Peer Networks is working with business owners up and down the country to help them grow and position themselves for future success.
With the current uncertainties around Covid-19 and the ongoing EU transition, small and medium sized businesses have faced several challenges as they navigate their business into 2021 and beyond.
The programme Peer Networks enables likeminded business owners to come together to benefit from each other’s experiences through a series of professionally facilitated virtual sessions, which explore opportunities and challenges.
By sharing and learning from each other in this way, SME business owners can grasp new opportunities or overcome challenges that may be holding them back, learning from each other’s progress and insights.
This is what business owners who have joined the programme so far have to say about Peer Networks…
Kirsti Grayson, founder of Go Velo, a Lancashire-based cycle training and activity businesses, registered for Peer Networks through Boost her local Business Growth Hub and is already seeing benefits.
She 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.”
Chris Kane, co-founder of Dorset-based Greendale Construction, joined Peer Networks after it was recommended to him by a business peer within his network.
Chris said: “Peer Networks is interesting and engaging, with a great mix of business leaders 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. After the first session I called my business partner and told him that he should sign up to Peer Networks also.”
Lauren Bailey Rhodes, Operations Director at Transform Lives Company, a Liverpool-based social enterprise specialising in employment and wellbeing.
Lauren said: “I have taken part in professional networking and action learning before. However, straightaway I knew Peer Networks was different.
“I decided to join because it seemed the best fit for me and TLC at the moment because our biggest challenge 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.”
Peer Networks is being delivered in England locally by the network of Growth Hubs and supported by their respective Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
Mark Livesey is Chief Executive of the LEP Network, which enables and promotes all 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships across England to work together on national shared interests.
Mark said: “LEP Growth Hubs have been at the sharp end of support for local business communities, directly supporting SMEs to help them tackle the challenges of the pandemic, with over 1.5m businesses supported to date.
“The Peer Networks programme builds on that scale of support, providing an opportunity for business leaders up and down the country to share knowledge and best practice, and to work collaboratively to short cut the route to finding practical solutions to common business problems.
“This is an engaging programme aimed at small to medium sized businesses in England. We have found that peer to peer support is a positive way to build dialogue and relationship within a peer group that can have long-term benefits for business owners enabling them to take the next steps to grow.”
Sarah Underwood is a Professor in Entrepreneurial Practice at Leeds University Business School and a Peer Networks facilitator working with the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.
Sarah said: “One of the great things about running the Peer Networks programme has been to allow small business owners the opportunity to come together in a space where they can be open about the fact that they don’t have all of the right answers on how they should be running their businesses right now.
“It has been an amazing opportunity for them to be able to relieve some of that burden about how stressful it has really been over the last few months and that sense of shared understanding across the group has helped add a level of resilience amongst the business owners that wasn’t there before.”