Michael Dickson
Michael Dickson

How do I get the right staff so I can scale? - The Daily Scale-up with Kim McAllister

People. It’s what business is all about - yet hiring can be daunting and frustrating. It’s a huge commitment.

It’s also the number one issue facing companies looking to scale, according to research by the Scale Up Institute.

Competing for specific in-demand skills, being able to afford the best talent in the marketplace, the internal expectations of the board and being able to attract global talent to Scotland are all very real pain points.

I had a chat with Michael Dickson, an associate at Carlyle executive search practice in Edinburgh, to find out what the Scottish marketplace is like at the moment.

“Scotland has a very talented and diverse workforce and when you look at specific industries in isolation we have some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, technologists, financial services leaders and oil & gas specialists,” he told me.

“But when you start to look more generally across the market or indeed within sectors where Scotland does not have as many businesses, like logistics or retail, it becomes a lot more difficult to fill the gaps.”

He cited examples of production & supply chain director for a global FMCG business and a head of cloud services for a leading financial services client - both were tricky because most of the specialists were based in England or abroad. Scottish scale-ups are having to fight against economic and political uncertainty (read Brexit) as well as the expectations for flexible or remote working.

“Emerging skill-sets related to regulatory or technology change, like GDPR, cloud, or cyber security expertise are all skill-sets that were less common or did not even exist several years ago,” he pointed out. “These are gaps that businesses across the UK are facing, not just our clients based in Scotland.”

The good news is that scale ups are sexy. Scotland has an impressive track record and candidates are keen to be part of the next BrewDog or Skyscanner.

“We have worked closely with start-ups and scale-ups to help solve several of these challenges either through employing interim specialists or placing candidates on a portfolio basis across a number of companies,” Michael said.

“The interim impact executive or portfolio candidate is often a good solution for a “scale-up” when it comes to a number of challenges in talent attraction, including financial restraints, time requirements or competition in the market place.”

Our final column of the week is a case study - looking at one company who’s recently secured a six figure investment. Tomorrow, Bellfield Brewery tells me about the journey…

Kim McAllister is a Journalist & Communications Consultant and director of Impact Online