I was recently in a meeting with about 40 other business owners who were sharing their experiences in their specific industries. One of the participants noted, “if it wasn’t for my Vistage group, I would have been out of business three times.” I was thrilled to hear him say that, because I believe every business owner should be in some sort of peer-to-peer group. I have been in Convene, a similar peer-to-peer group, since 2006 and also in an accounting practice management group with our RAN One affiliation since 2009.
Through my experience of advising businesses for more than 20 years, I have recognized that most of the executives leading small and middle market companies are on an island. In most cases they lack the time, resources and networks of help to properly run, grow and manage a business. This is where peer-to-peer groups can become invaluable.
The concept of a peer-to-peer group is to gather CEOs from complementary businesses in a small group. The group, typically 10-15 CEOs, meets for an entire day each month. There is usually a chairperson who is well-seasoned in business and enjoys coaching and mentoring others. In addition to the monthly group meetings, the chairperson will meet one-on-one with each CEO on a monthly basis for about two hours to offer individual coaching. During the one-on-one meetings, your chairperson dives into the critical issues in your business that you need help with. These issues could be related to human resources, finance, marketing, ownership, or even personal issues (if you bring them up). Over time, you build a solid relationship with someone whom you trust and has your best interests at hand.
The monthly day-long group meetings are segmented into three parts. The first is a learning component where the entire group works on an assignment which could be related to marketing, key performance indicators, compensation structures, etc. The second is a business overview presentation by the member who is hosting the meeting that month. In my Convene group, and Vistage as well, whichever member is hosting is required to give the group an overview of their business. In that overview you present your business plan, financial performance, projections, and anything critical to your business. The entire group takes the time to review your presentation and materials and offers you feedback on what you can do to achieve your goals. The third and last part of the day is usually set aside for round table issues. A round table issue is something that a member brings to the group that they need help with – typically related to business. The format is such that you share your issue, why it is important, and what type of help you are seeking. The group then takes 30-45 minutes to dissect the issue and provide you with feedback. One of the best parts about a round table issue is that 12 people usually have 12 ways of solving a problem, so you walk away from the round table with thorough advice you can immediately act on. These monthly meetings, as with your one-on-one meeting with your chairperson, are kept confidential. The confidentiality creates a very safe space where people share openly and receive a great deal of guidance.
Here are some of the additional benefits that I have found in peer-to-peer CEO groups:
- You forge deep relationships with other business executives that are wired like you.
- During the monthly business presentations, the specifics that the other businesses are focusing on are most likely the same things you are focusing on. You can gleam insight from each other. Even if it is not your month to present, you can still pick up strategies that you can apply to your business.
- Most of the round tables issues that come up are issues that we all have from time to time. The advice given can be applied across many situations.
- You get to help others succeed. I believe that most CEO’s are wired to help others succeed and this is just another way to give back.
- Peer-to-peer groups offer a level of accountability. When you share your business plans, financials and business concerns, your chairperson follows up with you on a monthly basis to see how you are progressing, and the others members check in with you as well on your progress.
If you have not been involved in a peer-to-peer CEO group, now may be the time to consider it. It is proven that peer-to-peer group member companies in the United States have approximately 15% higher growth than companies that don’t participate in peer-to-peer groups. If you would like to know more about peer-to-peer groups, let me know and I will share what I have learned with you.