It can be lonely at the top as head of any business. As a leader, your colleagues will look to you for reassurance and strong decision making, and although you may have all the answers, you can’t always easily show it. By Simon Pringle, CEO, Red River


That’s where three entrepreneurs – Richard Brinkworth of Leap Environmental, Richard Pollins of DMH Stallard and Simon Pringle of Red River – found themselves ten years ago, when they met at a business workshop set up to coach business leaders. However, they quickly realised that the traditional format of paid-for support and training wasn’t going to give them what they really needed.

“Instead, the two Richards and I went for coffee and began to talk about the stresses and strains of business, and quickly realised we could gain a lot by doing this on a regular basis,” Simon Pringle CEO of software company Red River, explains.

“Suddenly, we were in a group where we were actively supported and we became comfortable about sharing information early on. We trusted and respected each other, and it isn’t an echo chamber, we don’t just get a group of yes people. Instead, we get challenged, or can offer advice from our own experiences.”

Over the last ten years, the three has grown to 12 business leaders, all meeting on a regular basis as The Business Growth Group, the importance of which cannot be underestimated. 

Simon says: “The power of 12 means we have many a trusted ear on our side, with many heads solving problems, which is far better than doing it all by ourselves.”

Some of the most successful businesses in the South East have come through The Business Growth Group, each bringing their own challenges in a strictly confidential forum. The Business Growth Group is not another networking group. It’s not facilitated. There’s no mediation. And it’s not a sales forum. Instead, there is a circle of trust and respect with all the members committed to improving their businesses.

“Trust is a huge thing for all of us,” Richard Brinkworth, Director of Leap Environmental, says. “Sometimes we can bring highly confidential issues to the group, so we have to know that what we say won’t go elsewhere – and it doesn’t.”

Richard Pollins, Managing Partner of DMH Stallard, agrees: “As entrepreneurs, we can be independently minded and outspoken sometimes, but our feedback in the group is always collegiate; we’re all supportive of each other.”

This is one of the pillars the group excels in, as well as trust, there’s the ongoing support at the monthly meetings as well as in between meetings with regular messaging between the group members. 

And that’s not all.

“My firm has added £18m to its turnover since we began the group,” Richard Pollins states.“I’ve tripled mine,” Simon adds.

“Our sales quadrupled and we’ve now sold the business to a global consultancy,” says Richard Brinkworth. ‘It just goes to show what we’ve all been managing this last decade and why we’ve needed this space to just be ourselves, and to bring ideas to a group of peers who’ll give you proper unfiltered feedback.”

This support has meant the group, comprising of 12 members across 12 industries has racked up dozens of awards and sporting achievements since it started, with each business leader bringing their own different experiences. 

“This is not an elitist group,” explains Simon. “It’s a group of people with a common goal that have very different businesses, but all willing to feel comfortable challenging each other and being challenged.”

Richard Pollins agrees. “It’s authentic but constructive. When we all get together, we try to focus on the person who needs the most help that month. We all have a passion for business, come from different backgrounds and work in different sectors. But there are some unifying principles around the way we run all of our businesses, and how they each can improve.”

Richard Brinkworth adds: “It’s very therapeutic, and more focused on what an individual needs than a networking club. We support each other on a journey and that can be really exciting as we enjoy each other’s successes as much as our own.”

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