You own and manage your own business. It’s a massive part of your life. Whenever you’re socialising and meeting new people, you may tell them that you have your own business. I suspect their usual reaction is one of being impressed. You are seen as the entrepreneur, a leader, a person in charge of their work life. Almost always your audience will think you are richer than you really are and that you’ve got everything sorted. This is especially the case if they are employees. They may feel some jealousy of your status.
But do you resemble a Swan?
The Swan Metaphor: Graceful On Top, Frantic Underneath
The Swan has graceful moves on top of the water but underneath its all activity and lots of hard work paddling trying to stay afloat!
Those people aspiring to be the business owner don’t know what’s happening in your world and are unaware of all that hard work you are doing under the surface. They think you know everything and have all the answers….if only they knew!
Pause at this point.
If you are that graceful Swan and have it all sorted, then stop here. Don’t read on.
Alternatively, if you feel you can admit that it’s not all sorted, even just to yourself, then keep reading.
I meet and work with loads of business owners. I’m one myself. I know it can be a tough job owning and running a business. Getting sales, doing the operations, managing people and running the business. Having people to help you manage some of those jobs really helps.
But at the end of the day, its all down to you. There’s no one to tell you off and I bet none of your staff will correct you when you do something wrong. You might appreciate the saying that “its lonely at the top”.
Do You Have A Strong Support Network?
We all find ways to reduce that lonely, isolated feeling. We talk to our partners at home, talk to a trusted friend or professional advisor, maybe talk to some of our most trusted staff. I haven’t met many that do that last option though!
Equally there’s a whole bunch of organisations out there offering support to business owners. Finding your way through the many links and networks can be a challenge in itself. Many of those organisations focus on networking and business generation. Once you get past the people who just want to sell to you, there are some great folk you can start to build a working relationship with. They can become really great business supporters.
But do you want to go through those early mornings, bringing referrals and practicing your sales pitch?
Other business owners can be a great source of support, learning and most importantly: accountability. Your peers. Your equals.
I’ll share my experience.
I have a bunch of people I am in regular contact with about how I can improve my business and achieve what I want from it. There’s:
- Leanne, who suggests how I should market myself;
- Paul, who helps me find my inner salesman;
- Claire, my accountant, who advises me about tax and accounting that I faintly remember from a distant past;
- Debbie, my wife, who keeps me straight on my goals and objectives.
They are part of my business support network. You may have a similar network?
But if you feel you don’t have that support network, then let me share an alternative with you…it’s called a Peer Group.
What’s A Peer Group?
It does what it says on the tin. A group of peers, in this case, business owners, who offer peer support to each other. Naturally, it has to run in a trusting, confidential environment and follow some processes to make it work properly. That structure and guidance is provided by an independent chair.
But do these groups work?
I co-chair a group with Paul (the sales expert I mentioned above) and the dynamic of an accountant-type (me) and Paul works a treat. Members get double the advice and support, sometimes from different experiences and points of view. I spoke to a couple of members from our group and they shared some words of wisdom about what the Peer Group means to them:
‘The Peer Group has been an eye opener. All too often, stuck in the thick of business and trying to make things work with multiple personalities and many other issues, there just doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. Internal issues of all types can’t be discussed easily. I have found the open forum a breath of fresh air.’
‘A forum where you are able to express some very serious issues about the business. In return receiving great advice and support from other like-minded and equally troubled individuals. You are not alone.’
I have also spoken to people who run large networks of Peer Groups, who claim:
- 61% of members report an increase in net profit;
- 56% of members report an increase in sales;
- 60% of members report an increase in productivity.
Some of these things are hard to measure so I’m always sceptical.
But from my own experience a Peer Group offers me ideas I didn’t think of or reassurance that I am on the right tracks. Most importantly I can’t let my peers down and ignore their advice. Their support makes me take action on my business. I am truly accountable to people who want me to succeed.
How Do Peer Groups Work?
So, what happens in a group?
We have monthly, half day meetings where:
- Members are held to account on their goals and previously agreed actions;
- A couple of members are given in-depth advice and support on an issue or opportunity they are facing;
- Members learn a subject that will help their business.
The meetings are held off-site in a confidential and relaxed environment. And there is a follow up coaching call with the two co-chairs to help the members achieve their actions.
You may have heard of Vistage or TAB. These are franchise Peer Groups that came over to the UK from the US. They do some great work for business owners. You may have been to a taster event to experience what it is all about.
Experience A Peer Group
Words in sentences can’t fully explain the atmosphere in a group meeting and the support members receive. It’s one of those things you have to experience.
If you can relate to Swan metaphor I’d like to invite you to experience a Peer Group at one of our taster sessions on the following dates:
- Thursday 13 February in Wakefield;
- Thursday 20 February in Leeds;
- Tuesday 10 March in Wakefield.
Register your interest and find out more about our Peer Groups here
Did I say I bring along my own homemade cake to each taster. A double taster!
To taste both my homemade cake and a Peer Group, click here and I’ll call you to explain more.