Supporting the growth and success of small and medium sized enterprises is essential to creating a sustainable UK economy. 

Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of the British economy, accounting for over 99% of all businesses and employing a significant portion of the workforce. Ensuring their growth and resilience is vital for economic stability, innovation, and job creation. 

However, navigating the challenges of running an SME can be daunting. The weight of the company, its people, profit and productivity is so often on the shoulders of one person, and that can be a lonely experience. 

Driving forward both in business and personal development doesn’t have to be achieved alone, though. Connecting to others for support and fresh perspectives can bring huge advantages; which is where membership organisations like Vistage come into play, offering invaluable resources to SME leaders through coaching and peer-to-peer support.


Watch our film with Vistage featured as part of our The Future of Work: People, Culture, Tech programme for 2024. [This partner film is produced by the ITN Business commercial team and is not created by ITN news staff journalists.]

Vistage is an executive coaching organisation that supports and guides SME leaders to make better decisions, leading to better results. With more than 65 years of connecting MDs and CEOs across SMEs, the company has provided thousands of business leaders and their companies with expertise, guidance, and opportunities for growth.

We are now in 35 countries, with over 45,000 members around the world,” explains Andy Perkins, Managing Director of International Operations at Vistage. 

Andy Perkins, Managing Director, International Operations, Vistage.

“Members come to us for one real reason; for better results. We talk about a global network, but we’re really also acting locally. And by that we mean the ‘group’. So, primarily members interact with their group; 12 to 16 other managing directors and business leaders… and that’s where they get that diverse perspective immediately.

“But they can also tap into a much wider network of 45,000 other, like-minded business leaders around the world. Everybody has a voice, everybody has the opportunity to think about their issues.”  

SME leaders often face isolation when making critical business decisions. Vistage’s peer advisory groups provide a confidential setting where members can discuss challenges, brainstorm solutions, and gain fresh ideas from fellow business owners. This collaborative approach not only fosters better decision-making but also builds a strong network of trusted advisors.

Supporting each group of members to become more effective, is a designated trusted leader — an expert in leadership — who work alongside Vistage as business partners. These individuals have achieved greatness in their own careers and are ready to pass on what they’ve learned to others. 

Paul Knee has been part of the team at Vistage as a Chair, for 12 years. Following his retirement from a long corporate career, he was unsure what to do next. He knew that he loved learning and teaching, so when he came across Vistage, he saw a way to blend the two.

“This is a passion, this is something that fulfills me,” he says. “It’s not a job. If it was a job, I wouldn’t be doing it.”

“The members come with their issues, their challenges and opportunities, and they share them in an environment where there are no agendas.” Vistage, he explains, is about helping leaders be successful, and get better. 

“They have to want to improve, and be able to say ‘I don’t know all the answers’, and ‘maybe I can find a different way of doing something’… You’ve got to be curious, be prepared to learn and think a lot, and you’ve got to be 100% open and vulnerable.”

Vistage not only helps SME leaders optimise their business through innovative approaches, but also supports personal development, providing guidance to help leaders face tough challenges.

Ben Baldwin, Managing Director of Chuffed Productions, a Vistage member,  has enjoyed the benefits of Vistage’s unique set-up and group structure.

Ben Baldwin, MD, Chuffed Productions (a Vistage Member).

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that everyone’s got very similar issues. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, it doesn’t matter how big or small the company is that you’re in. We’re all facing the same challenges and the same problems. And together we can generally find the right answer. 

“Every group has been built and put together by the person that leads it. The chair and mentor helps coax out of you what’s probably already in there, or helps to add to your toolkit; and the investment that you make, you see back… I was going to say tenfold, but it’s probably more than tenfold. 

“It really is a great place to sit and listen and learn and be mentored. You’ve got to keep investing in yourself because if you don’t invest in yourself, you don’t grow.”

As the UK economy continues to evolve, the role of SMEs becomes increasingly crucial. Organisations like Vistage play a pivotal role in supporting these businesses by providing the resources, networks, and expertise required for success, and empowering leaders to seize opportunities, and contribute to a robust and sustainable economic future for the UK.

Explore our programme, The Future of Work: People, Culture, Tech.