Business leader peer networks have been around for a few hundred years

MD2MD is unique. No other organisation has quite our focus on building a peer network of business leaders there to support and challenge each other.

There are though other organisations who do similar things. Naturally we believe our approach is the best and if you’re a qualifying business leader we invite you to take up the opportunity of a free trial membership of MD2MD to help you decide.

If you want to try something else, here’s a fairly comprehensive list of alternatives below for you to choose from. There are many differences that set these groups apart from one another.

And some Managing Directors prefer to work one to one with an individual who can assist them through a variety of different relationships so look too at the possibility of using a Business Coach, a Business Mentor, a Consultant or a Non Executive Director.

MD2MD hasn’t achieved world domination yet – we’re working on it! We welcome members online from around the world.  Most, but not all, of our members live and work in the UK and our In-Person meetings take place across England.

Midlands Leadership Groups

These group run by Jay Hale and Colin Perry operates in the industrial heartland of England North of Birmingham between the the beautiful Border counties and the Peak District and draws members from Shropshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire? and the West Midlands.

There is more detail about the MD2MD peer networks run by Jay and Colin in the North / West Midlands available here

Academy for Business Leaders

This group, run by Peter Lynagh, draws its members from West London with influences from Heathrow and the BBC, Distribution, Media together with high value-add manufacturing, and not forgetting the millions that commute to Central London.

Executive Foundation

This group run by Mike Wilshire serves the new white collar industries around the beauty of Bath, the trading traditions of Bristol and the Tourism and Agriculture of the South-West.

Yorkshire Leadership Group

This group run by Denis Kaye is based in the traditional manufacturing heartland of steel and mills to which has been added Public and Financial Services and all within beautiful countryside.


Formed in 1957, Vistage is a large global organisation which brings together CEOs, owners and Managing Directors into private advisory groups to share ideas and educate each other.  Meetings take place once a month, chaired by accomplish leaders who facilitate, coach and drive success of participants.

Group meetings are followed up by one-on-one leadership and business coaching by expert speakers and access to a broad database of members online.

The Academy for Chief Executives

The Academy for Chief Executives is a business-mentoring organisation which formed in the 1990s and assembles business leaders to share their experience and expertise.  A spin-off from global giant Vistage, the Academy is a UK-based company which aims to improve the business performance of its members.


Footdown is an Organisational Management Consultancy who specialise in internal communications: revolutionising a company’s culture and employee engagement.  Promotion of a HPW – High Performance Workplace – is key to their strategy with improvements of a workplace delivering considerably better company results.

Key competences include setting up conversations, consultation on creating a business culture, and business coaching and mentoring.

Ella Forums

Ella Forums – formed in the 1990s – includes talks from business leaders and confidential discussion about issues and solutions in an understanding and helpful environment.  There are meetings once each months as well as one-on-one coaching with the chair of the meeting to solve company-specific issues.

Monthly evaluations are also provided to examine impact on actual company performance and ensure that clients and members getting the best value for money.

Ella is a forum used frequently by charities and NGOs.

In the past I have described myself as a coach, a mentor, an advisor a consultant and a non executive director.  This content is intended to set out the difference between these roles. The descriptions I use are those I believe to be the most commonly used, but I do recognise the boundaries are blurred and in some cases (eg Coach and Mentor) I have heard people passionately explaining the titles as having exactly the mirror image meanings to those I describe here.  The titles aren’t important; it’s the role clarity that is important.  Think clearly about exactly what support you need and discuss it with your supplier whatever title you and your supplier choose to give it.


