A Glasgow firm that has shunned the “management consultancy” label is gearing up for growth after securing a four-year contract to deliver its services to small businesses on behalf of Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

Colin Lamb, founder and owner of Connect Three, said learning new ways of working will be the key to the country’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Currently working with six organisations through the SDS Skills for Growth programme, he expects those numbers to rise to hundreds per year.

“It is a substantial growth opportunity for us,” he said. “It will probably increase our workload by 20 to 30 percent.”

Connect Three is one of four partners – along with The Leadership Factory, Pragmatique and Remarkable – delivering fully-funded training and support focused on improving innovation and productivity. Organisations with between five and 250 employees get their own specialist adviser to help identify skills gaps and guide them towards the right support, such as training and funding opportunities.

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Since it was founded in 2014, Connect Three has worked with more than 800 businesses from across Scotland and further afield in North America, Europe and Asia. Big-name clients include Sky, Border Biscuits, Cala Homes and Scottish Enterprise.

Mr Lamb said one of the key themes his firm has identified in a landscape dramatically altered by the pandemic is the need to learn new ways of working. Owner-led organisations in particular need to be wary of falling into the trap of having all operations reliant on a single person.

“Few sectors of society have felt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic more in Scotland than SMEs,” he said. “It has been a period of instability nobody thought possible, and recovery is absolutely attainable, but it takes leaders, teams and individuals equipped with the right skills, mindset and belief to achieve it.

“Upskilling, reskilling and skills development will be central to how businesses thrive again, and we are delighted SDS has recognised Connect Three’s ability to deliver that change and help Scotland on its route to recovery.”

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Although the Skills for Growth programme has been running for six years, Mr Lamb said this was the first time that SDS has contracted with multiple partners on the project. He regards the contract as a “major coup” for Connect Three, which has worked to set itself apart in the market through what it describes as a “holistic” approach focused on developing leadership skills while also establishing positive business cultures.

“We are not a traditional consultancy, in fact, we have been known to take offence when described as a ‘management consultancy’,” he said.

“What we do is more than training. We believe in business cultures without hierarchy that actively encourage contribution and independent thinking.”

SDS is Scotland’s national skills agency with more than 1,400 people working in schools, career centres and partner locations to support both individuals and businesses. It works with people at all stages in their careers, and administers the Employability Fund on behalf of the Scottish Government.

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“Scotland’s employers are adapting to a new economic environment – including a greater focus on innovation and productivity – where having the right blend of skills in place is essential,” Skills for Growth manager Gary Gray said.

The move by SDS to appoint multiple partners to the Skills for Growth programme follows a major report on the future of skills from the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI). In that report, the employers’ lobby identified three key pillars for improving the country’s economic performance – high-performing individuals, high-performing workplaces, and in-work development – which Mr Lamb said is core to Connect Three’s approach.

“We practice what we preach, and by helping Scottish businesses move towards this model, we can provide the key to unlocking business potential and driving firms from recovery into growth,” he added.

“The potential to achieve it exists within the people working in Scotland right now, they simply need the tools to realise their potential, embracing mistakes and using them as stepping stones towards their goals.”