The ability of peer help and the way peer networks will help SMEs thrive

As a small to medium-sized business owner, working with a network of trusted colleagues to discuss and find solutions to opportunities and challenges can be an extremely valuable experience.

By helping others in a similar position, you can gain practical insight to steer the company in the right direction and enable it to capitalize on future growth.

Whether an SMB company is evaluating new market opportunities or facing challenges related to product development, human resources, technology, finance, or marketing, peer support can enable business owners to share these issues in a collaborative environment, which is often too extreme results in effective solutions that affect valuable feedback from their peers.

Peer Networks is designed to create a trustworthy and powerful virtual support network for SMBs that can work together in small groups so they can build their own knowledge and improve the overall performance of their business.

Peer Networks is supported by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and provided by Growth Hubs with the support of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) network in England.

Kirsti Grayson (below), Director of Go Velo, A bikeability provider providing bike training and maintenance for children and adults across Lancashire. He was registered for peer networks after it was recommended to her and she is already seeing benefits.

Kirsti said, “I’ve already learned so much about the problems other people face and I’ve gained the confidence that even though my business is smaller and differently structured than others, I still had experiences that I share was able to help others improve themselves.

“I felt very supported. I am really focused on my business and have been very motivated. “

Who can participate in peer networks and how does it work?

Peer Networks is open to small and medium-sized businesses in England.

A number of peer networks are created through the Growth Hub network, in which small groups of eight to eleven owners or managers from the SMB business community participate.

Led by a professional moderator, these peer networks typically meet every two weeks to offer 18 hours of action learning.

One-on-one support (coaching, mentoring or counseling) is provided either directly from the program or from other existing programs to help implement and manage change.

The program is fully funded, which means there is no cost to joining peer networks other than a few hours of your time per month.

Action learning is a proven way to help companies learn by working together.

What other advantages are there?

Working with your local growth hub also means working with moderators who fully understand the business landscape in your area.

Active participation in action learning through peer networks enhances the leadership, knowledge and confidence of business owners and entrepreneurs in a local region while helping to build local connectivity and strength within the SME business community.

In addition to group activities, business owners get additional access to 1: 1 mentoring, coaching or advice depending on the support they need.

Richard Jeffery (pictured below), Director of Business Growth at The Growth Company, who coordinates peer networks nationally, said, “It has been a difficult year for many SMEs and there will be opportunities in 2021, so I’m excited very much that Peer Networks is happening and I encourage all companies interested in learning more to get in touch with your Growth Hub.

Richard used the Peer Networks program

“It’s based on a deep personal experience I’ve had with peer support throughout my career.

“I expect that peer networking will be a central principle in the SME business world across the country in the future.

“Entrepreneurs will benefit so much that they will want to keep doing so. They will want to keep these networks. When companies work well together and work together and support one another, they will become better companies.”

What are other companies saying about peer networks?

Lauren Bailey Rhodes (pictured below), Operations Director at Transform Lives Company, a Liverpool-based social enterprise specializing in employment and wellbeing, has previously participated in professional networking and action learning.

Lauren participated in the Peer Networks program

She said, “I knew immediately that Peer Networks would be different.

“I decided to join because it suits me and TLC best at the moment. One of our greatest challenges is taking the floor and growing our business in the corporate sector.

“When I spoke to our host, 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 into the group and already people are starting to help each other. “

Chris Kane (below), co-founder of Dorset-based Greendale Construction, signed up for Peer Networks after being recommended by a colleague on his network.

Chris participated in the Peer Networks program

Chris said: “2020 has been a challenging time for all businesses, especially SMEs, as the ongoing pandemic continues to create uncertainty.

“Peer Networks is interesting and engaging, with a great mix of business owners. I was open minded and wanted to help myself and others address some of the business challenges we face.

“I want to learn from my colleagues, understand their challenges, talk 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?

Visit the Peer Networks website to learn more about the program and register your interest in minutes.

The virtual sessions will take place between now and March 2021.

Peer Networks is funded by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department (BEIS) and provided through the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) network and their respective growth centers.

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