The Peer Advantage
I read a book several years ago called The Go-Giver. It was part of our initiation into a peer group that we are still an active part of. The premise of the book is that it’s hard to give too much in terms of time, talent and energy, and that when you give, the profits will follow. I’ve found this to be a true principle, and as with all truth, it transcends business into personal life where the “profit” or rewards, are deep, meaningful relationships.
A peer group is typically a group of companies running a similar type of business, in non-competing markets. For us, our peer group consists of over 300 similar companies, broken into small groups of 10 or so companies in non-competing spaces. The concept for this group is based on the Go-Giver book. In this group we are open and honest with our finances, marketing and pricing strategies and give freely of our time and talents to help build other companies. As an overall group (300+ companies), we share financial benchmarks and participate in an active discussion board. As a small group (10 companies), we make a commitment to help them grow by holding them accountable (turns out that most small businesses owners fail at execution…), but also by injecting support into their businesses.
I have a hundred examples of this, but will point out one. In our small group there was an IT company in California that was struggling with high turnover and a toxic work culture that was quickly destroying the company. After a lengthy group discussion, about half of our group got on a plane and spent 2 days onsite with this struggling team for a deep-dive. There were no dollars or invoices exchanged as part of this work, just the quiet assurance that we are all in this together. At the end of the onsite visit, the owner had a new direction that can only be gained from a 3rd party perspective. That was over two years ago. Today that company is alive and doing well.
The point here is that running a business can be scary and lonely. Often we set benchmarks and goals without the benefit of knowing that these goals will actually lead to success. In a healthy peer group environment, the support system is amazing and can make the difference between owning a job, and owning a business. I’d love to hear back from those of you that have had experiences with peer groups (good or bad), and any advise that you have to share about being a better peer yourself.