It is widely recognized that peer group and peer networking support is often the first port of call for business owners facing similar challenges.
As companies navigate through the ongoing pandemic, including a third national lockdown, and address issues arising from the EU exit, peer networking can help them find help and factual support and advice.
In 2021, peer networking can create a sense of community no matter what industry or industry you are in. However, it also helps business owners realize that they are not alone with the obstacles they face on a daily basis.
With the help of like-minded people, they can gain valuable insights that lead to everyday solutions for growing their business.
That is why Peer Networks is working with SMB business owners across England to put them in a stronger position for future growth.
> See also: How peer support helps me and my company
What do the experts say about peer networks?
Isla Wilson is a director at Ruby Star Associates and a peer networks host for Greater Manchester.
She says: “It is really valuable to share experiences with others and to gain insights that every member can apply to themselves and their company and see concrete benefits.
“While some participants entered peer networks to investigate a specific challenge, they also received insights and support on a broader range of topics for their company and also critically on a personal level.
“They also found that peer networks' action learning approach is different from other programs. Our group agreed to some basic rules that included "no selling". Coupled with the agreed confidentiality, participants were able to open up and discuss a number of topics that they may not be able to address to other groups. "
Sarah Underwood is Professor of Entrepreneurship at Leeds University Business School and Peer Networks Facilitator from the Leeds City LEP.
Speaking of Peer Networks, she says, “One of the great things about running the Peer Networks program was giving companies the opportunity to unite in a space where they can be open about that they don't always have the answers they do should conduct their business.
"It was a great opportunity for her to take some of the stress out and be open about how stressful it has been the past few months. The feeling of shared understanding across the group helped create a business owner who hadn't been before there was to give a degree of resilience. "
Learn more about the benefits of peer networks from Sarah here
How does it fit in with the national image?
Peer Networks also ties in with the government's Better Back Down campaign, which draws attention to an economy that works for all and ensures companies are aware of the tools available to them to help them through the pandemic and ultimately to get back on your feet.
What is the evidence that points to peer support?
Peer Networks was developed on the basis of evidence that entrepreneurs often prefer to seek advice from other companies.
The 2019 Company Productivity Review found that companies that use formal management practices, including learning from other companies, are more likely to generate higher sales, employment levels, and productivity growth.
There is also a broad base of evidence to suggest that companies that seek outside advice or complete formal training are more likely to improve their overall business performance.
In addition, there is strong evidence of the importance of entrepreneurs learning from their peers, especially in their region.
Peer networks are an essential part of trustworthy advice. They help companies navigate multiple phases of the business change cycle, can be accessed again and again by companies, and through structured conversations they can focus on supporting the specific problems business owners face.
What has peer support research led to?
Building on these findings, the Department of Corporate, Energy and Industrial Strategy has committed itself to strengthening local peer-to-peer networks.
SMB entrepreneurs across the country are now gathering in small peer networking groups to learn from one another about key challenges and opportunities such as EU transition and to recover from the effects of Covid-19, HR, technology, finance and marketing .
The Aspen Peer Network is in the middle of its meetings with business owners who are already seeing tangible benefits.
As one business owner described his experience, "It's like having my own group of additional non-executive directors so that those with direct knowledge can make valuable comments about my business that I have found to be invaluable."
How do I register with Peer Networks and is there one near me?
There are peer networks across England, set up locally by the Network of Growth Hubs and supported by their Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
Fill out the inquiry form in under three minutes to learn more about your local growth hub. Companies can join groups until January 31, and Peer Networks will hold meetings until March 31, 2021.
To learn more about Peer Networks or to register today, please click here.
Your Guide to Peer Networking