He worked at firms ranging from big corporates to family businesses before setting out on his own.

Now Colin Lamb has set a turnover target of £5 million for his consultancy. Here, he talks about the journey.

Business name: Connect Three 

Location: Glasgow and London

How many employees? 12 employed with a further 25 associates

Turnover? More than £1 million

Business Description: We’re a B-Corp certified business and people consultancy creating sustainable change for growing businesses. We focus on three key areas – innovation and growth; culture and performance; and leadership and management. This year marks our 10th anniversary. 

To whom do you sell? We work with businesses, leaders, and HR professionals who are looking to change and grow. Around 30% of our client base is in public sector, including organisations such as the NHS and Scottish Government, or work we carry on behalf of enterprise agencies to deliver one-to-one expert support to SMEs across Scotland. The other 70% is direct work working with larger-scale SMEs and corporate clients across all sectors. The majority of our work at present is in the UK, but we are growing internationally, with clients in North America and Asia.

Why did you take the plunge? I was frustrated at a dearth of suitable training and development options from the client side in Scotland. I knew there was a gap in the market for learning and development (L&D) programmes bespoke to the needs of an organisation, and focused on long-term outcomes and meaningful change in workplace culture, as opposed to "box ticking" exercises prevalent elsewhere. So I decided to do something about it and went out alone.

There are lots of consultants out there, but not a lot of innovation born out of lived experience focused on driving people to make change for the better. I started the business 10 years ago with an ambition to build a company, a culture, and a reputation for delivering that "good" at scale.

What were you doing before? I studied art at school and wanted to get into something creative, but the world of business ultimately came calling. I worked at a range of big corporates and family businesses including McDonald’s, Tennent’s, Buzzworks, G1 Group, and Mackenzie Construction. My experience at McDonald’s in particular, where I was a manager, showed me how to run a business commercially since a young age too. It taught me how to balance a people and commercial focus with my creative background. 

What do you least enjoy? I least enjoy email "ping pong" – ironic given how much I love racquet sports in real life! I much prefer more agile, faster, modern messaging platforms such as Slack etc. I also find the bureaucracy involved in working with public sector or larger organisations a challenge. Often it can feel as if decisions are made by committee, and that slows progress and change often slows down change unnecessarily. It’s something we often work with clients to help improve. 


Scots tourism needs 'warm conditions for profitability'

The winter sports platform changing lives for ski instructors

Airport giant hails £1 billion-plus 'commitment to Scotland'

What are your ambitions for the consultancy? We want to be a £5 million turnover business with people on the ground across the UK and beyond. We are already producing industry-leading work – but we want to be the go-to for it.  

What single thing would most help? Internally, we are looking to hire a new head of leadership and learning, and this person would really help us spearhead this part of our business and allow us develop this crucial pillar of the business. 

Externally, it’s about organisations pushing meaningful training and development higher up the corporate agenda, and really developing their people and cultures. Earlier this year we saw local authorities in England scrapping what were labelled "woke" inclusion training amid budget cuts as if they’re expendable – but this stuff is fundamental. It’s not enough to "sheep-dip" teams in new concepts through one off sessions. It takes time and commitment to make cultural change – a greater appreciation of that across the corporate world would really help. There’s a reason why the biggest and most successful organisations believe in it. 

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned? You always need to bring your team with you. We cannot be successful without our people, and we need them to buy-in to what we do and feel part of the journey at all stages. That takes leadership, education, and understanding on your part – you have to role model the behaviours you want the team to exhibit, let them know the destination, and then show them how to get there. 

What was your best moment? Hitting the £1m revenue barrier a few years ago was a major milestone. I started this on my own, working two jobs and doing this in my spare time, and to see where we’ve got to 10 years later is incredibly satisfying. It takes graft, not just from me, but from everybody that’s been involved in the Connect Three journey. 

What was your worst moment? The worst moments are always when we lose a piece of work or miss out on a contract. We all believe so much in the business that it’s hard not to take it personally. When we do, it’s usually by a tiny margin and that can be hard to take – second place isn’t an option for us! However, we always learn from it, regroup, and ensure it won’t happen again next time. It’s so important to get back on the horse, as they say. 

How do you relax? I don’t! I am always on – as my colleagues will attest to. Outside of work I am exercising now more than ever – between swimming, the gym, and tennis – a real passion of mine. I really enjoy pushing myself mentally and physically. That said, I do like my holidays where I can switch down the gears and try to switch off (for at least part of the day).