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Lisa Thomson: Back to Babson – A Fellow’s reflection…

I have been so lucky and privileged in May this year to have had the chance to return to Babson College in Boston via Entrepreneurial Scotland and to refresh my learning, further building on the Saltire Fellowship journey I first embarked on back in 2014.

Whilst there were so many reminders and familiar faces (hello Les, Tim, Anirudh, Jay and Karen!), places and touch points during my trip back, it was also a very refreshingly different and hugely beneficial exercise and investment now at this new stage of my business and personal development, for reasons I will expand on below.

When I first had the chance to attend Babson in 2014 for 4 months (followed by a week in San Francisco and a week in Shanghai) I was at a pivotal transition point in my career, having just taken redundancy and with just the spark of my business idea, Purpose HR which aims to provide HR support to early stage and high growth businesses.

Fast forward 5 years and the business I’ve built is growing, with a core team of 5 people and a retained portfolio of innovative high growth clients across Scotland. Last year we were accepted onto the Scottish Enterprise ‘Unlocking Ambition’ programme as one of a cohort of 20 values driven businesses.

When I learnt about the opportunity of a place this year on the Saltire Executive leadership programme at Babson would be available through Unlocking Ambition, I jumped at the chance as an opportunity to access more of the incredible quality of teaching (Babson has been ranked no.1 in the world for entrepreneurship for 22 consecutive years…) and to take some time to reinvest in my own personal development at this new stage of my business growth.

The 8-day module titled ‘Preparing for the Future in Uncertain and Changing Times’ covered a range of topics and sessions spanning Strategy, Sales, Marketing, Innovation and Leadership – all with the Babson uniqueness, freshness and mind-stretching perspective delivered by an incredible teaching team of experienced global entrepreneurs.

This was combined with a programme of speakers and company visits hearing from inspiring success stories and entrepreneurial journeys. Hearing from Mark Bamforth, who has recently sold his 2nd business Brammer Bio for $1.8billion, as a standout highlight, along with the chance to be matched and mentored with other handpicked Global Scots with relevant experience to your individual business and learning goals.

There are of course many events and ways available to hear and learn from business growth stories - however the informal small group format through this programme, the chance to ask questions 1:1 and make personal connections and the informal and social opportunities allows a unique chance to make amazing connections.

It was also so helpful to have the support and facilitation of our group, which was composed of entrepreneurs at various business growth stages and sectors including health drinks, property rentals, FinTech and a 9th generation family timber business.

We all learned so much from each other as well as the formal training, which was enhanced by the engaging support and facilitation of Jules Lancastle from Entrepreneurial Scotland. I found this a real benefit as, unlike the previous four month programme where as a cohort we were living together sharing houses and cars over an extended period and therefore getting to know each other personally as a tight knit group, this is obviously very different in a one-week leadership programme and so I felt that the facilitation and support of Entrepreneurial Scotland and bringing us together as a group in a short time period really helped to gel the group by including and supporting everyone.

I was slightly apprehensive before flying out that some of the course content would duplicate learning from the past - but in practice I realised that it is not possible to retain everything that was learned over an extended period over 5 years ago (even re-reading your notes cannot bring the teaching to life in the same way). So I can’t stress enough how valuable it was to have the chance to revisit sessions with the inspiring Anirudh Dhebar, Jay Rao, Tim Marken and Karen Ayas (and Les!) whilst looking at the content though new eyes and personal experience, now that my business and team has reached a certain stage, and to be able to discuss specifics and seek insights with them. The content and case studies covered has also of course been refreshed and was very relevant in the context of the programme theme of ‘Uncertain Times’ and the current wider global context.

We worked through a fantastic targeted business planning tool framework provided by Anirudh for Architecting a (Gaps Free) Enterprise which was a very insightful diagnostic to refer back to throughout the course of the week and which I continue to revisit with my team and advisers since returning to Scotland.

I also had a little bit of time too to revisit old haunts in Boston and to take some personal time out to reflect and just think and plan – a rare bonus for a busy Mum of 2 young children running and building a business! Spending quiet time just with yourself and reflecting (as highlighted in Karen Ayas’ eye-opening Leadership Journey session) is so important as an entrepreneur for your own well-being and confidence. So, I truly took time to look back over the last 5 years – to give myself credit and celebrate the progress I’ve made with Purpose HR, the client base and network that I’ve built and the learnings on the way. It’s very common and understandable to keep pushing ahead to the next goal and wanting to do more, bigger, better - but we should also all try to step back at times to remember where we’ve come from to get here and celebrate the journey… and so the chance to go back to Babson really gave me that opportunity & focus.

My first trip to Babson in 2014 and the Saltire Fellowship was a transformational opportunity for me in terms of building my personal confidence, ambition and developing the skills and knowledge to take my business forward. There is a quote in the Executive Centre from Roger W.Babson “The successful person is the one that had the chance and took it” and I try to live by that, so the chance to go back to Babson again was one that I’ve relished.

I’ve come back to Scotland refreshed and with a reignited energy and drive to continue building my business and growing and an actionable targeted plan to do that. Thank you, Babson!

Lisa Thomson is the founder of Purpose HR and a Women's Enterprise Scotland Ambassador




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