Working with SIS: The Importance of a Strong Company Culture
Earlier this year, we had the pleasure of having university student Harry Howarth working with us on a ten-week internship. Below, Harry reflects on his time at SIS, his work with our impact investment arm, SIS Ventures, and what he learned while at SIS.
For the past 10 weeks, I have had the fantastic opportunity to work for SIS Ventures through the Employ.ed in an SME programme run by the University of Edinburgh. SIS Ventures, a part of the Social Investment Scotland (SIS) group, is an organisation providing equity and debt-led investments into mission-led businesses. You may be asking at this point, what is a mission-led business? A mission-led business is an organisation that along with delivering a financial return, creates a positive impact on society, whether that be people, social or environmentally-based. Ultimately, the impact of the organisation must be a key component to their success, meaning the impact and financial return are symbiotic.
It has been an extremely exciting time to be working with the SIS Ventures team, having completed the first two investments (to read more about the investments made into these impactful organisations, click here and here) and with many more impactful businesses on the horizon. SIS Ventures is at the forefront of a new and thrilling space, with increasing numbers of early-stage businesses having a social mission built into their business model, whilst at the same time institutional investors are recognising that investments can be made into organisations that have both a financial and social impact. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to be a part of a new movement within the investment space and to learn more about the social entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Throughout my time at University, I had been very interested in gaining work experience within an SME. There were many reasons behind this, but I have narrowed it down to what I believe are the 3 main motivations for working within an SME:
- More personable environment;
- The ability to make a tangible impact;
- Greater opportunities to learn and develop.
Now, having completed my time at SIS and having time to reflect on my experience, I can confidently say that the internship with SIS Ventures has delivered on all my expectations and more.
The SIS team have made me recognise the importance of a strong company culture and the importance of creating a personable workplace. From the moment I arrived and was introduced to all the team at SIS, they have welcomed me in, and I have felt like I have become a member of the team. The SIS company culture is an open, friendly and fun environment to be in. There is alignment in values across the whole organisation, with recognition from every individual within the SIS office that they are here for one main reason: to continue the great work that charities, social enterprises and mission-led businesses do to make a positive impact on people’s lives, society and environment.
I have been provided opportunities to learn and develop, as well as the ability to make a tangible impact through a variety of different tasks across different sectors of the business for both SIS Ventures and SIS. I have had opportunities in drafting investment papers, compiling data for future training and development of the SIS team, conducting research on many of the Scottish mission-led businesses within the social entrepreneurial ecosystem, completing work with the finance team and creating investor report papers. From the beginning, the SIS team have given me real responsibility in completing meaningful work that makes a meaningful contribution, which has enhanced the skills I can offer in the future.
I have had many highlights throughout my time here. This began in the first week of the internship when attending the Young Enterprise Scotland event (congratulations again to Fortrose Academy on winning the Social Investment Scotland Impact Award!) and the Converge Challenge. It was inspiring to see the talent coming up through the Scottish social entrepreneurial ecosystem, along with the breadth and depth of impact each of these displayed. Furthermore, having had the opportunity to meet with the management of a variety of different mission-led businesses throughout my internship has been very rewarding. It is always very interesting in hearing how the formation of these organisations come about, all of which display true future growth potential and impact.
Of course, I could not talk about highlights without mentioning the SIS team. Throughout the 10 weeks, it has been a pleasure getting to know each team member at SIS. It is clear the level of passion each team member has for SIS’s activities, and how each contribute towards a team camaraderie that is very motivating to be a part of. And lastly, who could forget, the signature Thirsty Thursdays!
Reflecting on what I had learnt throughout my time with SIS Ventures and Social Investment Scotland, there is one lesson in particular that I will take away from this experience: the relationship we have as an organisation with charities, social enterprises and mission-led businesses extends beyond a monetary level. The relationships SIS builds with each of their customers are partnerships; each of which are unique and built on trust and respect. I believe the supportive partnership approach SIS takes is why they continue to demonstrate such significant positive impact.
I would like to thank Social Investment Scotland and the team for providing this fantastic opportunity to work with them, it has truly been invaluable and an experience I have enjoyed throughout. They have provided many opportunities for responsibility and personal development throughout these 10 weeks, whilst at the same time providing the support in learning new skills. I look forward to seeing the continuation of SIS’s fantastic activities in the future. It has been incredibly inspiring to work for such a purposeful team and organisation that creates such a positive impact upon society and to work on projects for organisations that have true meaning.