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Scottish Business Network

Author: Fraser Allen from Fraser Allen Communications

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As a journalist and member of the Scottish Business Network, I was keen to start a fortnightly podcast interviewing the big personalities of the Scottish business world. Dip in - you'll hear from some amazing people! Available on Apple Music, Spotify and all the main podcast platforms. If you like what you hear, simply search for 'Scottish Business Network' on your preferred podcast provider and subscribe. Thank you.
69 Episodes
We now hear the phrase ‘mental health’ in the media just about every day, but it wasn’t always that way. People – and businesses – have become far more comfortable discussing issues such as stress, anxiety and depression – even more so in the wake of the pandemic crisis. And while a lot of people are understandably keen to throw themselves back into a more normal way of life, others are feeling anxious about emerging from lockdown. Who better to speak to then than Fiona McKinnon, co-founder of The Moment Company? Fi built up a highly successful global career in digital media and marketing before the crazy hours and endless long-haul flights caught up with her and she decided to re-boot her life. This ultimately led her to get together with kindred spirits Alex Strang and Charlie Cadbury to launch The Moment Company and their 'mental fitness product' the Moment Pebble. I asked Fi to provide some advice for anyone who might be struggling with lockdown-related anxiety. She offered some great practical tips and tells the story of her life and career to date beautifully. Well worth a listen. Interview by Fraser Allen on 26 May 2021.
David Brown may well be Scotland's most successful fintech entrepreneur. However, in a Glasgow accent undimmed by many years of living in London and the Middle East, he self-deprecatingly describes himself as a 'lunatic'. Well, if that's the case, he’s the lunatic behind the hugely successful Oxygen Finance and now Hi55 Ventures, which is revolutionising payroll for the benefit of employees and employers. And all of his start-ups have a strong social enterprise element inspired by the sense of community he appreciates from his upbringing in Drumchapel. In this fascinating interview, David also tells us about his business adventures in Saudi Arabia, and his early days as a music and fashion promoter in Glasgow, hanging out with the likes of Spencer Railton, Craig Ferguson and his old schoolmates Wet Wet Wet. He also explains the importance in life of 'jumping on the bus'. This interview with Fraser Allen was recorded in front of a live Scottish Business Network audience on Zoom on 19 May 2021.
Dr Marie Macklin is on a mission. As the driving force behind the ambitious regeneration of the old Johnnie Walker bottling plant in her home town of Kilmarnock, Marie has developed a new model for creating vibrant communities for the benefit of everyone – and it’s a model she’s set on taking well beyond Scotland. The founder of HALO Urban Regeneration is a hugely energetic and charismatic businesswoman, but success has not always come easily to her, having struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia and almost losing her life in her twenties through endometriosis. Yet, inspired by caravan holidays in Aberdeen, the music of the Simple Minds, and a pair of black killer heels that she spray-painted gold, Marie has a great story, and it's beautifully told. Interviewed by Fraser Allen in front of a live audience on Zoom on 27 April 2021. Subscribe to the series by searching for 'Scottish Business Network' on Apple Music, Spotify or the podcast platform of your choice.
In this special episode, entrepreneur and Scottish Business Network co-founder Russell Dalgleish quizzes podcast host Fraser Allen about seven key leadership insights that he's gathered from interviewing 60+ Scottish business leaders in the series to date. Recorded in front of a live audience as part of the Scottish Business Network's celebration of Tartan Day.
For rugby fans of a certain age, the abiding memory of David Sole is of the Scottish captain leading the team out for the 1990 Grand Slam triumph against England. Yet as well as an outstanding rugby career, that also encompassed a World Cup semi-final and a victorious Lions tour of Australia, David has built a highly successful business career. He is now Managing Partner of The School For CEOs, a senior coaching business that he set up with Patrick Macdonald, recently appointed Chair of the Institute of Directors. In this extended episode, David shares insights into his rugby and business experiences, including the importance of humility and emotional intelligence in our leaders. We also hear about his recent adventure in the world of rearing chickens, why his Grand Slam celebrations were cut short and how, for a period at Diageo, he was the biggest buyer of alcohol in the world. David was interviewed by Fraser Allen on 30 March 2021.
