After a full and fabulously productive working day spent travelling up to our Aberdeen offices on Waterloo Quay and back down again I settled into my seat in the Logie Lecture Theatre, University of Stirling, to hear the final instalment of the Innovation and Excellence lecture series produced to celebrate the University's 50th anniversary. The speaker was Dr Jim McColl OBE, Honorary Graduate of the University of Stirling who was going to explore the leadership, managerial and cultural aspects that have enabled the successful acquisition and sustainable growth of multiple businesses as well as the capabilities required to turn around struggling business, to drive both technical and managerial innovation.
I had anticipated an insightful and well-delivered lecture, however, the infectious enthusiasm, positivity, vision and unbridled passion revealed over the next hour and twenty minutes were both inspiring and thoroughly motivational. From the moment Dr McColl began to talk to his audience the energy and drive was palpable and the social conscious of this internationally recognized and acclaimed entrepreneur was a constant thread in the fascinating tapestry of his remarkable journey.
It is well documented that Dr McColl left school at the age of 16 and that his first job was that of apprentice in Glasgow’s Weir Pumps, where he after a period in full-time education, a series of increasingly important acquisitions, the setting up of a private equity-style investment funds, returned to announce in 2007 the acquisition of Weir Pumps (Glasgow) from The Weir Group plc.
What is less well documented and is, for me, a fascinating facet of the man is his philosophy which he shared openly with his audience. Dr McColl practices meditation and visualisation, he believes that “Reality is only someone else's borders and limits.” And that people should:” Just get on with it.” Nothing demonstrates more clearly this conviction and the integrity of his vision than his creation of a radical concept in education, Newlands Junior College. The Junior Academy provides a vocational education to youngsters who have struggled to find an opportunity to successfully fulfil their potential in traditional academic based education. The academy’s role is to give them support and encourage their move towards a successful and rewarding future by developing their latent talent.
The same ethos seems to inspire and guide the way in which knowledge and expertise are used to cultivate a diverse portfolio of technologies saving jobs and an important part of Scotland’s engineering heritage in the process.
Dr McColl has received numerous honours and awards over the past 12 years for his business acumen and accomplishments, additionally, he has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from five Universities - Napier University, Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Glasgow and from the Universities of Stirling and Strathclyde. However, on a cold November evening, it wasn’t the accolades, the awards or the obvious monetary awards and business successes which impressed me it was the honesty, the rectitude and the conviction of one man who has remained true to himself, to his vision and his own unique blend of innovation and excellence.