New year peer networks boost for local business leaders

Warren Munson
Warren Munson

Even in more normal times, life as a business leader can be quite lonely.  For many during the last twelve months, the challenges have been immense – juggling running their business during a pandemic, staff working remotely or on furlough, cash flow and working around ever-changing Covid restrictions – meant that the pressure has really been on.

At the end of last year, the government announced a £56m funding boost to drive up productivity across the UK economy.  It was a package of measures designed to help businesses, in particular SMEs, to recover from the impact of the pandemic, increase their profitability and the use of technology within their businesses.

Over half of the recent funding – part of the Business Productivity Review – has been focused on enhancing the provision of leadership skills and good management practices training for SME business leaders and on expanding the support available for small business leaders via peer-based advice and support networks.

The importance of recognised peer support networks and mentors for business leaders is not a new concept, but certainly one that has grown and developed in recent years, and as we enter a new year, these groups continue to be invaluable to their members.

Poole-based Evolve is a community of business leaders, founders and entrepreneurs who all understand the benefits that leadership training, coaching, mentoring and peer support can bring to them as individuals, but also to their businesses.  

Since the business was launched in 2019 by Inspire Founder, Warren Munson, Evolve has welcomed over 400 business leaders to its regular peer networking, webinars, business festival, coaching and workshop sessions.

In September, Evolve was appointed as one of the delivery partners for three new peer groups, as part of the national Peer Networks programme, in response to the government’s Business Productivity Review and to help businesses to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

Funded locally by Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the peer groups, which are being run virtually, include regular group sessions and one-to-one coaching for business leaders and senior managers across the region.

As part of the government’s latest funding announcement, Evolve has also been appointed to deliver five further peer networks, supporting business leaders across both the Dorset and Solent LEP regions.

Warren Munson, said: “It’s very encouraging to see that the government’s Business Productivity Review recognises peer networks as a key element in driving growth for SME businesses, not only now, but for the future.

“Last year more than ever, business leaders needed the support of one another in dealing with the challenges presented by Covid, which for many has been one of the toughest times they’ve faced in their careers.

“With funding secured through the LEPs for the additional peer groups, I would really encourage any local business leader in Dorset to take advantage of the opportunity and to join a group for free.”

Peer groups are regarded as integral in gaining trusted advice, helping businesses navigate the business change cycle and through structured conversations, focus on specific issues.   

Becky Boston, Business Development Director at Emphasis HR & Training, based in Romsey, has been a member of a peer group for the last year, her experience has been a very encouraging one.  

Becky comments: “The peer group has meant so much to me since I joined, and more so over the recent months.  People taking the time to listen to your concerns, giving brilliant and knowledgeable advice and personal encouragement.”

Director at LMA Architects in Bournemouth, Simon Dilawershah added: “Being part of a peer network has been hugely important on my journey as a business owner, not only on a professional level, but also a personal one.   The knowledge and experience of others in the group who provide great insight of their experiences, who are all at different stages of their journeys, play a very important part in the development of everyone involved.”
Applications are now open to join the fully-funded virtual peer networks in the Solent and Dorset LEP region, which will be starting shortly. 

More details are available here.      



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