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Monthly Business e-Tips Vol 1
Issue 10

Peer Support

n the Ipast two issues of Growing Possibilities, I discussed when and how to find help for your business. I hope it was useful. However, there is still one more aspect of help that deserves mention, your peers. As a business owner, it can be lonely at the top. You need to bounce ideas off someone. As leaders and visionaries, you don't want your employees to see you as indecisive. So whom can you talk to? Your family and friends are probably tired of hearing about your business and your problems. They might not understand. Who better to get some feedback or advice from than people who have been there?

There are many ways to get peer support. Evaluate which one fits your needs.

Types of peer options:

  • Mentor is a one-on-one relationship with an experienced professional. This person is someone you can call on for guidance, encouragement, specific information and introductions to help you achieve your goals.
  • Mastermind groups are composed of people you admire and who have accomplished similar goals. Napoleon Hill originated this concept in his book, Think and Grow Rich. It usually consists of about six professionals who provide strategic direction for each other. They meet several times a month to support each other's business goals.
  • CEO Dialog Groups are closed on-going communities. This model consists of a group of eight to 10 CEOs who meet on a monthly basis and discuss their current challenges. These groups are usually professionally facilitated to keep the group focused. These groups require confidentiality and are comprised of non-competing companies.
  • CEO Roundtables are usually programs focused on specific topics. CEOs get together around a presentation and discussion of a business or industry issue. Professional associations offer these types of programs.
  • R&D Team is a large, loosely assembled group of people from varied backgrounds. Unlike the other models, this one is formed for the benefit of only one business. This style group is developed for brainstorming sessions, testing new products or marketing materials. The group is generally large so that members can respond only to issues that interest them. Often discussions occur via conference calls or e-mail.
  • Board of Advisors is a formal group hand picked by CEOs for advice. By putting together a team of business leaders that have strengths and experience in areas that you want to take your company, it helps you grow faster. Board members are usually paid for their role and listed on your Web site. Recognized names add credibility to your business. Members meet quarterly, semi-annually or as needed to provide both advice on strategic direction and to facilitate important connections to move your business forward.

Once you decide which type of program best meets your needs, carefully select the participants. The combination of members can greatly affect the value of the group. It is probably good for members to meet informally before formalizing to make sure there is a good mix of people.

The following are elements of successful groups:

  • Commitment is critical to the success of the group. If members show up only occasionally, the dynamics of the group will be negatively affected.
  • Clear objectives ensure participants are on the same page. Write out the purpose and goals of the group. As the group progresses, make sure changes in direction are agreed on and documented.
  • Leadership is necessary. If the group does not have an outside facilitator or organizer, then select someone within the group to assume the role. Often the leadership can be rotated. A group of high-powered individuals needs a leader who is strong and tends to the needs of the group.
  • Trust is important and essential to establish a secure environment so the group can be open and honest. Request confidentiality among members and avoid competing companies.
  • Synergy is important among members to understand issues and provide relevant contributions.
  • Diversity provides more stimulating sessions. Without some variety in the group make up, the perspective will be narrow. A percentage of members should be from companies that will add a different point of view on issues presented.

Whichever format you select, check occasionally to see if it is working for all participants. Remember, your peers are great resources so take advantage of them, build a small community and learn from each other's successes and failures. It is so simple, yet very beneficial.

If you are a CEO or senior executive, Possibilities@Work is launching a new CEO group at the end of October. Read what participants say about their experience by clicking here.

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