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PEER NETWORK Programme benefits business leaders in so many ways #1

31 August 2021

John Collier is the Peer Network group leader for the Growth cohort.  He shares some common issues that regularly arise in this group, and talks to the Business Gateway’s Peter Allen about how to move SMEs forward by encouraging leaders to make those difficult decisions.

I’ve been absolutely floored by the impact that this programme has had on small businesses.  I think doing it online has actually made it better.  Some people are not confident in a room full of their peers so being online gives them that freedom.  More importantly, it’s helped people be open and honest much earlier in the programme so we’re getting value much more quickly than we would face to face.

Valuable experience from different sectors

I personally believe you get greater value by having a broad church in your Peer Network group rather than a sector specific one.  By having a mix of owner managers from different sectors, you get a richer mix and a better transfer of knowledge and experience.  Usually around the virtual table of a Peer Network there’s 250 years of business scar tissue. It’s not a business school, putting out theories, it’s highly pragmatic, highly practical and it’s based on the pain that people have gone through personally.

We’re dealing with people who may not have lots of degrees to their name, but they have been successful in their own right in the real world and that’s a very positive thing.

Time away from the fire fighting  

One of the biggest benefits is time out.  Time away from the fire fighting and hassle, time away from people issues and the bank.  It’s three hours a month away from their desk and every single one of these people knows intuitively that they need to spend more time on their business rather than in their business.  They know that, but they can never ever force themselves to take that time.  They think of it as a luxury because there’s always another fire to put out.

Time out, listening, talking and engaging with like-minded fellow entrepreneurs who have got very similar problems, is one of the most valuable things they will get from the Peer Network.  This always comes as a surprise to the people taking part; they live in the bubble of their business and haven’t got anybody to share their problems or thoughts with.  So when they get that opportunity, boom, out it comes.  They share with other people and it’s cathartic.  That’s one of the really important aspects of this programme.

You already know what you need to do 

Another feature which is consistent with everyone who takes part, is that most of these guys know what they should be doing.  They know deep down.  But for a number of reasons – confidence, commitment, being held to account, – they’re just not doing it.  So part of what I do is hold their feet to the grate.

If they say they’ve got a problem with a member of staff, we’ll say to them ‘when we come back in a month’s time, I want you to update me on what you’ve done about it.’  It’s that holding to account – that ‘just do it’ – that’s what many of them need.  There’s a place for coaching and there’s a time when they just need to be told.  Sometimes it’s about giving and receiving some hard messages.

Do the right thing

I also encourage my networks to look more deeply into what people are saying their issues are because often the cause is not what they’re saying it is.  Then I get the group to do the ‘if I were you’ answers or ask the question ‘why haven’t you…?’  They know what to do, they just haven’t done it and they need peers to legitimise their gut instinct.  If an employee has been a thorn in your side for three years, just fix it.  This peer support is really important and so valuable to them.

Part 2 coming

If you would like to join John’s Peer Network group, just apply here.