Author Archives: Peter Dickinson

Executive Peer Groups – Your Virtual Board

Executive Peer Groups

Like a top athlete, every business owner, CEO or Managing Director needs a place where they can go to get unbiased, independent advice from peers, coaches, advisors that they can trust.

The executive peer group is just such a place.

Have you considered the following questions?

For more information, please contact Peter Dickinson at 0845 053 7417 (UK) or email

The Importance of Values When Resolving Burning Strategic Issues in a Peer Group Advisory Board

Peer Group Advisory Boards - Values

Peer Group Advisory Boards – Values

The challenging nature of business means that the ability to deal with burning strategic issues quickly is becoming more important and needs to be key process for companies today.

Peer group advisory boards or CEO Peer groups where managing directors of non-competing companies get together monthly to work on burning strategic issues are based on inter-personal relations which means that they need to have agreed shared values for communications to be effective.

Vistage International has identified 4 core values that are essential to a successful Peer group Advisory Board. They are Care, Trust, Challenge and Growth.


In order to help somebody you need to care about what happens to them. This means being prepared to listen to their challenges and asking searching questions to find out more and find out the underlying issue behind the reported symptom. This allows that conversations are authentic, unbiased and non-judgemental.


Confidentiality is a key feature of a coaching session and this is true of a peer group advisory board. What is discussed within the group stays within the group. Trust therefore is developed between members which means confidential and sensitive issues can be discussed openly amongst members.


Even when a high degree of trust has developed amongst members, when a member is talking about a burning strategic issue then it may mean that the other members have to ask probing and challenging questions in order to surface the real issues behind the problem. So that ability to challenge each other in a caring way is the third value that is core to the process. This requires honesty, vulnerability and accountability. Typically, members join a Vistage CEO Peer Group Advisory Board in order to be challenged as usually there is no one else to do that for them as they normally have to keep up appearances for customers, employees and suppliers.


When members are challenged on key strategic burning issues and the members take action based on the outcome of those discussions then barriers to growth are taken down.  The process will have identified more choices and so a member can make better decisions which of course lead on to better results. Vistage member companies grow by more than 3 times after they have joined.

Taster Peer Group Advisory Board

I’m putting together a forum for local business leaders next month and if you are a Managing Director of a £3m or more business based in the North West, UK then you might find value in joining us. The forum will focus on the issues leaders face in today’s increasingly complex business environment and strategies for overcoming those issues. I’ve invited some of the most successful executives in the North West to participate.

If you are a Managing Director and believe in the core values expressed above and are looking to grow your company then you would be a great addition to the group discussion and I would really appreciate your input.

If you are interested come along to a free invitation only breakfast event on 2nd or 23rd October by following the links below to find out more.  or the 2nd October at the Haydock Thistle &  or the 23rd October at the Reebok Stadium

Alternatively, watch the Youtube video to see how strategic business issues can resolved:

and the following video for the views of MDs/CEOs of successful UK businesses:

I hope you can join us.

Peter Dickinson

Vistage Group Chairman

Vistage – The Route to Becoming a Better Leader

This article is about how a Vistage CEO Peer group can help you become a better leader.

Peter Dickinson is a High Growth Business Coach and has worked with over 300 companies in all stages of growth and across a wide range of sectors. Peter has worked with many business owners and entrepreneurs and the one key thing that he has learned about success is that you need good leadership skills.

Better leadership only comes through continued learning and a desire to develop yourself and those you work with.

Vistage International has invited Peter to select members for a CEO peer group advisory board based in the North West of England.

So who are Vistage?

Vistage International is the world’s leading chief executive organisation with over 15,000 members in 16 countries and who are focused on making CEOs & MDs better leaders, who make better decisions and get better results.

Vistage members on average triple their company rate of growth after joining.

Okay so what is a peer group advisory board?

A Vistage CEO peer group advisory board is a group of like-minded CEO/MDs from non-competing industries who meet for one full day per month to collectively work on the most pressing issues in their businesses. Eight times per year, Vistage provides a morning workshop with a world class speaker. In addition, there is a one-to-one 2 hour coaching session each month to clarify and work on outstanding individual issues.

So why join?

The only constant in the world is change and the subsequent challenges that change brings means that many CEO/MDs often struggle with both professional and personal issues, to the detriment of company performance and their family life. A Vistage CEO peer group provides a structured proven mechanism to work through the issues with other like-minded CEO/MDs in a mutual spirit of support, confidentiality and accountability. The meeting format means that you work ON your business and so reduce the hours you spend IN the business and so achieve tangible ideas and actions to take forward and a better work/life balance for you and your family.

So what are the benefits of joining a Vistage CEO peer group?

