As a small to medium sized business owner, engaging with a network of trusted peers to talk about and find solutions for opportunities and challenges can be an extremely valuable experience.
Gaining practical insights as a result of support others who are in a similar position can help guide the business in the right direction and position them to take advantage of future growth.
Whether an SME business is assessing new market opportunities or facing challenges around product development, HR, tech, finance or marketing, peer support can give business owners the opportunity to share those issues in a collaborative environment often leading to highly impactful solutions that reflect on valuable feedback from their peers.
Peer Networks has been developed to create a trusted and powerful virtual support network for SMEs to work together in small groups so they can strengthen their own knowledge and improve the overall performance of their business.
Backed by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Peer Networks is being delivered locally in England by Growth Hubs with the support of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) network.
Kirsti Grayson (below), director of Go Velo, a Bikeability provider offering cycle training and bike maintenance to children and adults across Lancashire, registered for Peer Networks after it was recommended to her and she is already seeing benefits.
Kirsti said: “Already I’ve learnt so much about the issues other people are facing and I’ve gained confidence in knowing that despite my business being smaller and structured differently to others I still had experiences I could share to help others improve.
“I came away feeling very supported. It’s really making me focus on my business and motivated me considerably.”
Who can take part in Peer Networks and how does it work?
Peer Networks is open to small to medium sized business in England.
It will see the creation of a series of Peer Networks through the Growth Hub network, with small groups of between eight and 11 owners or managers from the SME business community taking part.
Led by a professional facilitator, these Peer Networks will typically meet fortnightly as part of delivering 18 hours of action learning.
Individual one-to-one support (coaching, mentoring, or advice) will also be provided either directly by the programme, or from other existing schemes to help to implement and manage change.
The programme is fully funded, which means there is no cost to join Peer Networks other than a few hours of your time each month.
Action learning is a proven method of helping businesses to learn by working with each other.
What other benefits are there?
Working with your local Growth Hub also means you will be working with facilitators that fully understand the business landscape in your region.
Active involvement in action learning through Peer Networks enhance the leadership capabilities, knowledge and confidence of business owners and entrepreneurs within a local region while also helping to build local connectivity and strength within the SME business community.
As well as group activities, business owners will receive additional access to 1:1 mentoring, coaching or advice depending on the support that is needed.
Richard Jeffery (pictured below), Director of Business Growth at The Growth Company, which is co-ordinating Peer Networks nationally, said: “It’s been a difficult year for many SMEs and as we go into 2021 there will be opportunities too which is why I am delighted Peer Networks is taking place and I would encourage all businesses who want to find out more to get in touch with your Growth Hub.
“That comes from a deep personal experience from what I have experienced of peer support throughout my career.
“Moving forward I expect we will see peer networking embedded as a core principle in the SME business community across the country.
“Business owners will get so much benefit from it that they will want to continue to do it, they will want to retain those networks and when you get businesses working well together and collaborating and supporting one another they become better businesses.”
What do other businesses say about Peer Networks?
Lauren Bailey Rhodes (pictured below), Operations Director at Transform Lives Company, a Liverpool-based social enterprise specialising in employment and wellbeing, has taken part in professional networking and action learning before.
She said: “Straightaway I knew Peer Networks was going to be different.
“I decided to join because it seemed the best fit for me and TLC at the moment. One of our biggest challenges is getting the word out there and growing our business in the corporate sector.
“As soon as I spoke to our facilitator Phil, I knew this was going to be a really good experience. The first session was great, a good group of people who are going to bring so many different things to the group and already people are starting to help each other out.”
Chris Kane (below), co-founder of Dorset-based Greendale Construction, signed up for Peer Networks after it was recommended to him by a colleague within his network.
Chris said: “2020 has been a challenging time for all businesses, especially SMEs, as the ongoing pandemic continues to cause uncertainty.
“Peer Networks is interesting and engaging, with a great mix of business owners taking part. I came with an open mind and wanted to help myself and others address some of the business challenges we are facing.
“I want to learn from my peers, understand their challenges, speak about our own and see how we can learn from each other and help each other to strive and grow.”
How do I sign up?
To find out more about the programme and to register your interest in a matter of minutes today, visit the Peer Networks website.
The virtual sessions will take place between now and March 2021.
Peer Networks is financed by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and will be delivered through the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) network and their respective Growth Hubs.