Starting a business is not the only way to become an entrepreneur

Professor Dame Heather J McGregor, who is now Provost and Vice-Principal at Heriot-Watt University Dubai, told Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey that she has not set up her own company, the London-based Taylor Bennett Foundation.

“I bought it,” she told hosts Sir Tom Hunter and Lord Willie Haughey. “Starting a business is not the only way into an entrepreneurial journey – there are many ways into it. I borrowed a lot of money at a time when banks were still willing to lend to entrepreneurs, although it took a long time to find one that would do it. I’ve worn out a lot of shoe leather.”

Prof McGregor explained how she gradually bought into the business: “I first joined the company with an option to buy 20 per cent and exercised that option two years later – this put me in a position to negotiate the purchase the rest of it. So it was a phased purchase, all debt-financed.”

She also explained that she had not sought venture capital investments, although she later shared 15% of the equity with her employees at her executive search firm.

Asked by Sir Tom where she learned her commercial skills, she said: “I spent my early years working in a public company helping to structure their debt, then I have an MBA from London Did business school before I worked for an investment bank until I was 38. So I had a long career in finance before becoming an entrepreneur.”

Noting that “financial literacy is so important for everyone,” she said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur or not. If you are ambitious and want to run a business, whether it is your own or someone else’s, you will not be able to do it unless you are financially literate.”

Prof McGregor added that she qualified as Chartered Management Accounting during lockdown and said she was pleased to see so many more women becoming business leaders today.

Prof McGregor, who is also a founding member of the steering committee of the 30% Club, which works to increase the representation of women in senior positions in UK listed companies, said: “At the time there were only 12% of board positions in the FTSE 100 held by women – today it is over 40%.”

Admitting she had no regrets about leaving her business to move to Scotland, she said: “I was blown away by the opportunity at Heriot-Watt. “Moving to Scotland and working at a business school that had the longest serving distance learning program in the world with students from all over the world and being able to share my passion for entrepreneurship and business with thousands of people… was a great opportunity.” Starting a business is not the only way to become an entrepreneur

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