• Alison Conners

Finding the Right Peer Group

Updated: Oct 3, 2017

I am obviously a strong advocate of the peer group process. That is not a surprise, since I own a business that #facilitates peer groups. However, most people don't realize that placing candidates into the right peer group is not your typical sales process. When the time comes to explore possible membership in a peer group, it is important to keep in mind that no one is trying to sell you anything. As much as it would be a disservice to you, it would also be a disservice to the rest of the group to force membership if it is actually not a good fit. A good peer group forum #leader would never do that. More likely, your conversation with them will seem more like a two way interview where you can freely explore your styles and objectives to see if they match. Sometimes they will and sometimes they may not match, and that's OK.



The magic of the peer group comes from the combination of the #members that have been placed together. There are difference in each one that can make it right for you, or not work for your needs at all. Finding that right combination is key. The good news is that in the #Richmond market alone, I know of at least four distinctly different #organizations that run peer groups in very different ways. I am sure the same is true in any city anywhere. You have options. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider those options:


What is your primary objective in joining a peer group?


Is it to get #advice from other members? Is it to share your knowledge of what has worked or not worked for you? Is it to be exposed to educational presentations on business issues? Or are you just there to #network? These are all distinctly different objectives that are handled very differently among each group. Not all groups have an #educational component, and some forums discourage members from doing business with each other. Some groups ask that you not give direct advice but help identify the issues that member should work on themselves instead, while the sole purpose of other groups may be to get and give brutally honest #feedback to the members. Those are pretty big differences to be aware of going in.


Who do you think you would most benefit from being in a group with?


Is it to be placed with other companies like yours? Are they similar in size and industry, or do they span different sizes and go across many #industries? Perhaps you would learn more by being in a room with young and old, large and small companies alike, versus being grouped by size. Or maybe being grouped by #title and subsequent job function is more important to you than where the other members work.


How structured or free flowing do you like your meetings?


Some meetings are extremely structured and each member gets a specific set and limited time to speak. Others are run more like #discussions, with a moderator there just to make sure that one person isn't doing all of the talking. You may thrive in one environment and cringe in the other.


Do you want to be given books to read outside of the group, or is your time precious and just attending the meeting is enough? Do you want to set aside an entire day for the monthly meetings, or does a half day work better? Would you benefit from going on overnight retreats, or doing things socially with your group, or are you too busy to do anything outside of the #meetings at all?


What about #financials? Are you comfortable openly reporting on those, or do you keep your cards too close to the vest to be comfortable sharing your balance sheet?


Are you too distrusting to share successes or embarrassed to share #failures, or do you want others to learn from your #experience the way that you can also learn from theirs?

How about personal issues? Do they have no place in business, or are they one and the same when you are the business owner?


What if you just plain old don't like someone you are grouped with?


That happens too. Most peer groups will run some type of #assessment such as DISC to help identify your #communication style in order to manage that more effectively.

Finally, what about budget? Often you can find some form of a peer group through your local business #associations that may be offered at little to no cost, or you might be in a group that charges more on purpose to make sure that the members are successful enough and serious enough to be able to contribute.


The bottom line is that joining a peer group is a big commitment, and one that should be extremely rewarding. However, making sure that your goals and communication styles are aligned with the group that you join is critical to that success. Don't be afraid to reach out and talk to the various groups in your city without fear of being "sold" to. Ask them to openly talk about their offerings versus the other options out there. Any good facilitator will be as transparent as possible so as not to waste anyone's time, as it is equally as precious to them and their members as it is to you.


My advice is to find a #PeerGroup that works for you and commit to giving it a try. Working intentionally on your business instead of reactively in your business can make all the difference in the world to having a successful year.

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