If not, why aren’t you in one?
I believe this is one of the most powerful ways you can use to make your business and life better. In my own life peer-to-peer groups have pushed me to make the most important business decision in my life. That was to sell my vending company and move into the financial services business.
First, a definition: A peer-to-peer group is one where you meet on a scheduled basis with others who are in the same or a similar situation as you. For example, one group might be business owners who are just starting. Another might be for seasoned business owners. These two groups have completely different problems and wouldn’t necessarily receive value from each other.
Some peer-to-peer organizations are professionally run. Some examples of this type of peer-to-peer group might be Young Presidents Association, Vistage, or Young Entrepreneurs Organization. These groups tend to be relatively formalized in how they operate and typically have fairly significant fees to join.
At the other end of the spectrum are ad hoc groups. I was a member of such a group that lasted for over twenty years. An ad hoc group would be a group of business owners in a similar situation who agree to get together on a regular basis to discuss things they each have an interest in.
Both the professionally run peer-to-peer and an ad hoc group would typically have members from different industries and businesses. I’ve always liked these groups because the members bring different experiences that are often of great value to other members of the group.
The third type of group is a study group. Sometimes these groups are often organized by trade associations or other affinity groups. Study groups typically are from the same industry. Study groups usually meet less often than a true peer-to-peer organization. For this reason I believe a study group is not as useful as a true peer-to-peer group that meets on a regular basis.
The real advantage in all of these groups is to get unvarnished feedback from your peers. In your own company you’re likely never to hear the truth. As much as we like to believe it our employees will shade what they say to us. In most organizations I’ve seen people edit what they say to the boss.
I’ve found that in peer groups that editing pretty much goes away. Since there is no downside for your peers to tell you what they really think you can get great feedback. Feedback you’re not likely to get from any paid advisor or from your employees.
If you’re lucky like I was your peer group can help you look at hard issues in your company that could just save your business life.
Are you involved in a peer-to-peer group? If not, what’s preventing you from getting involved in one today?
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