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Can a Scale-up Enabler help your business?

What is a Scale-up Enabler and what does one do? We recently met with Briony Phillips, Engine Shed’s very own “Scale-up Business Enabler” to find out about her mission and vision. Briony has big plans that all boil down to ‘Know, Invigorate, Inspire’.

We asked her a few questions to be able to share her mission and spread the word – as what she does might be in line with what you are trying to achieve also or are looking for…

ADLIB: Let’s start with “Know”, who are you looking to help, what is a “Scale-up Business” according to your definition?

Briony Phillips: My goal is to build our local (West of England) ecosystem so that businesses can scale more effectively and increase in number. There is a strict OECD definition which is our starting point for finding these companies:

“an enterprise with average annualised growth in employees or turnover greater than 20 per cent per annum over a three year period, and with more than 10 employees at the beginning of the observation period.”

However, this definition is rather limiting particularly because it focuses us on those businesses which are big enough to be required to submit full accounts – the only public source of reliable turnover and employee number information. As a result, we’re being a bit more relaxed in our application of the definition and have come up with 4 sub categories which we’re trialling at the moment:

OECD Scale Up Stages

The one other aspect of my definition is that these businesses are ideally founded and/or headquartered in the West of England (BANES, Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset).

As a result of this work, I plan to create an ecosystem map for the region which helps scale-up businesses find opportunities, programmes, support and one another.

ADLIB: As part of drawing attention to the West of England Scale-up community (the attention they deserve), you mentioned the “Scale-up Institute survey” as being really important. Could you share why that is and how to take part?

Briony Phillips: The Scale-up Institute survey is a really important tool to help us understand the needs of and challenges faced by businesses in the West of England. It is the biggest survey of its kind which targets fast growing businesses across the country on an annual basis. The raw data will be made available to us as a region so that we can use it to identify trends, inform our priorities and support activities and programs for scale-up businesses. Last year only 10 scale-up businesses from the West of England completed the survey so I’m really keen that we have a more representative sample this year! The survey is open until 1st September, if your readers consider themselves as growing fast, it would be great if they could complete it now and help us make the West of England the best represented region.

ADLIB: Moving on to “Invigorate”, what plans do you have to strengthen and support Scale-up Businesses?

Briony Phillips: This will very much depend on what the businesses tell us they need. So far I have heard that businesses need support with finding finance, finding and securing office space/commercial premises and recruitment of a suitably skilled workforce. As a result, I have been prioritising these areas and starting to develop ideas and identify existing initiatives that respond to them. It’s quite possible that these priorities will ebb and flow as I learn more about the scale-up businesses I strive to represent.

The Scale-up Institute suggests that scale-ups face challenges that fit into 5 categories:

  1. Access to talent and skills – improve the ecosystem so scale-ups can find employees with the skills they need.
  2. Leadership capacity – build leadership capacity.
  3. Markets – access customers in domestic and export markets.
  4. Finance – access the right combination of finance.
  5. Infrastructure – digital and non-digital

My job is all about collaboration and connecting the dots – even the funding for it comes from 4 different organisations (Business West, University of Bristol, Engine Shed and the Local Enterprise Partnership, LEP) so my plan is to work with others to support their initiatives and encourage collaboration. My role, as I see it is to help everyone understand the challenges faced by scale-up businesses to inform their own projects, and to test and trial some initiatives that respond to these challenges where they don’t already exist. I also intend to connect scale-up businesses with the tools and support they need to flourish.

ADLIB: And now “Inspire” – all your plans do sound inspiring, but for those that feel inspired by the above already, those that fit the definition and those that feel like they are working on projects or initiatives that could tie in nicely with what you are doing. How can those best get in touch with you?

Briony Phillips: A big part of my role is to build awareness and understanding of the incredible community of scale-up businesses and infrastructure of support that exists in the region. This means telling stories of challenges and successes – which will hopefully help to inspire the community both locally, regionally and nationally. I would love to hear from scale-up businesses (and those with ambition to scale) so that I can better understand their challenges and share their stories. I’ve included my contact details below so people can follow my work and get in touch.

Thank you Briony!

Really looking forward to collaborating and working with you on your mission!


Briony Phillips

About Briony Phillips: Briony joined the Engine Shed team on a 1 year contract in June 2017 funded by Business West, Engine Shed, The University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). This group have a shared ambition – first, to identify scale-up businesses in the West of England region and to better understand their challenges and second, to design, facilitate and support initiatives that will make it easier for businesses to scale-up more effectively – for the long term. Briony – Scale-up Enabler: