Next year will be unlike any Scotland has seen.
The independence referendum in September will decide the constitutional future of the country for generations to come. A vitally important and long-term choice will be made by the people of Scotland.
Also, there will be the chance to experience other rare happenings such as the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, celebrations to mark the anniversary of Bannockburn and, underpinning these major events, the year-long Homecoming programme.
Individuals and companies need to be motivated to embrace all the fantastic opportunities 2014 offers on local, national and international stages. The floodlights will be trained on Scotland next year at home, and especially abroad, and we must be ready to step into the spotlight. Having recently returned from the USA, I have seen at first hand the high profile Scotland is enjoying, something our exporters, should exploit.
Scotland desperately needs more companies to export (only 8% do at present) and we can use 2014 to kick-start a massive increase. Scotland's 2014 could be a tipping point in getting us to where we should be in international trade.
Tourism is an obvious sector to make the most of the year's opportunities but other industries need to look at how they can benefit. Getting involved in any of the events is a passport to expand business horizons longer term. The events industry globally is enormous. Why not start with Scotland in 2014 then take on the world?
We should also challenge people in Scotland to set up their own enterprise in 2014. What better year to do so? The focus has to be on building our economic future regardless of the politics, and on day to day economic growth. I would make a plea for creativity and innovation. Let's do things differently to break the mould. We know the definition of insanity: doing the same things and expecting different results, yet we keep doing the same things. Difference is what made Scotland great, so let's concentrate on creating cultures of innovation in leadership. Let's be brave and focus on our design intelligence and application. Let's support and build on our IT knowledge and application. Let's build Scotland the brand.
Scotland in many ways performs above the UK average and is faring better than predictions made when the recession started. Vitally, though, we need to be much more dynamic and visionary in planning for the future. There is a significant gap in our horizon scanning, as challenges at Grangemouth and BAE systems showed.
We must fully utilise the bright people we have in our universities and get them more intimately involved with our growing businesses to return to leading the world across many fields in the way we have in the past. Someone wisely said to me recently that, in global business, "only the paranoid survive" and that sounds like a good wake up call for us all: get it done now or someone else will.
We have a tendency to be complacent and in a competitive world that is potentially disastrous. For the IoD in Scotland, 2014 will mean building on a successful year and expanding our focus on developing directors and improving boardroom behaviour to encourage the best performance in civic society. We will increase our efforts to promote board diversity and improve corporate governance in organisations, large and small.
Working with other key players in the public, private and third sectors, our efforts will help the nation's strategic and operational efficiency rise in a range of settings, all feeding into sustainable economic growth and improved delivery to customers.
Next year there is the opportunity to lay down a legacy with the potential to run for decades to come. Let's hope that cometh the hour, cometh the men and women of Scotland who will use this exceptional gift to build and develop a thriving, prosperous Scotland, regardless of the political landscape. In the words of Horace, "carpe diem": seize the day.
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