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The Entrepreneurial Exchange

Time To See The Bigger Picture

For nearly a year now, it has been impossible to escape the message in all sections of the media. Turn on the TV, flick through a newspaper and it's staring you in the face - in the words of Private Fraser "we're doomed."

Sure, the credit crunch is biting but this is exactly the kind of financial climate in which entrepreneurs can thrive. This does not mean donning a pair of rose-tinted specs - the harsh reality is being felt by all - but it does mean seeing the bigger picture.

A key characteristic of the entrepreneur which we see all the time in the Entrepreneurial Exchange is one that is particularly relevant at this time - seeing opportunities where other people do not - but the challenge is to stay fit enough to take advantage of these opportunities as they arise.

The Entrepreneurial Exchange exists to provide opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs to share experiences in growing their businesses and there has never been a better time to keep an ear to the ground than now, when teamwork and word of mouth can be key in identifying the opportunities waiting for fit investors to move quickly into once the market picks up.

It is all about the entrepreneurial mindset, where chances are seized by those willing (and able) to move quickly when the time comes.

Over the years, Exchange members have used our events to gain insights from entrepreneurs who have done just that and one of the best speakers we had in terms of demonstrating how to stay fit and flexible enough so you can meet future challenges was Lara Morgan of Pacific Direct Ltd.

The entrepreneurial CEO and owner of Pacific Direct, which manufactures and supplies luxury branded toiletries to hotels, cruise lines and airlines, Lara gave an inspirational talk to the Entrepreneurial Exchange which showed that it is vital not just to get in shape but to keep the flab at bay.

She told Exchange members that, faced with some very tough decisions about her business in the light of tightening market conditions, she realised the company she founded had become flabby on the back of its success and she detailed the measures she took to get back to a lean and sleek operation as soon as she identified this. Of course, the trick is to keep the flab off once it has been shed.

Pacific Direct's culture of employee satisfaction and inclusive management is also an inspiration in the current climate and Lara's extravagant gestures to ensure a happy and loyal workforce are legendary - such as flying all her team to the Caribbean or taping £50 notes under people's chairs!

Proof perhaps that costs and head counts are not the only consideration when it comes to keeping a loyal team in shape.

It may be that the challenges of the times call for ever more innovative solutions and entrepreneurs, by their very nature, are ideally placed to take up these challenges as we look at building companies of substance and scale in Scotland.

One of the messages the Exchange is keen to promote is that entrepreneurship is more than just going it alone - it is about creating these businesses of substance and scale, whether started from scratch, bought or inherited. This is important to the Scottish economy.

While we are all becoming used to the "credit crunch" mantra, it is up to anyone of an entrepreneurial nature to take the lead and look at the positives waiting to emerge from this period.

Let's be under no illusions - there are plenty of enterprising individuals waiting for the right opportunity to spend the money they are currently sitting on and when that opportunity comes, it needs to be channeled to the good of Scotland's economy.

To this end, our ongoing programme of talks and social events is invaluable for ambitious entrepreneurs who are looking to learn from those who have been there and our Entrepreneur of the Year awards recognise and support the hotbed of talent we have on our own doorstep.

With over 470 members heading-up companies employing more than 270,000 people, with a collective turnover of nearly £19billion, there is plenty of experience for ambitious entrepreneurs to draw on and the motto of the Exchange sums this up: 'For entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs'.

So while the headlines may be full of doom and gloom for some time - and the precise length of that time is impossible to judge at this stage - those of an entrepreneurial nature will be reading them with a different slant to the rest of the business world.

While there is no excuse for digging your head in the sand - this is not the first time there has been a recession and, sadly, it will probably not be the last we see during our working lives - there is a greater incentive to stay in shape for what lies ahead.

Entries to the Entrepreneurial Exchange Entrepreneur of the Year Awards close on August 29.

'It is up to anyone of an entrepreneurial nature to take the lead and look at the positives waiting to emerge from this period'

'There are plenty of individuals waiting for the right opportunity to spend the money they are currently sitting on'

John Anderson is chief executive of Entrepreneurial Exchange

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