I recently had the opportunity to address an audience containing many of the Scottish IT industry’s leading professionals as keynote speaker at ScotlandIS’ 2017 ScotSoft conference. I was inspired by this year’s theme (‘sometimes you just need an idea’) which rang true to my experience in all of my business ventures.
Staying with this theme, my brief was to reflect on the lessons I have learned throughout my career, looking back to when I started my first business and tracing my steps towards founding CityFibre and building it into the successful organisation it is today. This brought home the importance of having a powerful story to tell about your idea as well as the ability to shape it for the different people you tell it to, be it your employees, your customers, investors or even yourself!
Scotland, and the Scottish digital sector, has a great story to tell. As a nation, it already benefits from a longstanding reputation for punching above its weight when it comes to innovation and leadership. From Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone to James Watt’s steam engine, Scotland’s reputation as a pioneer of technologies, inventions and scientific discoveries has earned it a rightful place in the history books.
Its success in the digital space in terms of economic growth, entrepreneurial leadership and technological innovation, proves that Scotland isn’t about to rest on its laurels and resign itself to history anytime soon though. Together, world-renowned businesses such as FreeAgent, as well as Scotland’s growing portfolio of dedicated business spaces and skills groups like Codebase, paint a picture of optimistic momentum. This tells me that digital tech is very much at the heart of Scotland’s present and more importantly, its future.
Going back to my point about storytelling, Scotland’s ‘idea’ to focus on digital as a means of growing its economy, creating talented people and high-value jobs, mirrors very closely CityFibre’s own vision – now that’s a story I like to tell.
The idea is simple – build the critical infrastructure in 100 towns and cities that is required to sustain and grow a service based economy in the UK. Today, service-based economies run on the internet, and the internet runs on fibre. That’s it.
The story, however, is most important. It’s not about digging up roads and putting glass fibres under our streets. It’s about giving the UK the platform it needs to innovate more, become more productive, create jobs and improve the wellbeing of its communities. These 100 towns and cities are the backbone of the UK, representing 60 per cent of businesses outside London, and 40% of GDP. By giving them the foundation to thrive, we all benefit.
So as an entrepreneur, the first step is to tell yourself the story behind your idea. This is what gives you purpose. Then tell your employees – regularly. They will share your story and go home at night feeling good about what they do for a living. Share it with your investors, your stakeholders, your partners – for if they know your story and believe in it, they’ll continue to support you. And of course, tell your customers. With a thousand companies vying for their attention, a compelling story will cut through and create not just customers, but advocates and champions.
Greg Mesch is chief executive of CityFibre.