Biz Extra

Published: December 29, 2020 | Updated: December 30, 2020

“Take time to invest in you and your business – otherwise you are selling yourself short…”

By Andrew Diprose, editor

Chris Symons, CEO of BH Live, talks about his Vistage Peer Group experience with local Chair, David McDonald.

Tell me about your journey to your current role

BH Live is a large charitable and social enterprise in the cultural sector, operating leisure centres, theatres and gyms.

Ten years old, it includes the Bournemouth International Centre and the Pavilion Theatre.

As a founder member of GLL, based in London, the business grew from £2m to £350m in 27 years.

A career in itself, I was hungry for change and after completing a Senior Executive Programme at London Business School (LBS), my mind shifted to my own personal development and fresh challenges as the CEO of BH Live.

The move to Dorset was an opportunity for a lifestyle change, making best use of the area’s natural beauty that is the coastline and the New Forest.

Covid, and the challenges placed on the business as a result has impacted this dream; however, these challenges are really part and parcel of being a leader.

What initially spiked your interest in Vistage?

In three words …. Continual Professional Development.

The LBS programme – the Peer Group element in particular – emphasised that leadership development has to be continuous not piecemeal and it was the richness of that experience that fuelled my desire to recreate that locally.

Vistage offered this monthly Peer Group experience with the additional benefit of 1:1 coaching plus access to organised events, speakers, blogs and signposting to good articles and relevant practises.

Tell us a bit about your own experience of being a member of a Vistage Peer Group

I benefit massively from the Peer Group sessions.

The ability to step outside the day job is very important – even more so during Covid when everything is online.

As a leader, it is easy to get lost in the woods (working in your business rather than on it) so the clarity I get from discussing issues with like-minded leaders, gaining objective advice from different perspectives is highly valuable.

I really enjoy being part of the Group.

Giving is better than receiving and I am genuinely happy if I come out of a Vistage session and I’ve helped another Vistage Member – I really enjoy that.

Oh, and you, David, always ensure the sessions are fun!

What would you say to people who say they haven’t got the time?

To be frank, I think that’s complete nonsense – they are fooling themselves and putting their own notional ego before what’s best for them and for the business.

If you want to progress, then you make the time.

If I want to get fit, I create a new habit of regular exercise; if I want to learn a new language, I set time aside for regular lessons.

It really is time well spent.  I get tremendous value stepping back from what I do on a daily basis.

How would you describe the Group?

It’s consensual – but not sycophantic; we will offer challenge but in a positive and caring manner.

You might think it would create a clash of egos – but no, it’s completely the opposite.

It feels like a real team of peers with everyone there to help each other.

Very quickly, members realise that it is a safe environment and that they can be themselves to get more out of the discussions.

There are no competitors, suppliers or customers within the group – nothing is off the table.

What type of leader would you like to see join the Group?

Progressive and open-minded, looking to improve themselves, their business and their community.

I’d like them to feel self-confident enough to leave their preconceptions at the door, challenge and support in equal measure, and provide a genuine diversity of thought.

So what’s your pithy one liner as to why you would recommend Vistage to others?

You need to take time to invest in yourself and your business … otherwise you are selling yourself short.