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If you are running a business, you need people to guide you, exchanges ideas with and help overcome unique business challenges. In this episode of the Better Business Podcast, Randy Tucker shares what a business peer group is and how it can help your business.
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Interviewer: In business, it’s important to have people you can go to for questions and to help you overcome challenges in your business. What we’re going to talk about with Randy today is the benefits of a business peer group. We’re going to talk about what it is and how it can actually help you in your business.
What is a Business Peer Group
Interviewer: So, Randy, before we get into some of the specifics about how a business peer group actually operates, can you share with the listener what a business peer group actually is? Give us a quick overview.
Randy: Sure. A business peer group is a meeting, normally of two, three, a dozen business leaders, executives, owners, etc. They get together and discuss business issues that they have challenges with and how some of the other peers might have handled those types of things. We sometimes need help to determine a solution to some of the issues we deal with.
How Does a Peer Group Benefit its Members
Interviewer: Why don’t you provide an example from some of the groups that you’ve been a part of and that you’ve organized? What’s an example challenge that a member may have had that they were able to overcome with that group?
Randy: There’s numerous challenges, as we all know, who are business leaders. The one that comes to mind most at this point is;
- A client that was in a group that had a hiring issue, an HR type of an issue.
- There was no HR specialist within the peer group, but there were six people in the group that had the experience of hiring and relieving people from their employment, etc.
- The other five members were helpful to that member to give them some ideas on how to do it properly and with respect and keep themselves in a positive manner.
Interviewer: Perfect. So, it sounds like really one of the benefits that the listener is going to get is to be able to have people that have been there before and help them get through some of those challenges.
How is a Business Peer Group Usually Structured
Interviewer: What is the typical flow of a peer group, in terms of how often you’re meeting, how long are you meeting? How is it typically structured to be a part of a peer group?
Randy: Well, different groups of individuals and business leaders have different schedules, but;
- A traditional business peer group will be twice a month and last for, probably, between one and two hours.
- You don’t want them too long, because you don’t want people burning out. They’ve worked a full day, etc, and they’re not necessarily into challenging themselves.
The benefit of the group is to do challenging exercises to help one another develop skills and handle issues that you’re dealing with on a regular basis.
So, in summary, a business peer group, the ones that get started, are;
- Typically twice a month, and they’re normally after hours or in the morning, not during the normal business day.
- They’ll last usually about three months. That’s kind of a beginning group.
- That helps the group form a nice solid foundation, the people in the group to develop a relationship, and then the group itself determines how it transforms from that point forward.
So, it can be three months to years, depends on the group of people.
Interviewer: So, what you’re saying is that if it’s a new group that’s forming, you kind of set an agenda of some sort for three months, and then you figure out the next steps at that point? Or is it something that you would just join for a three month period, and then be done with?
Randy: That’s kind of up to you, of course. Our hope is that you’ll find the value, as a business person, you’ll find the value in having that peer interaction.
- Many of the peers end up talking on a much more frequent basis than just the meetings.
- We do set an agenda because a lot of times, when you get half a dozen to a dozen business people together, it’s kind of a go all directions. But, we try to structure that first six sessions.
- Then, we encourage the group towards the end of those six sessions. We encourage the group to develop the ongoing agenda for the meetings, as they go forward.
How to Determine Which Peer Group to Join
Interviewer: So, you mentioned getting value out of the group. How do you go about gauging the value of a group that you’re considering joining? For example, if there’s a list of members, or they have a conversation with somebody within the group, what are some of the things that a listener listening today should look for when they’re evaluating which particular groups to join, that they can get value out of?
Randy: Well, you want to look at the size of the group.
Size of the group – There are small groups, and there are large groups. I personally believe that half a dozen people is a good size group. When you start to grow beyond that, they get a little too large. You can’t get your questions answered appropriately, because it becomes large conversations. So,
- I would say a small group, six to 12 people should be the maximum.
Business specialty of group members – You want to know who the group members are, maybe not by name, but what is their business specialty? What do they do in their organization? Because you want to have a varied group of people. To have six accountants together is going to be able to solve accounting problems, but those problems that don’t need accountants, that maybe somebody comes in and says, “I’m an integrated circuit manufacturer.” Five other accountants aren’t necessarily going to be able to help too much. So, we try to;
- Make sure that the group is a good mix of business models so that you can share in other specialties and get input that you wouldn’t get from necessarily someone in the same business.
What Are Some Of The Hidden Benefits Of Being In A Peer Group
Interviewer: So, certain listeners may be thinking that they have a really good work flow right now, and they’re very disciplined, in terms of how they set goals and how they attack their plans for the quarter or their plans for the year. They may be thinking, “What is the benefit that I’m going to be able to get from this group, if I already have my ducks in a row and my stuff together?” Can you explain some of the softer and more intangible benefits, maybe inspiration and motivation and things like that, that a group can provide that an individual person cannot just create out of thin air on their own?
Randy: Well, I guess the largest benefit is you get the vision of other people that may be able to take you out of your well-planned plan. Another name for that sometimes is a ‘rut’.
- Maybe you’re in a business rut that you think is wonderful. It’s real structured, but maybe your team members and others in the organization don’t think so well that your plan is so great.
- A lot of times, you can get that extra little input that will take you into an area that will really cause your team to grow and give you ideas on how to create internal spiffs, maybe customer spiffs.
For instance; maybe you’re not a marketing wizard. Someone else in the group might be a marketing wizard. You can get ideas of things to implement that can help your business grow.
Interviewer: Perfect. So, it definitely sounds like there’s a lot of value that listeners can get out of being part of a business peer group.
Summary and Next Actions
Interviewer: To summarize, some of the things that listeners can do moving forward is,
First of all, consider joining a business peer group – There’s a lot of value that you can get out of it. One of the things that Randy mentioned was the experience of others.
- Having a diverse group of experienced business owners can really help you look at different business challenges you’re facing in a different way, to overcome those.
A second thing that Randy talked about was getting inspiration from others – Being able to hear the stories of what other people are doing in their business and how they’re pursuing some of their challenges can help you get inspiration that you wouldn’t normally be able to get on your own.
Then, the third thing that we talked about as well is, when you’re out looking for different business peer groups to join and evaluating the quality of those groups, look for a couple specific things that Randy mentioned.
- First of all, the size of the group. You want to make sure that it’s a reasonably small group so that everybody’s going to be able to be involved.
- You also want to look at the experience of the actual members and what everybody brings to the table, so that you can make sure that it’s going to be a high caliber group that’s going to provide a lot of value to you in your business.
As a next action, consider contacting Randy to join an existing peer group for a preview session. Randy can talk through with you what type of group would be best for you, what existing groups are that may have some openings, and get you involved in a preview session so that you can actually see an existing group in action. The website to visit is Betterbusinesspodcast.com. Once again, that’s Betterbusinesspodcast.com.
Thank you very much for your time today, Randy.
Randy: Thanks, Jon.[Image: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1279618]