Growth Advantage Programme Impact Report March 2016

Area of expertise

Entrepreneurship and High Growth

Executive Summary

This impact report sets out the short term impact of the first Growth Advantage Programme on the twenty participants on this unique growth accelerator programme - the only one of its type currently available across Scotland, and the only one of six university-based programmes in the UK part-funded by Santander that will continue to receive sponsorship for a further three years.

The Growth Advantage Programme (GAP) is a 10-month business accelerator programme - the only one of its type currently available across Scotland - which was commissioned by Santander from Strathclyde Business School in 2014/5, with the first cohort of 20 growth-focused, ambitious SMEs starting in May 2015.


Participants attended five two day workshops and a number of optional master classes between May 2015 and January 2016. Participants contributed £2,000 each towards the costs of the programme. The remaining costs were funded by Santander.

The programme workshops each had a different topic but a common theme: Creating a Growth Advantage. The workshops were:

  1. Orientation
  2. Market Advantage
  3. Operations Advantage
  4. Resourcing Growth Advantage
  5. Leadership Advantage

Each workshop was held on a Friday and Saturday, and included a Friday evening dinner with a 'Pinnacles of Growth' speech from a highly successful entrepreneur.

Each day was broken into a set of individual experiential sessions, in each of which participants learned how to use a different practical application of research on growing businesses, and gain inspiration from their peers.

The sessions were anchored in the Business Model Canvas to help participants understand where they were in the process of creating a Growth Advantage for their Business.

Growth in employment of 26.5% and sales of 28.5%

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.

For 19 cohort participants for which full estimates are available , total employment at the start of the programme was 393 and total sales was £41.9 million.

At the end of the programme, total employment was 434 (+10%) and total sales was £47.3 million (+13%). Projected total employment in three years from the end of the programme was 876 (+102%) and projected total sales in three years was £100.6 million (+113%).

This represents an average annualized growth in employment of 26.5% and sales of 28.5%, exceeding the OECD growth threshold for a high growth firm of 20% annualized growth. Growth projections for ten of the 19 firms for which estimates were available exceeded the OECD HGF guideline of at least 10 employees at the start of the period and annual growth in employment or sales greater than 20% a year for 3 years.

Feedback from participants

Average feedback scores by participants on a 1 to 10 scale for all taught sessions was 8.5 and the average feedback scores for the Organisation of the Programme workshops was 8.9.

In the final session, participants were asked to write down how their businesses had changed since they joined the programme. Content analysis of their written statements revealed many specific changes under the broad themes of: greater clarity of the business, sharpening the value proposition, extracting more value from current operations, creating synergy from the portfolio of products and services, focus on core values, measuring activities, greater focus on more valuable customers, more marketing activity, senior staff changes, and changes in managing staff. Four of the participants were also starting a new company in addition to the existing business.

Participants were asked about the consequences of these changes to their business. Content analysis of their responses revealed several themes: accelerated growth; greater productivity; staff more engaged and aligned with a clearer vision, company more robust and not as dependent on the CEO.

Finally, participants were asked about changes they noticed in themselves since joining the programme.

One strong theme of leadership emerged from a content analysis of their statements, expressed in various ways including:

  • stronger coaching skills
  • better communication skills
  • understanding others
  • developing and educating others
  • greater confidence
  • more energy
  • more growth orientation
  • growing networks

Santander - a successful partnership

It is important in this summary to formally state our gratitude to Santander. As the comments of the participants attest, an accelerator programme like this is needed to support the growth ambitions of SMEs across Scotland.

GAP has delivered on this front and has been successful in attracting ambitious firms from Inverness, Tayside & Fife, Stirling Edinburgh and Glasgow demonstrating its wide appeal throughout Scotland. However, without the support of a commercial partner, GAP could not have begun.

Strathclyde Business School has ambitions for GAP and is very keen to build on our partnership with Santander and on the momentum already created.

1. One participant was planning to close his business and start another company and did not provide 3 year projections.