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Peer Networks provide real benefits to SMEs facing challenges Part 2

6 September 2021

Where – honestly – is the problem?

A lot of my group are on a journey of discovery in which they realise that actually they are the problem.  They acknowledge this in private.  The problem is normally their own personal style, or it could be their personal capacity or competence.  This manifests itself in language like ‘why can’t I get people to do what I want them to do?’ ‘why don’t my managers and staff have the same believe in the business that I have?’

So there is this need for personal growth.  I think you can’t get business growth until you’ve got personal growth and that might just be simple recognition of the problem: I’ve got to do something about ME, in order to fix the business.  Frequently, this comes up in conversations around management, leadership, succession.

Step back to help the business grow

A very high proportion of these guys want to talk about exit.  Exit doesn’t necessarily mean selling the company.  It means that they want to take half a step back and enjoy the fruits of their labour.  I would suggest that of the three groups I’ve led so far, at least 50% wanted to discuss things like capacity building and management structure whereby they can reduce their personal commitment.

The reason there’s a bottleneck normally is because there are no systems and processes in the business.  If everything comes across the owner’s desk, and gets dealt with by them, the rest of the team are not going to be clear about what’s going on or what’s needed.

In that case I would start the conversation by looking at workflow and processes rather than strategy or leadership. It’s the processes that cause the structural and management style problems.

Then the realisation comes that the owner/manager hasn’t actually given their team a fair crack at managing the processes even though they might have capacity.  So, then we look at how they can relinquish some responsibility but still feel comfortable that the delegated work is being done as they’d want.  Sometimes that leads to taking on external people with the skills you need and/or training up the staff you already have.

Working towards a practical goal

The sessions we put on build up to the members of the group putting together a 90 day plan for their business.   In those 90 day plans I want to see some activity that’s of a highly tactical nature where they’re going to generate some marginal gains in terms of improvement in the business, improvement in the performance of the team and so on.  On top of this I want to see some strategic breakthroughs.  This plan is what they commit to going forward.

This is one of the most high-impact programmes I’ve seen and I’ve been involved in lots of them nationally and internationally.

The types of companies that have taken part in the Peer Network growth programme include professional services, architects, hauliers, importers and freight forwarder, a glazing company, an online recruitment company, and manufacturing companies. The upside of this is that none of them come with the question ‘how do I improve my product’.  Their issues are people, strategy, leadership management and processes. How do I know who I want to sell to, how do I improve my margins, how do I sell to large organisations?

Growth beyond your abilities

Some of my cohort have said to me how much they love the side of the business that develops new products and designs new accessories and if they could do that all day they’d be in absolute heaven.  And they say ‘what I’m not good at is running the business.’  That’s not untypical. Others tell me how much they love their core product or service but they struggle to make the hard decisions necessary to keep the business going.

Most of the people I work with didn’t start their business to make a load of money.  They saw an opportunity to make a new product or provide a new service and then one day they wake up and realise that they’ve got a £2m business and 20 staff and don’t really know what they’re doing.

This programme gives them the chance to reset, to reflect on where they are and get some clarity.  If they want to step back and just focus on product development – the part they love – they can do that if they get other professionals in to manage the business.  This will reduce their pain, increase the value of the business and their own net worth.  It sounds simple but when you’re caught up in your business, it doesn’t seem that way.  We try to give them that confidence and reaffirmation that they know what to do, they just have to do it.  The Peer Network programme is excellent in the way it gives Leicester’s business leaders confidence because that, of course, translates into a more productive and successful economy.

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