the 100 leading professors in entrepreneurship, Prof Jonathan Levie, 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.

GAP 2016 participant Alistair Cameron, Managing Director of Scotmas the Kelso-based world-leading designers and manufacturers of chlorine dioxide water purification systems said: “ Whilst there are other forms of executive education available out there, ranging from consultant-led seminars, through to week long summer schools and entrepreneurship development programmes, MOOCs and even part time MBAs, no other option I have experienced so far has delivered the same impact to my business as GAP. 

“A key differentiator is sustainability. By delivering the inputs over a nine-month period, the Hunter Centre has facilitated 'bite-sized' learning and an element of peer support/pressure that ensures that the cohort is able to apply the learning in their businesses immediately and feedback on progress to the group at the next session. Where problems are encountered, they are shared and worked through as a group.”