A coach is someone who is expert at asking great questions that draws out of you what is already in your brain.  Quite often a great coach is professionally trained either in coaching or Psychology and may be accredited, although I would add many great coaches are not.  Two of the best coaches I know are simply business leaders who have great skill in asking the very tough questions that put you on the spot. And that’s where the value comes from.  Getting you to face up to something you are subconsciously avoiding. (By the way one of those two Gareth Chick is a MD2MD speaker – He’s more a coach mentor by my definitions but see more here)

The key thing with coaching is though that the pure coach NEVER contributes their own ideas and opinions.  With accredited coaches that is a clear No No from the training. And that is very logical.  A great coach may know nothing (really) about business. They may be a highly qualified psychologist who has never lead a business or even a team or any significance.  So they can’t give advice (or answers) based on their own experience.  But they ask can brilliant questions based on their understanding of your psychology. As a result many pure coaches are from a HR type background.

And to clarify by contrasts, the poor coach, in my eyes is someone who doesn’t stick to asking questions and does, like the bar room advocate, give their opinion and advice, but does so without having actually walked in your shoes – without having actually run a business themselves and understood the unique challenges of that position. Anyone can pontificate about ‘what one should do’ in theory.

If you are a business leader looking for like a coach or mentor or some combination, I’d be pleased to help either myself or by introducing you to someone more suitable.  Please check out my recommentations on LinkedIn and contact me there.


A mentor, by contrast, is someone who has been there and done it themselves.  They have walked in your shoes.  For the purposes of my business leader readers, they have run a business themselves and felt the pain of the challenges that brings. Their role is to contribute answers from experience.  “When I was faced with that situation I did this and this happened … and I’d recommend you do / don’t do as I did”

Clearly it is unlikely they have been in your exact position, but they have been in a similar situation sometimes many times and can share what they have learnt from experience.

And again to clarify by contrasts, the poor mentor is someone who hasn’t been there and done it, but still sells themselves as a mentor to business leaders.  As a believer in the importance of real world, practical experience I don’t believe someone who has never led a business themselves can really mentor a business leader on business leadership (but see my definition of advisor later).

And in this case I’d add a second description of a poor mentor.  And that is someone who has been there and done it.  They have run a business very successfully.  But they think there is only one formula for success – theirs!  I have seen and experienced that sort of mentor.  And the problem is their success makes them very confident that they know the answers that apply, even in a very different business, in a very different state ion a very different market.  So for me, if you are selecting a mentor, be very careful about someone who is too formulaic.  No two situations are identical and their experience needs to be broad enough to be able to explore and address the differences between situations.

If you are a business leader looking for like a coach or mentor or some combination, I’d be pleased to help either myself or by introducing you to someone more suitable.  Please check out my recommentations on LinkedIn and contact me there.

Coach Mentor or Mentor Coach

A “Coach mentor” or “Mentor coach” is what I, Bob Bradley, find most preferable.  I do have experience in running businesses – a few actually – and over the last ten years have worked with over a hundred Managing Directors in a vast range of businesses.  So I do have the experience to be a mentor.  But I am at the extreme end of being wary that my experience never exactly fits the situation my client is in, and indeed my beliefs, values and goals are not theirs.  So I also try hard to deploy the coaching ethic.  I cannot possibly know the right answer for you.  I’m not living in your shoes and I’m not you. Whilst I can and will offer an opinion as to what I would do “If I was in you shoes I would”, that isn’t the only answer and may not be the right answer for you.

If you are a business leader looking for like a coach or mentor or some combination, I’d be pleased to help either myself or by introducing you to someone more suitable.  Please check out my recommentations on LinkedIn and contact me there.

Which leads me nicely to Peer mentoring.  Which is, in my view and if done well, is simply the same principles as I’ve just described for Coach mentor applied by a group.  ie Instead of just one person understanding the situation and then giving their view form experience, it is many people.  Which has the great advantage of providing the recipient with a range of possible ‘If I was in your shoes’ … such that they can choose the shoes that fit them most comfortably – to extend the analogy a little.

And of course that is the most unique element of what MD2MD does … so if you are a business leader  interested in MD2MD click here to request free trial membership.


I have above implicitly criticised people that mentor business leaders without ever having run a proper business themselves.  I feel there are too many people who do so without the proper qualification of having been a business leader.  But that is not to suggest they don’t have a role they can play, and a very important one too.  For me their role should be as an advisor.  If someone has many years of experience in HR and really knows how to manage HR, then they can be invaluable to the business leader dealing with HR challenges.  Likewise the experienced Finance person, Marketing guru or Sales director, or even the experienced Managing Director.

