SE UA Account Team - Transforming the way we engage

by Denise O'Connor, Scottish Enterprise UA Account Team Lead

UA Team Meet

Unlocking Ambition is a world class entrepreneurial acceleration programme launched in June 2018 to support entrepreneurs and the contribution they can make to the Scottish economy and wider society.

Funded by the Scottish Government, SE were tasked with delivering support to a cohort of 20 existing entrepreneurs which includes support from a dedicated UA account team.

So, how much do you know about the UA account team who have been working intensely behind the scenes to help make it happen and help these ambitious entrepreneurs access the very best of SE’s service delivery…?

I was asked back in May this year if I was “feeling brave” and would like to take on the role of Unlocking Ambition Account Team lead for its pilot year, as one of the key offers to the cohort is access to the support of a dedicated SE account team. Our team comprises of; Bill Watt, Graeme Clark, Iain MacGillivray, Emily Wilson, Nicola Gibson, Rupert Mills, Elizabeth Baird, Shelley Watt, Yvonne McLaren Robertson and Darah Zahran from SE, and Scott McKnockiter and Stephanie Andrew, Account Managers from HIE. We have such great mix of account managers and specialists and it’s the focused account team approach which has added huge value to the way in which we collectively look after these entrepreneurs.

Together we are tasked with transforming the way we engage with these 20 Founder entrepreneurs from how we deliver our services to creative funding models, taking more risks whilst being thorough and collectively accountable for the decisions we make as a team. We work very closely with the Project Team, led by Alison Loveday to engage stakeholders in the wider entrepreneurial eco system to pull all our resources and deliver a fantastic programme of support for up to a year (to April 2019).

One of our ecosystem partners recently asked me how we selected members of the pilot account team and besides the obvious expertise, one word came to mind - attitude. Challenging ways of doing business is, well, a challenge. It needs resilience, a positive attitude and a cheery face. A real ‘CAN DO’ team approach!

The first thing we did was bring all 20 businesses into account management within Scottish Enterprise. This was one of the initial decisions we made together as a team and we’ve really seen the benefit of welcoming the Founders into the SE customer ‘family’ so that we can streamline and access services quickly and efficiently, getting to know the customers, understand their business plans and provide the very best of our pooled expertise. We rely on great partnership relationships with Business Gateway, HIE, Scottish EDGE, Entrepreneurial Scotland and many others who were incredibly supportive – each organisation doing their bit to make this work for the good of the companies, putting their needs at the heart of what we do, and how we do it.

It has been an incredibly intensive workload for the team with 4 main activity peaks. In July/August, we were carrying out and agreeing all the Unlocking Ambition action plans – tailored to each entrepreneur, then into September, we were co-designing and planning the panel assessment for the UA Development fund, and in October we met to score and rank the assessments and recommend Grant award amounts for project funds (ranging from £20-£50k per company) and approved the final project plans as they came in throughout November so we could issue contracts and get them out before Christmas. With amazing help from, and thanks to, our Legal colleagues we managed to create and issue project Contracts to all 20 companies, successfully issuing a Fund worth c.£650k to Scotland’s most talented entrepreneurs. We did it!

We have fortnightly team calls and monthly face-to-face account team meetings where we all get together to discuss the cohort, challenges, priorities and progress with projects including those under the SE Intervention Framework. We all keep informed of how each of those projects are going as well as any challenges facing the business so we can collectively brainstorm and agree the best way forward. One of the best things for me is working with the whole team to solve any problems we come across or try a different approach.

Karren Brady on The Apprentice recently said ‘Great leadership is about getting people to work together and being decisive’. I truly believe that.

Looking forward, we are already confident that the Pilot has been a success – for the companies and also for the internal team as we have hit our stride, grown in confidence and we have a good dynamic. Anybody up for doing it all again next year? I hope so!