At the age of just 23, Louise Worrall was a navigator in the Royal Navy, guiding a minehunter around the globe. It was her dream job. But just a year so later, her naval career was cut short by Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Previously undiagnosed in Louise, the effects of this disability rapidly escalated before she knew what was happening to her. Louise’s story about the impact this had on her, and how she now approaches life in a new role as a financial advisor is – and for once the word is justified – inspirational. Louise was interviewed by Fraser Allen in front of a live Scottish Business Network audience on Zoom on March 16 2021.
When Clare Wareing was growing up in Yorkshire, one of her friends lost her father to cancer at a very early age. The experience had a big impact on Clare and, when her grandfather was later diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, she promised him that she would devote her life to cancer research. And that is exactly what she has done – while also proving to be an astute entrepreneur. Having founded and developed the research business Nexus Oncology, and steering it through two acquisitions, Clare dabbled with early retirement. But it didn’t suit her and, in 2017 she launched Cumulus Oncology – a ‘hub and spoke’ business with a plan to launch a minimum of five spin-out companies within the next three years, all with the continued theme of fighting cancer. Clare, who made Scotland her home after studying for her PhD at the University of Edinburgh, also reveals the influence of Jacques Cousteau, a rare talent for extreme flat-pack furniture assembly and her love for the music of Two Tone Records. Recorded on 26 February 2021.
When British long-distance runner Mo Farah won his four Olympic gold medals, a key part of the team driving him forward was a Scotsman. Barry Fudge grew up in Fort William, obsessed with sport and with an increasing interest in the science behind it. This would ultimately lead him to the role of Head of Endurance at British Athletics, and those celebrated years with Mo. Barry is now applying his knowledge of performance to business, and he's a fascinating man to listen to. This interview was recorded live at a Scottish Business Network event via Zoom on 16 February 2021. Mo Farah pictured in Edinburgh (Image by Terry Murden/Daily Business)
Martin Perry was born with one leg and both of his hands missing. He’s now a world-class table tennis player who says his disability is one of the best things that have ever happened to him. Yet despite these extraordinary facts and his hugely charismatic personality, Martin has always seen himself simply as a normal guy – one of four competitive brothers who loved the rough and tumble of sports from an early age. Martin’s story is funny, heart-warming and astonishing in terms of his sporting achievements to date. And it’s a story that will run and run, as he trains for the Tokyo Paralympic Games and beyond. Interviewed by Fraser Allen on 9 February 2021.
When Dame Laura Lee left the Peterhead area at the age of 16 to begin her career as a nurse in Edinburgh, she could never have imagined that she would one day be the CEO of a major charity operating around the world, and having a hugely positive impact on the experiences of cancer patients and those close to them. Yet, after nursing Maggie Jencks, a writer, gardener and designer who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, Laura was inspired by Maggie’s vision of creating beautifully designed spaces close to hospitals for cancer patients and their family and friends to take time out to chat, relax and seek advice. Sadly Maggie died, but not before installing Laura to take Maggie’s Centres forward – a challenge that she has met, and continues to meet in the COVID-19 era, with wisdom and determination. This interview was recorded in front of a live Scottish Business Network audience on Zoom on 19 January 2020.
Any Scottish football fan of a certain age will remember the thrill of seeing Scotland line up against Brazil for the opening match of the World Cup Finals in Paris almost 23 years ago. Craig Brown was a key figure in a golden period for Scottish football, and a coach who was in many ways ahead of his time in the thoughtful way that he approached the game and led the players. And despite the steely resilience required of a manager steering a national team through ups and downs, Craig also has a well-deserved reputation for being one of Scottish sport’s stand-out good guys. He also has a fund of great anecdotes! In this special extra episode of the podcast, Craig is interviewed by Russell Dalgleish, Chairman of the Scottish Business Network
Alison Walker was the first woman to report live on a football match for the BBC. That’s a significant moment looking back but it didn’t feel like it at the time for Alison – she was too busy focusing on doing a good job while navigating the hostilities of the male-dominated media pack. However, this achievement heralded an outstanding career in sports broadcasting that has included covering seven Olympic Games and compering the Commonwealth Games athletics events at Hampden Park in 2014. A self-confessed Hamilton Accies fan, Alison tells the story of her career with great humour and some wonderful anecdotes. But she also discusses why she is campaigning for close relatives to be able to visit their family members in care homes – her parents suffer from dementia and she hasn’t been able to give them a hug for 10 months. We also close with a song that Alison has co-written as part of the campaign. Recorded on 11 January 2021.