I always said that as a business leader, I was a jack of all trades and a master of none – other than being the leader.  My HR director knew more than me about HR; my Finance director more than me about Finance etc, etc.  Whilst I know enough about each discipline to be able to understand their challenge and their advice, they were more expert than me in their field.  So all of them were great advisors, an indeed managers, of their speciality within my business and could equally provide such advice externally if they went independent.

So for me an advisor is someone who hasn’t necessarily run a business, but is expert in a specific field and can advise you as the business leader on their own speciality.  And that is a very important role too.


So what then is a consultant? “Someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time” is the old joke.  And there is an element of truth in that.  For me a consultant is someone who is good at managing the process of helping you to move your business from place A to place B and you are commissioning them to help you do that.  They are more than an advisor in that whilst they may be less expert in the detail of what you should do, they are more expert in providing services to help you get it done. Indeed they may not be much of an advisor; their expertise is in managing the process of getting you and your business to where you need to be.

So a marketing advisor will in my view, listen to what you say you want to do and give you expert advice on the merits of the alternative ways of achieving that outcome and help you decide which is the best way forward for you.  By contrast a marketing consultant will research the market for you, analyse the options, present them to you and help you to decide what to do and then if required put together and implement the plans to deliver the results.

Likewise a HR advisor can explain the merits of different ways of handling a people situation.  A HR consultant can guide you through the process, perhaps giving HR advice on the way, or maybe utilising a HR lawyer as an advisor.

Advisor and Consultant

As with the idea of a ‘Coach mentor’ the roles of advisor and consultant can be combined.  For me, as I said at the start, what is important is the clarity about what it is you are buying.  Are you buying expertise that can help you understand the merits of the different approaches such that you can make the right decision and get on with it yourself.  Or are you buying someone, possibly with less detailed expertise but who knows enough about the topic but who’s real value is in understanding and being able to manage the process of getting you to where you want to be.

To revert to the original metaphor.  The advisor will tell you the time.  The consultant will realise you need to use your watch, find it and then tell you what it says.

Non Executive Director

With the important exception of taking on the legal duties of a director, the value and purpose of a Non executive director can be any or all of the above – perhaps with one exception.  Again the critical thing for me is for the board to be clear what they are looking for when they make the decision to appoint. Sometimes the primary value of a non executive to a company is their contacts and network.  Sometimes they may bring specialist expertise and be an advisor.  Often they will be a mentor or coach to the Chief Executive / Managing Director.

The only exception is, I feel, that a Non executive cannot, as a Non executive, be a Consultant.  The consultant is a doer. Someone who’s role Is to manage a process of getting something done.  In managing that process they are working in an executive role. They are doing and responsible for getting done and not simply deciding. So whilst one person may hold two roles as Non executive and as a consultant, it is important to be clear about the distinction between the two.  As a consultant they are working for the Chief Executive and accountable to them.  As a non executive they are technically at least holding the Chief Executive to account on behalf of shareholders.

Most Non executives fall into two different camps.  Those that are there primarily to support the Chief Executive and guide them to ensure the company succeeds, and those that are there primarily to represent the shareholders and hold the Chief Executive to account for the success of the company. Clearly the interest of both is the success of the company and both have the legal duties to do what they need to do, but in my experience those challenges are usually approached from one or other of these two opposite directions.

Role clarity

The key question is that whatever the title be clear “What is it you really, really want from this role?” Be clear about whether you are looking for a coach, a mentor, an advisor or a consultant. Or an agreed combination.  And if it’s a Non executive director you are considering, what approach do you want them to use and are you expecting them to also contribute in one of the other roles?

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Footnote: Clearly no listing like this can ever be complete.  If you are involved with an organisation that you believe should be on this list and isn’t, please contact us at and provide us with some information to add to the list.