An independent Scotland and the SME business sector

| 22/03/2013 | 6 Comments

datecFor those of us in business involved in running small , medium, or large enterprises, the thing we think about most is our ability to make a profit. In my own case I would expand that to a two word phrase: ‘profitable growth’.

As a Scottish engineering graduate and, after an indirect career path via Germany, I now find myself running a North Ayrshire based SME operating within the environmental sector, electronics recycling to be precise. When I joined Datec Technologies, we employed around 20 and operated from one small site.

We now operate two sites (one in Sweden) employing around 100 in total (the majority in Scotland). The sector we operate in depended initially on the substantial electronic/IT manufacturing industry which existed here in Scotland some 10-15 years ago (and longer). But that industry – like so many here – has largely disappeared from our shores. Many readers will recall the corridor running through our central belt was known as Silicon Glen.

Fortunately, as a SME with an outward-looking vision, we have been able to differentiate ourselves in the face of change: we have been agile, flexible, and adaptive in going out and winning the new business to replace that which disappeared from Scotland. And so because of our agility and small size, we have been able to adapt and grow – profitably.

Personally, this has been satisfying on several levels: importantly our business has some eighty or so families, living mostly in North Ayrshire, earning a wage from a local well established company in the environmental sector, that operates at the vanguard of electronics, IT, and telecommunications recycling. So as well as meeting profit targets, I am proud of the role our business plays socially and environmentally here in North Ayrshire and in Scotland as a whole.

I often wonder if that is why we have such a good fit with our Swedish colleagues – those shared values of profit, coupled with social and environmental awareness and concern.

Having travelled there on many many occasions, I often remark to my Swedish friends on their quiet optimism in how they go about things. Their results speak for themselves: major leading world corporations such as Tetra-Laval, ABB, IKEA, Volvo, Bofors, Electrolux, Ericsson, H&M. But crucially the country also a highly able and established SME sector.  And that is all without oil and gas. And also without a banking crisis – which was meant to be global (it wasn’t).

In setting up our own subsidiary in central Sweden two years ago, where we now employ 20, I have come to the conclusion that Sweden works as a small independent northern European country, largely in part because of the short communication connections in their society between the SME business owners/decision makers and their elected representatives who govern – and crucially – who have the power to make a difference for businesses.

These short societal connections allow Sweden’s business community and politicians to shape things together for the good of the SME environment there. In Scotland, by contrast, the majority of fiscal/regulatory frameworks we operate under are decided by folk far away in London.  Even if they do know what is right for the Scottish SME business community, the imbalance I see from the status quo means that the Scottish SME view would not be represented in equal measure in those decisions taken in those far-off corridors of power.

Progressing in business involves change and a key part of the positive change we need will be when Scottish businesses have the benefit and influence, via short direct connections to government, here in a Scotland which has full fiscal and regulatory options available to it. That way the changes we want as SMEs can be heard and acted upon.

Some people have said the advantages for business in an independent Scotland would be tenuous and vague.   My Swedish friends don’t think of independence that way, they would use words such as: solid, strong and successful. Which is why I will be voting Yes in 2014.

 

Further Reading:

SMEs, Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Sweden - OECD

10 Swedish companies shaping the world – The Official Gateway to Sweden

 

Support Business for Scotland, as we convince the business community of the benefits of voting Yes in 2014 – Read More

Category: Ambition, Economic Strengths, Referendum 2014, Renewables

About the Author ()

Douglas Norris grew up in Wigtown, Galloway, a beautiful untouched corner of Scotland. Educated at the Douglas Ewart High School, Newton Stewart, followed by a B.Sc (Aeronautical Engineering) at Glasgow, during which he served in HM (RAF V.R.) Forces, and a MBA (Strathclyde). His career began in the aerospace/defence sector in a variety of engineering and commercial roles, working for companies such as British Aerospace and Honeywell. He has been MD at Datec Technologies, for the past 12 years, is a fluent german speaker, is married with 3 children, and enjoys Ducati motorcycles.

Comments (6)

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  1. Joe Henry says:

    This is a great observation Doug. Do you happen to know whether or not the Swedish parliament has a strong contingent of experienced business people in its ranks as well?

    I would also like to see the rehabilitation of the word ‘profit’ in an independent Scotland. When was the last time you heard that word presented as a positive, healthy idea in the media?

  2. SME in manufacturing aside, i believe SME in tourism area will see general growth from the huge amounts of world wide press on the issue.
    expats around the world will be reminded in the media of our little island mostly covered in rain.
    (writes reply while watching BBC Weather…)

    I for one hope to promote the backside out of the referendum outcome either way and hopefully ride the publicity tide that follows it.

    While i truly hope its a ‘Yes’, it’s said any media coverage is always good. Either way Scotland will be in the limelight over the coming year and that will be good for us all.

  3. Mark Sorsa-Leslie says:

    Great article Douglas. My experience of living in Finland for the last 8 years echoes what you have experienced in Sweden. While they are a smaller countries, they manages to punch well above their weight because it is forced to be outward looking, entrepreneurial and a good world citizen. I now run an SME tech company in Scotland. We moved back to ensure that we could give a YES vote and do our bit to help Scotland prosper as an independent nation. When we secure the YES vote, we can create a society and business environment which is more responsive, agile and internationalist – and personally I cannot wait!

  4. Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp says:

    Praise for this article on the Glasgow Entrepreneurs Group on LinkedIn

    1) Really like that interview.
    It’s so refreshing to hear someone talk about their company’s social responsibilities.

    Saw another one that one of my friends retweeted on twitter yesterday.
    http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-economy/4235-would-an-independent-scotland-be-financially-sound
    Andrew McKenna

    2) Absolutely agree Andrew… My firm belief and hope is that this level of integrity and social responsibility will become as important if not more important than the simple statistic of raw profit. The most important statistic I took from that piece is that some eighty families are putting food on their tables.

    John Jappy’s article confirms many of the things I suspected to be true. Thank you for sharing that. It’s a fine resource.
    Matt Quinn

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