MONDAY October 30 marks the beginning of Scottish International Week, run by the Scottish Business Network (SBN).

Events are taking place all across the globe aimed at promoting trade, export and internationalisation opportunities to Scottish companies by connecting them to the diaspora.

Russell Dalgleish (below) is the chairman of the SBN, a non-profit organisation which aims to unite the Scottish diaspora for the benefit of businesses across the country.

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In an exclusive interview with The National, Dalgleish spoke about how he helped to get the organisation established, how it all works and the importance of Scots across the globe maintaining links.

How did things get started?

To tell the story of how he became involved with the SBN, Dalgleish has to think back to 2008 when he was living in Scotland but working in London.

“Basically, I had been asked by sculptor Antony Gormley to take part in a project he did,” he explains.

“He had this plinth in Trafalgar Square and members of the public stood there for an hour and you could be a work of art, give a speech or whatever.

“So I stood in a kilt and I was playing Scottish music – it was really a representation of who I was.

“The music was stuff from my childhood – bands like Big Country.”

However, Dalgleish admits the experience had an “emotional effect” on him because he started to feel like he didn’t have a place he could call his “Scottish home” in London.

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Eventually though, these feelings helped to create the Scottish Business Network which initially started by providing a network for Scots businesses looking to get started in London.

Dalgleish explained: “We would help Scottish companies get connections and open doors down here.

“It was really just about bringing Scots in London together.”

Going global

The SBN has gone from strength to strength since then and has since connected several thousand Scots across the world, including in Atlanta, Tokyo and Sydney.

It has 48 ambassadors represent the organisation across the globe in 22 countries and it’s all entirely voluntary.

Recent appointments were made in the likes of Dublin, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia and Berlin.

“Our primary purpose is to connect Scots and the Scottish diaspora. So if a Scot dropped me a note asking to find out what’s happening in Paraguay for example, I can connect them with Scots living out there,” Dalgleish explained.

“The theory is that in business it’s those meetings where you learn something you didn’t know before that can be transformational.

“We’ve been viewed as one of the world’s leading organisations in that sense.”

The importance of connecting

The SBN has helped a number of people succeed. For example, the chairman explains how the organisation worked with an artist to help his first gallery in North America become a success.

“This guy came to us and said he was doing an exhibition in Toronto. We basically reached out to every Scot that we could find in our network with a sort of do you know message and he got a major turnout for his exhibition.

“It meant the business and gallery thought he must be incredible because so many people turned out.”

As well as this, the SBN holds a number of events across the globe, including one recently in Valencia where people were able to learn about opportunities for Scottish businesses in Spain.

On the importance of the diaspora, he added: “When I was first getting started, I spoke with somebody involved in building contacts with the Irish diaspora and it’s the power that gives you.

“A country like Scotland having representation in every city and town in the world is incredibly useful.  

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“In business, what we’re looking for is trust. If you were a start-up, you might take time to get to know each other but as a fellow Scot there’s that automatic trust and connection.

“It’s that ‘I’ll ken someone you ken’ type of thing.”

He adds that of the 150 top tech companies currently operating in the US, the SBN knows Scots in 148 of them.

Looking to the future

Dalgleish is preparing for a busy week with a number of conferences set to take place, including the Scottish Games Week, Digital DNA Conference and the Scottish Black Talent Summit.

Asked about how positive he is for the future of Scottish business, he said: “My only ask is that we keep connecting things together.

“We have all these people volunteer for free but it can often trigger more work with somebody else and then they see the financial benefits from that.

“We don’t have to be one big mass, we can be lots of connections as well.”