A SCOTS business owner with ambitions to scale his company over the next five years turned to entrepreneurs Lord Willie Haughey and Sir Tom Hunter for advice on how to retain staff and attract the best people into the business.

Paul Harkins, managing director of Cumbernauld-based Aspen Solutions, a growing IT provider with a turnover of £10 million currently employing 35 staff at head office and in its Glasgow sales office, told Lord Haughey and Sir Tom: “I have ambitions to scale the business over the next five years.

"I have some very good people but how do I attract, retain and get the right staff in the business?”

Lord Haughey, owner of City Facilities Management Holdings, pointed to his own experience, adding: “We started off as a £6m business and overnight went to a £30m business – and probably went through the same growing pains – that you went through.

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“There is no doubt that you will see people and spot talent – that is what will make you a good leader in your business.”

He added that business owners should take people “out of their comfort zone” but conceded that he had been “lucky over the past 20 years” as his business grew across the globe, noting: “The reason for our success in America, Asia and Australia is that we took people who grew up in the business and managed to send them there – they are now CEOs there.

“But if you do get it wrong by stretching someone, don’t look at it as a failure – put them back to what they really good at doing. Some people make the mistake of ‘that didn’t work, they need to go’ but we have never done that. My advice is give them more to do so they can learn more about the business.”

Agreeing with Lord Haughey, Sir Tom, who heads up investment vehicle West Coast Capital, said: “Scotland needs thousands like you. As a founder and a leader of your business, the most important job you need to do is be a talent-spotter.

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"You need to be out and about selling your business and seeing that talent – then create the environment in which that talent can really flourish.”