Scottish entrepreneurs struggle to create networks, are Chief Collaboration Officers the answer?


I love Scotland and everything it stands for. We’ve always been a nation of disruptors and innovators. We’ve got a toughness and resilience to us. We have a unique bond to each other. We FEEL Scottish.

However when it comes to leveraging our culture and talents in growth entrepreneurship, there is so much being left on the table. I’ve worked directly with over 300 entrepreneurs across multiple industries in the last six years. Here’s what I’ve seen.

There’s a small number of emerging entrepreneurs (2+ years in, ~10 staff, turnover around 500k to 1M) who really could do something special. They’ve got the right mindset, the product has started to get traction and they’ve built the first team. To grow to their next level they need access to funding, expertise and markets.

There’s a problem though. Their networks suck.

So they hire the wrong people. They chase and pitch to the wrong investors. They lack any access to the bigger customers and markets that could buy their product (or often of even more importance, tell them why they wouldn’t buy it).

The response to this from the master networkers, the ‘super-connectors’, is to tell entrepreneurs that “you need to spend more time developing your network” and “this is for the long term, it’s about building relationships over time”.

But let’s face it, that approach isn’t working and it never will. And it’s down to how we are wired.

Do you know any people who are super-connectors? Those people who just seem to know everybody?

How many of them have built scaled businesses? None? Maybe one? They’re not driven by a single entrepreneurial idea, they are driven by a desire to bring people together. That’s how they are wired. That’s their gift.

The entrepreneurial leaders I know have a different focus – it’s all about the idea. That’s why they can turn nothing into something. That’s why they are entrepreneurs and not super-connectors. They are wired differently.

Trying to make one become the other is a spectacular waste of time and talent.

Elon Musk is a brilliant entrepreneur, yet socially awkward in equal measure. It was Greg Kouri’s support and network that enabled the creation and sale of Elon’s first company ‘Zip2’ and then backed him again to found ‘X.com’ (which became PayPal). Without Greg’s abilities, Elon could well be that guy down the pub talking about his great idea to change transportation forever. And then to take humanity to Mars.

Netflix wouldn’t exist without it’s founder Marc Randolph, who had the original idea and built the company from nothing. Yet to take it to the next level it needed co-founder Reed Hastings’ network, enabling access to funding and to the right people at the right time. One couldn’t do the job of the other, it took both of them (I recommend you read ‘That Will Never Work’ to find out more).

Of course, there are possibly exceptions to the rule. Awesome and good luck to them. But the evidence is clear that they are exceptions. So let’s do the Scottish thing we do so well, and innovate. Here’s what I propose:

  • We use the accelerator and incubator networks to find those emerging businesses
  • The network uses people they trust to assess the credibility (strategy and team) of the business, and the mindset of the entrepreneurial leader (are they a real contender?)
  • Those entrepreneurs are paired with a super-connector who works directly with their business as a ‘Chief Collaboration Officer’ to shape up actionable asks and leverage their networks. Small steps at first to build their up credibility and assess their follow through
  • As the business grows, the entrepreneurs hire their own Chief Collaboration Officers to keep growing their network
  • These CCOs connect with each other and Scotland capitalises on our unique culture and abilities

Having an entrepreneurial mind is a very valuable thing. But to go stratospheric you need a super-connector. So let’s recognise the difference in wiring and create synergies, not hybrids.

Scotland has always produced the ideas, if we can change the way we network then we could maximise the impact of those innovations.


Joseph Trodden works with ambitious entrepreneurial leaders who are seeking to grow through the First Inflection Point (2+ years in, team ~10, approx. 500k to 1M in revenue), using a combination of strategic roadmaps, organisational structuring and leadership identity coaching. Find out more here http://www.josephtrodden.com and https://www.linkedin.com/in/joetrodden What do you think?

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