  • The group will hold you accountable for the actions you agree on.
  • The group will provide truly independent advice as they are not reliant on you for their income.
  • You get up to 15 experienced CEO/MDs working on your problem.
  • Members are from non-competing industries and so you get up to 15 different perspectives that have worked in other sectors which means you can sometimes get an edge over your competition with an approach from a different industry.
  • You can discuss highly confidential and sensitive issues that would be difficult with your own board especially if you run a family owned business.
  • There are over 15,000 members spread across the globe. So if you are looking to get into another country then there is likely to be somebody in the network in that country who will be more than happy to help you.
  • The cost is less than it would cost to employ one non-executive director.

How do I find out more?

If you are a CEO or Managing Director of a company with £5 million or more turnover and are open to new ideas, keen to develop your leadership skills, willing to help others and take action yourself then you would benefit from being amember my group.

If you are based in the North West and are interested in finding out more, call Peter Dickinson on 0845 053 7417 and he can call in for 20 minutes to exchange information of what you can expect from being a member of a Vistage CEO peer group.

There is no sales pitch the group has to be right you and you right for the group.

For more information go to:

Non Executive Director- Is there a more effective alternative?

Corporate Governance Pressures - CEO Peer Group Support

Corporate Governance Pressures – CEO Peer Group Support

The role of managing director or chief executive officer (CEO) can be a lonely place. There are times for some CEOs when they have nobody to confide in despite having a board of directors. A non executive director may be recruited in order to provide that support, advice and accountability to help them drive a company forward. However, a non executive director has a fiduciary duty to the company and its shareholders which comes before the needs of the CEO. Therefore, the non executive director can never be a true confidant to the CEO.

So is there are an alternative?

This article looks at how a CEO peer group might replace the traditional role of non executive director.

A CEO peer group is a group of Managing Directors and CEOs that meet once a month to process and work through challenging issues so that they can drive their businesses forward. A CEO peer group acts in many ways like a non executive director. However, they have a number of advantages over a non executive director.

  • They are not accountable to the shareholders but to the CEO.
  • Their advice is truly independent as they don’t receive any financial compensation from the company or the CEO.
  • You get up to 15 experienced business professionals working on your problem.
  • You get a wide range of perspectives applied to your challenge from different business sectors.
  • You can discuss highly confidential and sensitive issues that would be difficult even with a non executive director such as a developing an exit strategy if you are an owner/manager.
  • A non executive director will bring with them their network. A CEO group facilitated by a third party will bring with it the networks of up to 15 other people and also the network of the facilitator’s organisation which can be considerable if they are a global organisation.

So in summary, a non executive director can be a great asset to a CEO, however, a CEO peer group amplifies those benefits and does not have the fiduciary downside. Moreover, a CEO peer group is likely to be cheaper than a non executive director.

For more information about a CEO peer group in your area, please go to or call 0845 053 7417

Peer Group Advisory Board – Structured Leadership Development

Peer Group Advisory Board - Structured Learning Environment

Peer Group Advisory Board – Structured Learning Environment

A peer group advisory board comprises of a group of managing directors and chief executives of non-associated companies and from different sectors who come together each month to develop their leadership skills and work through challenging and difficult issues.

One of the challenges a busy executive faces is how to keep their learning up to date. How do you find time to do the necessary development in order to stay on top of the job and abreast of changes in the world?

A peer group advisory board is an effective way of getting enough people together to make getting a world class speaker cost effective whilst ensuring that the material delivered is appropriate to the individuals in the group.

In a confidential environment that is part of a peer group advisory board, issues following the workshop can then be processed and discussed in depth in the knowledge that the information shared won’t be discussed with others outside of the room. This means that the group can take a topic and working with a skilled facilitator can work through an issue that is currently challenging one or more of the members. The processing of the issue provides a practical learning tool for those concerned as they learn to find new ways to work through problems as well as benefit from the resultant findings or actions going forward.

The companies represented by the chief executives are non-competing and are ideally from different sectors and so quite often the experience of one industry can be reutilised in another with suitable adaptations.

A peer group advisory board is usually facilitated by an experienced business leader or business coach. This means that in addition to the one day’s workshop and problem solving forum, for 2 hours each month the coach and peer group member can spend time in a one to one coaching session to discuss actions agreed at the advisory board meeting and to discuss any new or challenging business issues. The one to one may also be an opportunity to link back to the development material from the previous workshop.

It can be seen that the combination of work related development workshops, peer group application of the theory followed up by personal one to one business coaching can make for very effective leadership development.

If you would like more information on a peer group advisory board near you, go to or call Peter Dickinson on 0845 053 7417.

