Mind the GAP: Strathclyde’s Growth Advantage Programme’s positive impact

In 2015 Strathclyde Business School launched the Growth Advantage Programme (GAP) which allows business owners to take a step back from their daily tasks and focus on new strategies for growing their business.

Since then, 40 leaders in business have embarked on the programme, with the first cohort already graduated and the second beginning their GAP journey.

The programme – unique to Scotland - is directed by peer learning expert John Anderson, former Chief Executive of The Entrepreneurial Exchange and now Head of SME Engagement at Strathclyde Business School.

John said, “Entrepreneurs and business owners learn best from other business leaders. For this reason, we incorporate peer to peer learning and involve successful entrepreneurs in delivery of the programme.

“Throughout the programme, participants have the opportunity to learn directly from inspirational entrepreneurs as well as at our ‘Pinnacles of Growth’ Friday night dinners, a key feature of every two-day workshop.”

This peer learning element allows participants to extend their business networks, learn from experienced entrepreneurs and engage in learning which would be out of their grasp without this programme.

There is also a firm focus on practical learning which the GAP entrepreneurs can immediately and successfully apply to their own firms.

Ryan Longmuir, managing director of Regis Banqueting, is one of the GAP graduates. Following years of drug-taking between the ages of 15-20 and with a life which looked set to spiral further out of control, Ryan set up Regis Banqueting after finally quitting the drug world. The catalyst for doing so was a trip to New Zealand in search of a fresh start where Ryan discovered his faith and lost his need for drugs.

On his return to Cumbernauld, Ryan joined a church and first took on a job working with drug and alcohol addicts. When his church wanted a catering company to run the cafe attached to their conference centre on an ad hoc basis, the then-pastor suggested Ryan might fit the bill.

Despite having little to no catering experience, Ryan took it on and Regis Banqueting was formed. Ryan attended catering college while running the cafe and effectively learned as he went along.

Ryan built up Regis and now has 65 staff and has won numerous awards.

Joining the GAP programme last year, Ryan said, “I am just a small start-up self-taught entrepreneur which has got me so far but I knew if I was to grow personally and allow the business to flourish, I’d need new skills.

“GAP allowed me to do this while still operating my business. I got the chance during the programme to learn from larger scale business about some of the keys for profitable growth.

“GAP has allowed me to capitalise on what Regis is and what we’re good at and also allowed me to see that I am able to build a business of scale. It gave me the opportunity to look at what we offered and maximise business opportunities.

“One of the real learning lessons was on leadership and building the right team. This has allowed me to attract a great management team and free up my time to focus on the next challenge. We have recently launched Dulce and Sabroso (sweet and savoury crepes and waffles) and we’re in talks at the moment about securing our first site in Glasgow. If it goes well, we’ll look at rolling it out across the UK.

“This was very much influenced by GAP – I’ve always had a dream to do this but when we did the ‘billion dollar baby’ workshop I knew I’d have to use a different business model and this part of the programme was the catalyst for me launching the new venture and going out to seek investment.

“What also inspired me is a comment by Sir Tom Hunter who said if everyone had a well-paid job we could remove poverty and hopelessness in our country, and that has stirred me to create amazing employment opportunities for the youth of our nation.”

For all participants, the Growth Advantage Programme has resulted in substantial impact - average annualised growth in employment and sales across the cohort exceeds the OECD high growth threshold of 20%.

Read more about Ryan's story here.