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Executives benefit from talk-tank

UNLESS they are employing consultants, business people tend not to seek outside advice. Indeed, those running smaller companies often complain that they have nobody to turn to even if they want help, writes Roger Trapp.

However, assistance of this sort is at hand in the shape of the Executive Committee, an organisation that aims to improve the performance of business leaders, chiefly by getting them to talk to each other.

John Blasker, managing director of Manchester-based Pinewood Associates, is just one of hundreds of senior executives who claim to be benefiting from the concept. At the last count, there were 3,600 people signed up to it, representing companies with a total turnover of more than pounds 100bn in seven countries.

Mr Blaskey, a member for two years, found it particularly useful when he was seeking guidance on how to take his presentation products and services company forward. Several other members of his local Executive Committee group suggested he should involve his staff more.

They came up with a variety of ideas, including extending the reception area at the company's headquarters and enlarging the showroom into a display area for more than 6,000 of the company's products.

The inspiration for all this was a talk to the members of his group from leading US businessman Lee Thayer, who said workers at the sharp end were often best-placed to see what changes were needed. "He has been proved right. The result has been a worthwhile increase in our client base," said Mr Blas-key. He also credits the Executive Committee with helping to make a success of the move into manufacturing that he began two years before joining.

The Executive Committee operates in groups of 12 to 14 senior executives in each country in which it operates. The idea is that this gives each member access to the opinions of about that many of his or her peers.

In addition, talks by leading business thinkers are organised for some of the monthly meetings, while members can also have one-to-one meetings with their group chairmen.

Recent global expansion has increased international ties. Earlier this year, the first meeting of the national leaders of the committee was held in San Diego, California, and the follow-up took place in July in London.

"The monthly meetings make me step back and take a long, hard look at my business. That is very beneficial and, thanks to advice I have received from other members, I have been able to make considerable savings at Pinewood and develop my business into new areas of opportunity," Mr Blaskey said.

q For further information on the Executive Committee, contact Angela Wit on 0171-373 8686.