Claire Alexander swam for Scotland as a teenager before a life-threatening car crash wrecked her hopes of competing at the Commonwealth Games and London Olympics. After recovering, and playing football to a decent level, she travelled to South Africa and decided to make her life there. Her first job was washing dishes in a kitchen but she went on to establish Firecracker, one of South Africa’s leading events and marketing businesses, and has since created the Africa Scotland Business Network, forging links between the African continent and her homeland. Claire is a sparky, charismatic woman, brimming with energy, which really comes through in a fascinating interview. And that's not all in this episode, our last of the year. We also hear from Scottish Business Network ambassadors around the world reflecting on 2020, and finish off with a lovely performance of In The Bleak Midwinter by Chris Tolley.
Peter Proud fizzes with energy and passion for his business and his people. It’s not hard to imagine the young boy growing up on a council scheme in Dunfermline who would set off on a four-hour milk round every morning before school. Peter won an apprenticeship with Marconi and then a scholarship to Sandhurst. Then, after leaving the army, he embarked on a career with IBM, Microsoft and Accenture before launching his own business, Forrit, to launch a content management system that he was convinced had a big future. Seven years on, the business is thriving, with clients includingTesco Bank and Lloyds of London. Hear Peter's story in this interview recorded on Zoom on 17 November in front of a live international audience of business people brought together by the Scottish Business Network.
This time last year, Ruby Sweeney was busy running a successful events business called The Events Hub. Then COVID-19 arrived and the events industry was thrown into disarray. After taking stock, Ruby challenged herself to lead the way in online events management. She believes that, post-pandemic crisis, the future will lie in hybrid events and, despite the difficulties of the last eight months, she is more positive than ever about her business. Ruby tells us about her career to date and offers advice for getting the best out of your digital events.
As a boy growing up in Edinburgh, Chris Tolley liked nothing more than a quiet evening in reading Mozart sheet music. Music was his destiny and, after university, he landed a job with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, rapidly progressing from photocopying sheet music to taking the lead on extraordinary events such as the Concert for Diana. Then, after a spell at Radio Two running am ambitious opera competition with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, he moved into writing music for TV and film. You may not know his name, but you will almost certainly have heard his music. A thoughtful, articulate and funny man, Chris discusses his family, life during lockdown and the power of audio branding – as well as a giving us a sneak preview of a track from his forthcoming album.
Nadeem Sarwar, the founder of Scotland-based digital pharmacy Phlo, explains the extraordinary growth of his business, accelerated further by the impact of the pandemic crisis. Nadeem explains why this will continue to be a significant growth area, and how Phlo is seeking to build on it with a crowdfunding campaign launched on 12 October 2020 (lasting for 30 days). This is is the first episode in a new mini-series, in which we take ten minutes out to look at a business with a great future – the ones to watch.
Growing up in the Peak District and then the Sidlaw Hills, Simon Milne developed a passion for nature, conservation and the great outdoors at an early age. Discouraged from a career in conservation by his school, he embraced a long and rewarding career in the Royal Marines. However, after being invalided out, he returned to his first love and is now Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. This fascinating interview with Fraser Allen was recorded on Zoom in front a large global audience at one of the Scottish Business Network’s autumn series events.
Is there still a place for clans in modern Scotland? Madam Pauline Hunter of Hunterston certainly believes so. She is Chief of Clan Hunter, and argues that clans have a key role to play in drawing the Scottish diaspora back to the old country, and helping to create business opportunities. And for her part, she’s highly active in pulling together Hunter clan members from all over the world to celebrate their shared culture – and historic home of Hunterston Castle. Interviewed by Fraser Allen on 17 September 2020.
In 1999, Poonam Malik arrived in Scotland from India with two suitcases, £35 and a British Council scholarship to Glasgow University. 21 years on, she is an extraordinarily well connected scientist, academic, businesswoman, investor, consultant and mentor – and a passionate advocate for social enterprise and encouraging diversity everywhere from business start-ups to the boardroom. And all this carried with a grounded sense of humility – and a great sense of humour. The word ‘inspirational’ is over-used, but it truly applies to Poonam. Enjoy hearing her story in this special 50th episode of the series. Interviewed by Fraser Allen on 8 September 2020.
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