Use a peer group advisory board to cut the cost of corporate governance

Peer Group Advisory Board - Corporate Governance Pressures

Peer Group Advisory Board – Corporate Governance Pressures

The role of managing director is becoming more complex as competition gets tougher, legislation more complex, more channels to market, more sophisticated buying and social values requiring better leadership skills.

Corporate governance becomes more challenging. Do you employ more directors who come with their own agendas or non-executives who could end up telling you how to run your business? You could employ advisors for help with a wide variety of issues. But are they are truly independent? Can you really trust them with your deepest concerns? What happens if they become the issue, who do you talk to then?

None of the above solutions comes cheap. A suitable portion of your hard earned profits could be spent on getting essential support and advice.

As Managing Director or Chief Executive you need to keep learning as constant change erodes your hard won knowledge. How do you keep on top of your learning?

There is an answer to these issues.

The solution is a peer group advisory board which if facilitated by an outside party can allow you to concentrate on your business and then one day per month you get to get together with 15 other managing directors to spend time in a workshop with a world class speaker on a subject selected by the group in the morning and then in the afternoon process issues in the afternoon.

In a peer group advisory board you have control over your learning as it is the group that decides the direction the learning takes.

The afternoon of a peer group advisory board then effectively becomes the sounding board that you would normally use a board of directors for. Except, with a peer group advisory board your associates have no hidden agenda, they are not paid by you, they will give you honest no holds barred advice and support as they process the issues of the members.

What is more your peers will hold you accountable for the actions you agree and so you will have the support you need to make the changes in your business that will allow you to work on your business and to improve your work life balance.

Membership of a peer group advisory board costs less than the salary of a non-executive director and also includes a 2 hour one to one session with a highly skilled business coach. This is designed to help work through issues before bringing them to the board.

For more information on a peer group advisory board in your area go to or call Peter Dickinson on 0845 053 7417 

How to use an Advisory Board to Reduce the Costs of Corporate Governance

Peer Group Advisory Boards

Peer Group Advisory Boards

An advisory board is a group of people that advises the management of a company.  It does not have authority to vote on corporate matters, nor a have legal fiduciary responsibility. This dramatically reduces the cost of corporate governance. Many private businesses look to advisory boards in order to benefit from the knowledge of others, without the expense, formality or corporate governance issues of a Board of Directors. The costs of membership of an advisory board are similar if not cheaper than employing one non-executive director. This means that you get 12 or more advisors for the price of one!

So what is an advisory board?

An advisory board is basically a group of people who you meet with on a regular basis to help you run your business. It can be a group you have organised yourself, a self-help group or a group of managing directors organised by a third party.

How is an advisory board more effective?

Corporate Governance: A non-executive director has a fiduciary responsibility which means that they must spend time on corporate governance as well as acting as an advisor to the board.

In addition, a non-executive director is responsible to the shareholders rather than to the managing director who may have hired them. This means that they can become a barrier or issue themselves rather than an asset due to their rights and responsibilities.

Reduced board of directors: An advisory board is made up of managing directors of non-competing companies which means that you can reduce the size of your own board of directors as within the advisory board there will be a wide range of skills and experience you can bring to bear on your own business. That means you can employ lower cost but quality senior managers to run the business.

Different Perspectives: An advisory board brings with it a wide range of experiences and perspectives. A sufficiently varied board can bring different perspectives to your problem.

Cost effective: Typically it costs the same to join a managed advisory board as it does to employ one non-executive director. A typical advisory board can have between 12-15 members which means that in terms of value you will have 15 heads working on your challenges and opportunities rather than the one of a non-executive director.

More productive: With a non-executive director you will have one person thinking about your problem. With an advisory board you will up to 15 other people working on it. This means you will have a wider choice of ideas to work on and develop.

Structured learning: Advisory boards organised by others often have workshops for structured learning as it is often cost-effective to bring in world class speakers to help you develop your skills and understanding of the latest business tools and thinking.

Structured problem solving: Advisory boards run by others have structured problem solving sessions so that if you have a challenging problem where there is no clear answer or even process for resolving it then the advisory board’s expert facilitator or chair can provide a structured environment to help you unpack the problem and think through the actions needed to work towards its resolution.

Share difficult issues: An advisory board is working on your behalf and so if you have an issue with a fellow director or shareholder then the advisory board is likely to be the only place where you can share the issue in confidence and receive a sympathetic and understanding ear.

So when you are looking to grow your company and you considering recruiting either an executive or non-executive director, first consider whether an advisory board would a more productive and cost effective option.

