SCOTLAND’S economy is bouncing back, experiencing its highest rate of quarterly growth since the end of 2014 — growth that is four times the UK-wide rate for the same quarter.

A number of The National’s columnists wrote about the positive news, including me, and I highlighted a number of things the Scottish Government could do to further support SMEs.

But the private sector also has a role to play here. Organisations like the School for CEOs and the newly launched Edinburgh Institute for Collaborative and Competitive Advantage are a crucial part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem working hard to boost SME growth.

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Author and marketer David Hood is co-founder of the Edinburgh Institute. Its goal? A healthy, competitive Scottish SME sector.

Hood believes many SMEs have got their priorities all wrong (on average, more money is spent by the SME on stationery than connecting and collaborating with its customers), and that management thinking is missing the point — the customer.

“It was all ‘paradigms’, change for the sake of change, and how skilfully companies could cajole the unsuspecting prospect, customer or consumer into buying,” he says. “Everyone was stuck in ‘David Brent Land’ with three letter acronyms and ‘the next big thing’, and consultants, academics, authors, bloggers, and others simply saying to all that the next thing was the most important for the company or manager.

“Anything but the thing that matters most — the staff providing the value, and the true value that exists between them and the market, not shareholder value.”

With day-to-day issues like international competitiveness, the stranglehold of large corporates on markets, politics and thinking, and now huge commercial and economic upheaval with the downturn since 2008 and Brexit, Hood says SMEs needs a champion and deserve better.

So he created the institute with co-founder Dave Rattray.

Hood adds: “We help the SME find, define and project its clear and unique competitive advantage. Rapidly.

“We genuinely want them to be prosperous. We change their way of thinking, to make their advantage clear and compelling, as well as specific to them. We help them realise their specific, powerful singular competitive advantage and compelling offer.”

Hood says, at any time, there are only one or two major hurdles preventing the SME from exploiting its potential advantage in the marketplace. Any other solution is a sticking plaster and will not work as well as finding those advantages. And this can be done for any SME with serious improvements to profitability and value for the SME.

Hood added: “The late, great business thinker Eli Goldratt said that if you drop your price, you get a few hours or days advantage; if you change a feature or bell or whistle for your offer, you get a few weeks; if you change an industry chronic problem or limitation, you can get a couple of year’s advantage. So aim high!”