As part of National Entrepreneurs Day, former pupils share their stories of starting up businesses and the lessons learned along the way. Erland Rendall, Class of ‘88, shares his reflections on his story so far.

It only seems like yesterday when I was part of a small group of Senior School pupils considering what product we could create, market and sell within the school in the lead up to Christmas. The fact that this was nearly 35 years ago is sobering!

Robert Gordon’s College had a programme called the Young Enterprise Scheme, that partnered with a bank and provided engagement with business support mentors. I believe that this was the forerunner to Young Enterprise Scotland. As someone who had already started working for a modest income from 12 years old - cutting grass and weeding garden borders for the MD of Digital Computers in Aberdeen - followed by a cream round in our village leading up to a part-time job at Boots the Chemist on Union Street, when I was 16, I valued the opportunity to work, add value and earn money in return.  This enabled me to buy a hi-fi system (second hand from that Digital Computers Corporation MD), a motorbike and ultimately my first car.

I simply wanted to fly fast jets in the RAF. Life (and a femur that was too long) put paid to that ambition and the next best option was flying Commercially. However, the general economic environment in the mid to late 80's put paid to that aspiration - my part-time work could not get close to the £80,000 required to fund my pilot training. So, after 3 years of working in Mobil North Sea Ltd on Union Row, I enrolled at RGIT as it was known, now The Robert Gordon University and studied Quantity Surveying.

Wind the clock forward over 20 years and that circuitous career path took me to a point where I started my own business in 2012. In the interim period, I’d joined the leading international cost consultancy and progressed via a fast-track route, to Partner seven years after joining as a graduate. I had the privilege of engaging on some of the leading and iconic construction projects in the UK and Middle-East and learned from some of the most creative, dynamic and forward-thinking individuals in their field. My last role was a global one with responsibility for our thought leadership and innovation and a team located in Los Angeles, London, Dubai, Johannesburg and Melbourne. Our firm was acquired by a NYSE listed corporation in October 2010 and in May 2012, I left a 95,000 strong business to form a new start-up.

If my career was a book, I believe that I’m only half-way through the story. The plot has certainly provided plenty of twists and turns. Indeed, my wife says that it’s like getting on a rollercoaster but without the full track being completed. Exciting or what?!

So what have I learned from the last 30 years?

Well, I certainly know that starting, running and growing a business is in my nature, my DNA - what the French call, an entrepreneur. I’ve learned that all my life experiences provide knowledge and information that have helped me to understand myself better as well as how, when and why to engage with opportunities. 

I’ve learned that a growth mindset - always learning and developing - is a key component to my infinite purpose in life. I’ve learned that the value derived from key stages in life is not always exhausted within that period and, for example, the value from my time at Gordon’s, is only being appreciated fully and leveraged now in my mid-life. I’ve learned that a career journey is not linear as the external factors out-with my control, introduce variation and disrupt the routine and comfort of normal life. 

I continue to learn to be comfortable with discomfort, that life begins at the edge of my comfort zone. To take risks, invest in myself and the core beliefs and values that I have, with a clear sense of improving the lives of others, delivers deep joy and satisfaction. This requires courage and boldness which continues to be a learning journey. The bottom line and primary energy source that drives me, is to ensure that I give 100% in whatever I do; to ensure that I exhaust the value that I can bring, in whatever situation, complication or question that is being asked of me. With that knowledge, I know that I can have no regrets - only positive learning experiences.

Well, what next? Currently, I leverage my professional experience to support clients in their development of real-estate projects. I support professional businesses in their strategic thinking and individual development - from graduates to Senior Partners and board members. Our third string is perhaps one of the most exciting, which is the creation of a ‘game-changing’ technology platform enabling knowledge capture, sharing and correlation to deliver more successful projects. The platform utilises machine-learning (Artificial Intelligence) to support coaching and enables informed project decisions to be made. Who would have thought that 35 years after designing, assembling and selling clocks in the classroom and corridors of the school would have led to this point.

You just never know where life will take you so enjoy and relish every moment!

Erland Rendall shares her entrepreneurial journey