GILLIAN Duncan admits the decision to leave her corporate HR job and join a small business wasn’t easy. Intaglio, a bespoke glass manufacturer and designer, had been set up by her husband, Graeme, five years earlier, and was looking to develop.

But would she miss the security of a big company? Did she really want to work with her husband? How would she adapt to being a business owner? Fifteen years on, the East Kilbride-based firm has gone from strength to strength, and Ms Duncan relishes life as an entrepreneur.

Intaglio Glass and Design was the first Scottish company to provide the back-painted glass used to great effect by interior designers, architects and design-conscious homeowners in kitchens, bathrooms and offices. The 10-strong firm is at the forefront of the UK market, producing hundreds of high-quality panels a week, and recently invested in a state-of-the-art glass cutting and polishing machine.

“That sort of investment can make or break a company,” says Ms Duncan, who lives with her family in Glasgow’s south side. “When you run a business the focus on finances is critical. You often hear people say ‘cash is king’ and in a small business cash flow is the most important thing of all.

“Anyone starting out needs to quickly get a handle on the fundamentals and stay on top of the numbers.”

Ms Duncan also has good advice for budding entrepreneurs when it comes to acquiring new skills and moving with the times.

“Over the years I’ve learned to look across the whole business,” she says. “Marketing wasn’t a strength for me when I joined, so I made sure I got better at it. Then social media transformed everything. We are very focused on customer experience.

“These days people buy and search for products differently and the experience of others – reviews – is very important to them. As an entrepreneur you have to be aware of the speed of change and keep up.

“Keep abreast of your industry and be honest about your business – know what you’re good at and stick to it.”

According to Ms Duncan, the responsibility of generating a secure livelihood for staff and their families can weigh heavily. But she enjoys the flexibility of working for herself, not to mention the sense of fulfilment.

“You feel a sense of pride,” the businesswoman adds. “You are not only making a positive contribution to yourself and your team, but also the wider Scottish economy. Working for yourself is much more fulfilling than being a cog in a big corporate machine. You up your game and go to the ends of the earth to get things right for your customers. When they’re happy it’s a great feeling.

“I underestimated the challenge entrepreneurs face on a daily basis just keeping a business running. The buck stops with you. You learn to make considered decisions and live by them. You also have to learn from your mistakes, of course.”

One early decision made at Intaglio was to bring RBS on as banking partner. It’s a call she and fellow director Graeme have never regretted.

“We’ve banked with RBS since the day we set up 20 years ago,” she explains. “They’ve been supportive in everything we’ve done, including through complex projects like buying equipment. When we have questions, our account manager has answers.”

And, 15 years after that initial leap of faith, would she recommend working with your partner?

“There are pros and cons,” smiles Ms Duncan. “You have to make sure you don’t bring your personal life to the office. Most challenging for us has been switching off at home, especially now the kids are a bit older. But when you have different and defined roles it can work out well.”