If you would like help in finding an Advisory Board in your area, go to: Advisory Boards and Group Facilitation

High Growth Business needs Dynamic Leaders who are Highly Productive


High Personal Productivity

High Personal Productivity

You and your team have a lot to do. To get through everything, make sure everybody is trained in how to be productive. Make sure you and your team are working on tasks that move you to your objectives.
The underlying philosophy of leaders of high growth companies is that they have a “do it now” attitude. They simply get on with the job and only do those tasks that move them towards their goals. Procrastination is the enemy of high growth. Doing nothing is no longer an option for any business, high growth or not.

Your Review

Consider the following questions.

  • Do you have clear objectives of what you want to achieve in the next 3-6 months?
  • Do you make choices of what tasks you need to do based on achieving your objectives?
  • Do you proactively manage your time?
  • Do you create a short task list at the end of the day or the start of next so that you are clear on what you need to achieve during the working day?
  • Do you have a “do It now” approach?
  • Are you well organised?
  • Is your and your team’s workspace clean, tidy and well organised?
  • Do you and your team manage your emails well?
  • Are you and your team good communicators?
  • Do you have stand up meetings and keep sit down meetings to a minimum?

When you have considered the questions, work though each of them and write down your answers and create an action plan.

Your Action Plan

Your action plan should include, what, who is responsible and by when for the following:

  • Write down 3 things that you really need to achieve within the next 3-6 months.
  • Over the next 2 weeks write down everything you do and see if you can eliminate or delegate some of lower value tasks that you do and which don’t get you closer to achieving your objectives.
  • Get into the practice of writing down 3-6 tasks that you need to complete during the day which move you forward to your objectives.
  • Review your workplace. Is it decluttered? Is it clean? Is it easy to find what you need?
  • Put 2-3 hours aside and ask your team to come in prepared to completely clean up and tidy their work area. Take a picture of the clean, tidy and organised area and pin the picture on a prominent location to remind everybody what the area should look like.
  • Setup 10 minute stand up meetings at the start of the day/shift/handover. Ensure a senior manager attends the meeting for the first few weeks and agree metrics which will help the team meet the objectives of the business.
  • Put in place ground rules for email management and identify those that struggle to manage their inbox and help them get in control.

This article is part of a larger project to help business owners and managers understand what it takes to grow your business successfully.

Download the free ebook, “Unlock the Secrets of a High Growth Business”

Minimum qualifying period to claim unfair dismissal

From 6 April 2012 the minimum qualifying period to claim unfair dismissal rose from one to two years.

However, it is important to appreciate that this will mean employers could have two classes of employees with differing rights to claim unfair dismissal. This is because these changes will not affect employees whose period of continuous employment began before 6 April 2012.

For more information, please go to: Personnel Solutions: HR Company and Human Resource Management

Are you a Dynamic Leader?

Dynamic Leadership for High Growth Business

Dynamic Leadership for High Growth Business

High growth businesses need dynamic leadership. The culture of a business comes from its leaders. If the leader has a clear vision, sense of purpose, is a good communicator, motivates the team, celebrates success, is visible and is continually learning then this will permeate throughout the business.

This article is designed to help you review whether you are a dynamic leader and put in place actions to help you grow your business.

Consider the following questions.

  • Does your business have a sense of purpose? What is it? Do you have bigger goals other than to make a profit? Do they provide your team with a sense of purpose?
  • Do you have clear objectives of what you want your turnover and profit to be in 3 year’s time?
  • Have you shared your longer term objectives with your team (these can be 12 months as they will be more tangible to your team)?
  • Have you got objectives that must be achieved in the next 3 months?
  • Have you shared your short term objectives with your team?
  • Walk round your business. Is every area a nice place to work? Does everybody have access to a kitchen? Is it clean and free from clutter? Do the toilets work and are they kept clean? The ultimate test, is would you work there?
  • Do you celebrate success towards your business goals with low cost activities (free lunch, ice creams etc)?
  • Are you visible and accessible to your team and the organisation as a whole? Do spend time simply walking round the business and asking how things are going?
  • Do you find time to learn? Do you allow your employees to learn as part of their job? Do you and your team learn from mistakes made or failures? Does your business embed the learning in the way it does things?

When you have considered the questions, work though each of them and write down your answers and create an action plan.

Your action plan should include, what, who is responsible and by when for the following:

  • Sense of Purpose or Values.
  • 3 year business objectives (Turnover, Profit, Product/Services, Target Markets).
  • 12 month objectives for sharing with the employees.
  • 3 month objectives for what needs to be done first.
  • A review and improvement plan (if required) for the amenities in the work place.
  • Communicate achievable targets with the team and what would trigger a low-cost celebration.
  • Spend time away from your desk with your team.
  • Review of how people and your business learn including how you learn from mistakes or failures.

This article is part of a larger project to help business owners and managers understand what it takes to grow your business successfully.

Download the free ebook, “Unlock the Secrets of a High Growth Business”


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