Gavin Loudfoot CA: my President's Apprentice highlights
The closing months of my Apprenticeship with Sir Brian Souter have certainly been eventful and I’ve summarised the highlights for you below.
SMP ICAS Visits @ Aberdeen and Edinburgh
The two themes Sir Brian has promoted during his Presidency are Enterprise and Compassion. No more so was his passion for enterprise displayed than in his drive to meet as many ICAS small-medium-sized practices (SMPs) as possible during his tenure. His objectives were to learn a little more about their role in the community and also to determine what more the institute could be doing to serve them better.
I greatly appreciate both the mentoring Sir Brian has given me over the past year and the confidence he has instilled in me going forward.
There was a clear message delivered that ICAS needs to improve its digital services and technical support. However, there was also a more positive sentiment delivered by these SMPs in the positive impact they have on the wider business community. It is clear that these firms possess a more entrepreneurial and compassionate mind-set than larger firms, where they are looked upon and leaned on as trusted advisors as opposed to cost centres.
Further results emanating from Sir Brian’s themes of Enterprise and Compassion can be found respectively in his promotion of the small enterprise tax relief scheme and his critique of the impact of pension auto-enrolment on low income workers.
Souter Investments’ Oil & Gas Portfolio @ Aberdeen
We also visited several energy companies that Sir Brian’s fund is invested in, which was particularly interesting for me given my background. Sir Brian prides himself on being a passive, but intelligent investor - though in his own words he would humbly say “I ken I’m stupid, but I’m not that stupid”.
This certainly came across when he was relating current technologies in the oil and gas businesses to similar renewable technologies he had previously invested in. It was clear to see that the companies appreciated the support from Souter Investments without the burden which can typically be attached to such financial investment.
Ensure that it is in fact light at the end of the tunnel, and not an express train coming in the opposite direction.
In addition, Sir Brian was pleased to see that his investments had listened to his advice when he told them not to “panic and do something stupid” which he has witnessed many times before, but rather rationalise and restructure the companies to ensure they survive through the worst downturn the industry has ever seen. In saying that, Sir Brian ensured that in these tough times, companies should pay heed to his transport related analogy when he says “to ensure that it is in fact light at the end of the tunnel, and not an express train coming in the opposite direction.”
An Audience with Sir Richard Branson @ Stirling Castle
Next up was a dinner that featured a pipe band, acrobats, comedian Jane Godley, fireworks and not least a Q&A with Sir Richard Branson. Sir Brian was kind enough to give everyone a lift there in a few vintage Leyland buses from the 60s, which just about managed up the steep flanks of the hill to the castle!
Thanks to Sir Brian, I was given the mic and along with it the opportunity to ask Sir Richard about the scariest moment in his career. Sir Richard’s achievements have been an inspiration to me from a young age and I was delighted to hear him narrate the story of the imminent foreclosure on the Virgin Group. It was clear to see he is a risk taker much like Sir Brian, which must be why they get on so well.
President’s Dinner @ The National Museum of Scotland
Then there was the finale. And just when I though the dinner at Stirling Castle couldn’t be topped, all the stops were pulled out for the farewell to not only Sir Brian as the outgoing President, but also our exiting CEO, Anton Colella.
This dinner featured aerial dancers, America’s Got Talent winner Paul Zerdin the ventriloquist, bagpipe group The Gutty Slippers and a Ugandan Orphan Choir called Watoto, who are supported by the Souter Charitable Trust.
The night was rounded off with Sir Brian closing out his presidency with a song, which shocked more than a few in the room given his unexpected talent from his years in a gospel band!
The whole experience of my Apprenticeship with Sir Brian Souter has really shown me the unique characteristics he embodies that allow him to be a highly successful entrepreneur.
Sir Brian has also inspired me to make a radical career move of my own, encouraging me to pursue a personal goal of moving to the US to obtain an MBA from Dartmouth College.
He not only assisted me in arriving at this decision, but has actually invested in me, funding a substantial amount of my tuition fees in return for a share in my future earnings.
I greatly appreciate both the mentoring Sir Brian has given me over the past year and the confidence he has instilled in me going forward, and I am positive I will make good on his investment!