By Sandy Kennedy

“DISRUPTION. Change. Upheaval. Uncertainty. Words that conjure images of chaos, stress, a lack of control.” Little did I know when I wrote these words, here in the Herald, only six weeks ago, how close to the truth they would become.

Amidst the chaos, more clearly than ever, I see two certainties:

First, it will be the entrepreneurial leaders, innovators and changemakers who shape our future.

Secondly, no-one does it alone. We must work and learn together, as an entrepreneurial community. Collaboration and collective action are no longer just options, they are vital.

As predicted, entrepreneurial people are stepping up in this time of crisis –Be it Deeside Distillery or BrewDog, who have shifted their production to make hand sanitiser or The Swan Inn in Eaglesham now doing home-delivered pub meals to locals who can’t get out.

But no-one does it alone. It is a lonely job being an entrepreneurial leader at any time. Now, that will be compounded by isolation, cash shortage and uncertainty. That is where collaboration and community become essential. It is happening.

Andrew Dobbie, Founder of Made Brave, has set up the Creative Industries Covid Support Group: “I’ve gone through denial, fear, worry, panic and tears in the last few days. We’re all experiencing the same feelings. I’ve now settled on positivity and problem solving as the way to get us through this.”

The CANDO Collective, a community of more than 100 entrepreneurial support organisations, is going full blast. Rachael Brown, Convenor of the CANDO Collective: “People are scared, terrified in fact for the future. However, over the last week entrepreneurial thinking and collective community has been visible, tangible. This is the time for collective strength, collective action and kindness.”

At Entrepreneurial Scotland, we have been overwhelmed by the support from our partners, like Cazenove, entrepreneurs and leaders from around the world who are saying: “How can we help?” Early days, but we have online discussion groups, webinars, virtual dinners all on the go.

It takes brave, innovative and entrepreneurial leaders to stare into the face of the challenge and to instil change, to see it through. We can be very judgmental of each other and sometimes the media discourse encourages the status quo and safety first, especially in public life. This is the opposite of what we need. There are many public institutions that we would like to change and be more innovative. Scottish Enterprise has long been in the spotlight and rightly so. Steve Dunlop, its CEO, who I know to be brave and entrepreneurial with collaboration in his DNA, is striving to instil meaningful change. He and his team cannot do it alone.

We need brave leaders now more than ever. We need to rally behind these leaders more than ever; change-makers need our unwavering support. We are an incredibly effective community when we choose to be.

Geoff Leask, CEO of Young Enterprise Scotland says: “There is a real potential for change when people realise that what’s ‘aye been’ is not the best for the future.” Imagine if in the crucible of this crisis we could forge a new approach of collaboration and collective action – across private, public, civic and political spheres – to benefit Scotland plc.

That is turning challenge into opportunity. That is truly entrepreneurial.

Sandy Kennedy is CEO, Entrepreneurial Scotland