It is widely accepted that support from peer groups and peer networking is often the first port of call for business owners facing similar challenges.
As businesses navigate the ongoing pandemic including a third national lockdown and deal with issues arising from exiting the EU, they can find help and no-nonsense support and advice through peer networking.
In 2021 peer networking can create a feeling of community no matter what industry or sector you are in, but it also helps business owners realise that they are not alone in the obstacles they face on a day-to-day basis.
With the help of like-minded peers, they can gain valuable insights leading to day to day solutions to help grow their business.
Which is why Peer Networks is working with SME business owners across England to help place them in a stronger position for future growth.
What are the experts saying about Peer Networks?
Isla Wilson is a director at Ruby Star Associates and a Peer Networks facilitator for Greater Manchester.
She says: “There is real value in sharing experiences with others and drawing out learning which each member can apply to themselves and their business and see tangible benefits.
“Whilst some participants entered Peer Networks to explore a specific challenge, they have also gained insights and support on a wider range of topics for their business and, critically, at a personal level too.
“They have also found that Peer Networks’ action Learning method is different to other programmes. Our group agreed some ground rules, which included ‘no selling’ – this, combined with the agreed confidentiality, has enabled the participants to open up and have the space to raise and discuss a range of topics which they may not be able to raise in other groups.”
Sarah Underwood is a professor of entrepreneurial practice at Leeds University Business School and a Peer Networks facilitator from the Leeds City region LEP.
Speaking about Peer Networks, she says: “One of the great things about running the Peer Networks programme has been to allow businesses the opportunity to come together in a space where they can be open about the fact that they don’t always have the answers to how they should be running their businesses.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity for them to be able to relieve some of the burden and be open about how stressful it’s been over the last few months. The sense of shared understanding across the group has helped add a level of resilience to a business owner that wasn’t there before.”
Hear more about the benefits of Peer Networks from Sarah here
How does it fit in with the national picture?
Peer Networks also links in with the government’s ‘build back better’ campaign, pointing towards an economy which works for everyone and ensuring businesses are aware of the tools at their disposal to support them through the pandemic and ultimately bounce back.
What is the evidence that points to peer support?
Peer Networks has been developed based on evidence shown that business owners often prefer to take advice from other businesses.
The 2019 Business Productivity Review found that those businesses that adopt formal management practices, including through learning from other businesses, are more likely to achieve higher turnover, employment levels and productivity growth.
There is also a broad base of evidence that suggests that businesses that seek external advice or undertake formal training are more likely to improve their overall business performance.
In addition, there is robust evidence that demonstrates the importance of business owners learning from peers, particularly in their local area.
Peer networks are integral for trusted advice. They help businesses navigate multiple stages in the business change cycle, can be called on by businesses time and again, and through structured conversations they can be focused to support the specific issues faced by business owners.
What has the research into peer support led to?
Building on these findings, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has committed to strengthen local peer-to-peer networks.
Up and down the country, SME business owners are now coming together in small peer networking groups to learn from each other on important challenges and opportunities such as EU transition, recovering from the impacts of Covid-19, HR, tech, finance and marketing.
The Aspen Peer Network is halfway through its sessions with business owners already seeing tangible benefits.
Describing his experience, one business owner said: “It’s like having my own group of extra non-executive directors so those with actual direct knowledge that can make valuable comments on my business which I have found invaluable.”
How do I sign up to Peer Networks and is there one in my local area?
There are Peer Networks all over England and they are being set up locally by the network of Growth Hubs and supported by their Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
Complete the enquiry form in less than three minutes to find out more from your local Growth Hub. Businesses can join groups until January 31 and Peer Networks will run sessions until 31 March 2021.
To find out more about Peer Networks, or to register today, please go here.