By Bruce Johnstone and David Molian, Directors of the Business Growth Programme (BGP) at Cranfield School of Management

Other people’s business problems can be fascinating. Outsider owner-managers can often see an obvious solution that is not clear to the person trying to solve the problem. Why is this?

Firstly, we are usually able to look at someone else’s problems more objectively. The person experiencing the problem finds it hard to be objective because their view is cluttered by previous experiences from their involvement in the situation.

Emotions can run high when we confront a problem in our business. Powerful feelings of blame or guilt may be involved and we may feel a personal responsibility for everything that goes on in our organisation, especially where a success or failure is involved. But outsider owner-managers have no such emotional stakes on the table.

Can you see the wood for the trees? Perhaps you know too much about the detailed day-to-day workings of your business, and this is obstructing your view of the whole? Sometimes a lack of detailed knowledge allows an outsider owner-manager to ask the seemingly naïve questions that drill right to the core of the issue.

The best outsider advisors are disinterested, meaning they have no interest in the business, simply the desire to lend a hand. Family members and employees usually do have an interest, and this will alter their view of the issue.

At Cranfield School of Management, we have come to appreciate the important contribution an outsider can make to helping you solve your business growth issues. We know this from observing the unique peer-to-peer and counsellor-supported learning experience that occurs on the Business Growth & Development Programme (BGP) at Cranfield.

The owner-managers of growing businesses receive disinterested, unemotional and objective views from their Cranfield BGP counsellor and the other owner-managers in their counselling group and BGP cohort. The objective of this process is to hold up a flat mirror to the business owner-manager so that they see a picture of the problem that is not distorted by subjectivity, twisted by emotional involvement or cluttered by too much detail.

This peer-to-peer learning occurs in individual counselling sessions, group counselling, syndicate work, and as part of interactive panel discussions and presentations. It extends beyond the lecture hall and breakout rooms. BGP counsellors make a point of visiting business-owners at their business premises and, because the BGP involves dinners and overnight stays at Cranfield, owner-managers often keep discussing their business growth issues with peers and counsellors long into the evening.

One of the problems faced by business owner-managers is not having anyone to turn to for advice and support in making tough decisions. BGP allows them to share with people in the same situation. Many participants find the BGP counselling and peer-to-peer learning process so valuable they join BGP clubs after the programme has ended in order to stay in regular contact with their counsellor and group.

The Business Growth Programme at Cranfield School of Management is aimed at established businesses, usually with a turn-over in excess of £2m, and the capacity to grow. Over 1250 owner managers have completed the BGP which now runs three times a year at the Cranfield School of Management in Bedfordshire. Designed specifically for the development of owner-managers, the BGP helps you create the future you want for your business and for yourself. Find out more, and attend a special briefing event, by visiting www.som.cranfield.ac.uk

David Molian and Bruce Johnstone are directors of the Business Growth Programme (BGP) at Cranfield School of Management. Bruce Johnstone can be reached on bruce.johnstone@cranfield.ac.uk