One of the most valuable things that I’ve ever done is participating in several peer-to-peer groups during my business career. A peer-to-peer group is one where a group of business owners get together and discuss, comment on and help other members of the group make their businesses better.
There are organizations who help put together these groups with a very formalized structure. I’ll talk about them in a different post. This post is about how to put together your own group and what are the important things to do.
Here are the things I think are important in putting together a peer-to-peer group:
- Everything that happens in the group must stay in the group. Confidentiality is likely the most important thing that any group must have. Without confidentiality you can’t discuss things that are important.
- Keep the group membership to be between 7 and 12 members. It’s important that everyone in the group have time to speak. My favorite group of all time was one called the Mountain Group. The host of the group rotated and the host was responsible for the agenda and a presentation of their business.
- Meeting attendance is mandatory. If your members show up when they want to show up it won’t take before the group becomes a second thought for its participants. Commitment to the group through attendance is one of the keys for a group’s success.
- Don’t allow personal attacks in the group. A good group will have frank and honest discussions about strategies members take. Frank and honest is great. Personal attacks are terrible and will destroy the group.
- Keep the group informal. Our group had only pizza and beer for the first seven or eight years of it’s existence. Eventually we got more formal with the food we served, but the early members liked pizza and beer the best.
- Allow at least four hours for the meeting and meet once a month. It takes time for people to open up. You also need to have regular meetings for people to be willing to trust others in the group.
- Have people from different industries in your group. There are many groups that only have members from the same industry. I’ve found groups I’ve been in from different industries are more valuable. You’ll get feedback from a different point of view when you include members in your group who are not in the same industry.
The easiest way to start is to find two people you like and would enjoy being in a group with. Get together with these two people and if everyone is interested each invite two other people to come to an organizational meeting. You now have nine original members and after a meeting you can decide if you want to meet again.
The Mountain Group started this way and our group lasted for over twenty years. You never know how long your group will last. I do think that if you try it you’ll find you get great value.