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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!
62 Episodes
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.
Ian M Houston is a dual US/UK citizen, with a strong Scottish heritage, who knows the political world of Washington DC inside out. He has wandered the corridors of power, advising and lobbying, with a mission to create opportunities for the disadvantaged. In this extended episode, Ian talks us through his journey from academia to enterprise, the challenges for diplomats under current US foreign policy, and why he’s a big fan of Scotland’s women’s football team. A published poet, he also reads from his new collection. Earlier this year, Ian was appointed as Scottish Business Network Ambassador to Washington DC. Interviewed by Fraser Allen on 5 August 2020.
A long career in corporate banking gave Graham McWilliam a taste for branching out on his own. And after a couple of successful entrepreneurial adventures, followed by further spells at RBS and Clydesdale, he took over the reins of a very unusual business. Glencraft is an Aberdeen-based social enterprise founded in 1843 to provide dignity to the disadvantaged through work. The company had specialised in making mattresses for the oil industry but when Graham took over, the price of oil had plummeted, orders had dried up and the business was in trouble. Graham, however, saw an opportunity. Glencraft had a Royal Warrant and a wealth of expertise – and Graham has since transformed the business into a serious player in the international luxury mattress market. Interviewed by Fraser Allen on 3 August 2020.
When the pandemic crisis arrived, lots of people talked about 'pivoting' or starting a new business but Hassan Peymani went further, springing into action with a new venture. Concerned at the problems he encountered getting hold of face masks for his at-risk father and pregnant wife, Edinburgh-based Hass launched his own business to supply high-quality masks at a fair price without disrupting PPE supplies to the health service and with a percentage of sales going to NHS-related charities. It’s great story – as is his background as a self-confessed obsessive who previously immersed himself in the worlds of poker and TV before becoming established as a successful tech entrepreneur. In recent years, Hass and his wife have also had to overcome massive personal challenges which makes it all the more pleasing to see him embrace this new venture with his typical enthusiasm, single-mindedness and good humour. Interviewed by Fraser Allen on 22 July 2020.
What a transformation we've seen in 2020 as organisations embrace the benefits of remote working. And as business leaders recalibrate to seek new opportunities post COVID-19, the broader issue of flexible working is likely to be high on many people's agenda. Step forward then Lisa Gallagher and Nikki Slowey, founders of Flexibility Works, which is part-funded by the Scottish Government and the Tom Hunter Foundation. Nikki and Lisa are helping organisations in Scotland to identify the benefits of flexible working and how to maximise value for both employers and employees. Interviewed recorded by Fraser Allen on Friday 10 July 2020.
After growing up in Glasgow, Mark Bamforth spent spells working in the oil and whisky industries before embarking on an outstanding career as a biotech entrepreneur in the United States, where he has been based for many years. Mark talks through his career, and also shares his thoughts on Scottish innovation, the impact of COVID-19 and the way business needs to respond to the BlackLivesMatter protests. This interview by Fraser Allen was recorded on Zoom for a global audience of 90 business people at the online Scottish Business Network gathering on the 23rd June 2020. If you enjoy this episode, why not explore the archive? We have a wealth of fascinating interviews with big personalities from the world of Scottish business – you can subscribe to the Scottish Business Network podcast on iTunes, Spotify and numerous other providers.
After an idyllic early childhood in New Zealand, Sara Roberts endured severe bullying when she returned to the UK, leading her to leave school at the age of just 14. That experience inspired her to succeed on her own terms, launch several businesses and thrive on her own self-reliance and resilience. Sara is now the entrepreneur behind Healthy Nibbles, providing healthy vending machines and snack boxes for the workplace and public spaces. I interviewed her on 16 June 2020.
Mel Young is one of Scotland’s greatest social entrepreneurs, responsible for establishing the Big Issue and founding the Homeless World Cup. And as well has having a hugely positive impact on the lives of the disadvantaged in Scotland, he has demonstrated considerable business acumen and leadership skills. Mel talks us through his career, the ways in which he would like to see charities and businesses learning from each other, and his new venture to discover a better way forward for society. This interview was recorded on Zoom in front of a global audience of Scottish business people as part of the online Scottish Business Network gathering in May 2020.
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