Action Learning Groups, Gloucester Enterprise Business Services

PUBLISHED: 12:08 17 December 2010 | UPDATED: 14:59 20 February 2013

Denise Taylor

Denise Taylor

Real entrepreneurs learn more from their peers rather than from advice given by more traditional sources such as the bank manager or dare we say it, a business adviser.

If you watch the BBC TV programme Dragon's Den, where would-be entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to five successful businesspeople who are willing to put their money where their mouth is, you'll know what we mean. Some of those pitching their ideas to the five monied 'dragons' would rather make use of their business knowledge and experience than their money (although if they're offering both, hey, so much the better).

Lots of people join business clubs, saying that that it's a good way to network and pick up new business, but what many are really looking for are others in the same business boat, to share experiences and swap ideas.

No business can operate in isolation, whatever the size and wherever the market. Meeting with like-minded individuals who want business success as badly as you do is a great way to inspire you to greater achievement.

You can do this through business clubs, or on-line through web-groups which are increasing exponentially. You can also do it through Action Learning Groups, a well-respected national programme which is run in the Cotswolds by Gloucester Enterprise Business Services, which provides a range of support to help small businesses in the county.

Action Learning Groups are small groups of business entrepreneurs who, with the help of trained facilitators, develop into a strong support network of people who understand each-other's business issues. Over a period of six months the group get to know each other and work together to improve their individuals business through sharing knowledge and offering informed advice based on their own experiences.

The groups can be made up of a diverse range of businesses, it doesn't matter if an organic cheese producer is in the same action learning group as an interior designer or the managing director of an engineering company. The point is that whatever your business, you'll share similar problems and issues and having someone in a different field of business can often give you a completely different and unexpected helpful perspective.

At the start of the process, members of an Action Learning Group agree confidentiality levels, so that everyone can talk freely and openly about their business issues. After the six months is up each member of the Action Learning Group has become an enthusiastic advocate of fellow group-members' businesses and has a greater understanding of wider business issues.

Denise Taylor runs a national award-winning career's coaching company called Amazing People. (

"I wasn't sure about joining because I thought would be for new or struggling businesses, but I was completely wrong, and it's proving very successful for me."

Based in Tewkesbury, Denise joined the group last September and says that it was very positive and motivational. Her group is made up of all women in different businesses: one runs a manufacturing company, another specialises in the environment and another is an image consultant. Yet another runs an accountancy practice.

After just two sessions, Denise started to become more ambitious for her business after she heard what others were achieving.

"I discovered that the only thing holding me back was me, and when discussing other's businesses and offering advice it sparked ideas to develop my business.

Denise also says that it forces her to take time to think about her business ambitions before attending the meetings, so she is thinking more strategically rather than just filling her time with clients.

Philip Timson is director of Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services and has facilitated a number of Action Learning Groups over the last ten years. He said: "If a business does what it has always done, it will get what it's always got. If you are ambitious, you need to change the way you work and you'll need to look at your objectives. Business growth only takes place when you identify the issues blocking the way and Action Learning Groups are an incredibly and often surprisingly effective way of achieving that."

For more information this and related topics visit the GEBS website on, or call 01242 864200 and speak to a member of the GEBS team.

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