Name: Neil Bradbrook.

Age: 46.

What is your business called?

Ahead Business Consulting.

Where is it based?


What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We focus on strategy, transformation and leadership. Our clients seek our help to redefine what’s possible and to reshape their future with a robust strategy and clear plan. Often that means raising funding, entering new markets, undertaking feasibility studies and research, or identifying new opportunities that take advantage of the changes around us.

To whom does it sell?

SMEs, public sector organisations and Third Sector bodies in Scotland and across the UK, typically with turnover from £1 million to £10m, looking to solve a specific issue, or make a step change to their business operations.

What is its turnover?

Before Covid-19 struck we were targeting annual turnover of £250,000. We revised this down to £200,000, though since October we are back on our original monthly target.

How many employees?

Currently four but looking forward to taking on two new staff soon; additionally, we use associates where beneficial for our clients’ needs.

When was it formed?

January 2019.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

Like many people, I grew up not knowing exactly what I wanted to be, other than “something in business”. My dad, an experienced businessman, suggested sales and marketing, and eventually I secured a position in marketing at Great Universal Stores (GUS) in Manchester, which provided a great foundation in the world of business.

I moved on to GE, which is world-renowned for Leadership and People Development, and I learned many of the core skills which have helped both me and my clients throughout my career. I moved from marketing into analytics, doing what we now call Big Data, helping market-leading retailers grow their business.

I spent seven years at Royal Bank of Scotland, and yes - I was there during the crash (in 2008). My proudest achievement was leading a successful cultural change project. It seemed that for almost 20 years, the branches had ingrained behaviours of selling the most profitable products. We changed this, instead putting a sharper focus on customers’ needs, and helping them optimise their finances to achieve their goals – that early retirement, or family holiday they hadn’t been able to afford before. Our customers were delighted; our staff found it more rewarding; and the real irony… we sold more too. It shows just what can be achieved if you centre your strategy and approach on your customers’ needs, not your own profits.

My last job before founding Ahead Business Consulting was working as a Management Consultant delivering strategic transformation for Santander. I led a 160-strong team that delivered a variety of mission-critical programmes, like a £400m branch network transformation, removing duplicate branches and refurbishing the entire network to create a positive banking experience for customers and staff.

During this role, my wife and I moved back home to Scotland to start our family, so for three years I was a WILLIE - Works in London, Lives in Edinburgh – but I had been harbouring ambitions of establishing my own consultancy, and the arrival of my second daughter heralded the start of this exciting new chapter in my business life too.

What was your biggest break?

It would have to be my first job at GUS. I had applied for lots of jobs, but with no marketing experience or qualification I wasn’t getting anywhere. From then on, I felt that I was in control of my future career.


What was your worst moment?

I am a big believer in the importance of people. The right culture is important to employee wellbeing, and also to morale and business success. I worked at RBS both during and after the crash – but the worst moment was actually after. As senior figures wrestled in the power vacuum left after former chief executive Fred Goodwin left, it seemed that internal politicking was rife, which in my view created a toxic atmosphere. It was no longer an enjoyable place to work and much of the talent chose to leave – me amongst them.

What are your ambitions for the business?

I want ABC to be Scotland’s most respected independent business consultancy.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

I applaud the Scottish Government for the budget supporting small businesses, but the landscape is complex and confusing, particularly for most businesses not registered with Business Gateway / Scottish Enterprise. An online portal, which brings together all the support and grants available would be a great help.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Put people first – both customers and staff. Look after your staff and they will look after your customers. Understand your customers and meet their needs, and they will keep coming back.

How do you relax?

No longer a WILLIE, I am instead a MAMIL - a middle-aged man in Lycra. I love getting out in the fantastic Scottish countryside on my bike. Later this year (Covid-19 permitting) I will be leading a team of intrepid cyclists on a five-day ride for key worker charities, up the Hebrides and back down the West Coast.