Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2020

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The effort of the ecosystem to provide training in leadership to entrepreneurs is showing strong signs of paying off. The UK’s scaleup leaders are becoming increasingly content about the quality of the programmes available to them. They now want more focus on help to develop their wider leadership team such as Chief Operating Officers and Chief Financial Officers and links to Non-Executive Directors with appropriate skills for their needs.

Scaleups continue to value most locally delivered support, and are seeking more support from peer-to-peer networks. They also value the guidance they receive from banks and advisors, according to our 2020 Survey. Peer-to-peer networks remain a key demand (46%). 

Scaleups are also looking for the support and guidance of experienced business people with three out of five already having a mentor and valuing their contribution. Just over one-fifth of those without such support would like a mentor but currently do not know how or where to find one.

It is therefore important that the ecosystem continues to maintain, sustain and evolve tailored programmes and initiatives that offer solutions to scaleup leadership needs and those on the scaling journey. 

Each year the ScaleUp Institute highlights effective programmes that bring scaleup leaders together in cohesive and collaborative networks helping them reach solutions to common problems and share good practice. In the current challenging times it is even more important that these well-established programmes that we endorse continue to work with scaling businesses to overcome their obstacles to growth.

This year we have promoted to our endorsed list Tech Nation’s Upscale, which has a well-evidenced success rate. For the past five years Upscale has been offering the UK’s fastest-growing tech companies a curated six-month programme with 60 hours of support led by scale coaches. Building long-term meaningful connections is a significant part of the programme. Upscale responded to the pandemic by hosting more virtual sessions providing 45 hours of programme content to senior leadership teams as well as facilitating intimate ‘coaching circles’ to support founders’ wellbeing. 

Also promoted from one to watch to endorsed is Strathclyde Business School’s Growth Advantage Programme (GAP), which links high-quality executive education with the insights and shared learning that comes from peer networks. The Effective Board element of the programme also helps business founders build high-performing leadership teams.

In 2020 we have added another programme to our watch list: The Royal Academy of Engineering SME Leaders programme. This includes 1:1 coaching to allow business-minded engineers to focus on their own personal development plus an experienced mentor element. We will watch with interest how this programme helps engineers turn bright ideas into bold and disruptive businesses. 

Long-standing endorsed programmes continue to demonstrate the impact of structured education for scaling business leaders and their senior teams coupled with peer networking. A total of 538 alumni of The British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme take part in regular reviews to track their progress and share their experience and knowledge with the next generation of entrepreneurs. More than 1,800 businesses have graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK programme after 100 hours of education as well as networking with peers, and a new female founder-focused programme, 10,000 Women, has been launched. 

During the pandemic the London Stock Exchange’s ELITE programme offered a critical link for many member companies facing fundamental business challenges, creating a dedicated #ELITETogether campaign where companies could access immediate insights and support on different issues including legal obligations, managing supply chain disruptions and accessing government support.

In 2018 we endorsed Vistage which supports 1,700 UK business leaders in a curated and formal peer-to-peer network that encourages them to step away from their day-to-day duties one day a month to focus on their business and connect with leaders in similar roles. The Supper Club, first endorsed in 2017, continues to offer peer-to-peer networking and found during Covid-19 that its digital platform enabled accelerated knowledge-sharing on immediate issues affecting all scaleups.

Innovative businesses continue to value connections with academic institutions. As well as the newly endorsed Strathclyde’s GAP, and long established Business Growth Programme at Cranfield, we are watching the progress of Productivity through People which has links with Strathclyde as well as the Universities of Bath, Aston and Lancaster where the initiative began. An important part of this programme is the help industrial mentors give to delegates to work out their own strategy for improving their performance. 

We continue to highlight international programmes: the MIT Venture Mentoring Service, endorsed in 2018, which now has 180 mentors supporting students, alumni and staff who have ideas they want to turn into businesses and the Lazaridis Scale-Up Program which this year took on its largest cohort and introduced new virtual resources so participant companies could continue to access world-class expertise through webinars, topic roundtables and private discussion group. We also continue to monitor long standing international exemplars Manizales Mas and Scale Up Mikwaukee.

Other programmes highlighted in previous reviews – Cambridge Network’s School for Scaleups, Inspire Elite and the Scaleup Leader’s Academy – continue to provide opportunities to scaleup leaders to develop their leadership skills by engaging with peers and mentors. 

A wide and growing range of programmes are available to scaleup businesses – as these exemplars demonstrate. But as the nation emerges from Covid-19 it is ever more important that scaleup leaders can source locally-provided opportunities, peer to peer groups and development opportunities for their teams. We also need to ensure there is parity of offering across all regions. The ScaleUp Institute strongly believes that a powerful body of evidence demonstrating what is effective for high-growth ‘scaleup’ businesses and the learnings from these successful programmes should be replicated more widely.

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