I recently went to dinner with another couple that owns a CPA firm an hour away. I met them a couple years ago in a networking group and we have become good friends. I am so thankful to have met them as we have been able to share great ideas for both of our firms as well as connecting when one of us has a situation that arises, and we need assistance.
I can’t stress the importance of having a good peer group in whatever industry you work in. You need someone that can bring perspective to a situation and that is walking in the same shoes you are. If you don’t have a good peer group yet but are looking to build one, I have a few solid suggestions for you:
Don’t have a “competitor mindset”
The most common objection I hear to networking with your peers is that they are “competitors” and you don’t want to share information that may cause you to lose clients and for them to gain clients. This is a negative mindset and needs to be turned to a positive mindset. The truth is
- There are plenty clients for both you and your competition
- By working together, you will both be ahead of others who don’t work together
- You have a lot in common with them and you may find out YOU REALLY LIKE THEM both professionally and personally.
It would be terrible to miss out on that relationship opportunity because of a negative mindset.
Start with your local association
Most industries have a state or local trade association. Look for opportunities to connect within the association such as networking events and conferences. Don’t be afraid to be the first one who walks up and speaks and don’t look to talk about yourself and your company first. Instead, ask others about their company and their struggles. Once a rapport is established, don’t be afraid to talk about your struggles. If you are struggling with something in your business, it’s likely your peers have struggled with it in the past or are also struggling with it currently. The only way you will get a solution to your problem is if you ask the question.
Join a peer group
Within each industry, you can find peer groups which are made up of companies within your industry that have banded together to discuss best practices and to share solutions to industry problems. The members of these groups have made the commitment to dive deeper with other peers which might involve sharing financial information and internal processes and procedures. If you want to improve your business, this level of sharing is a great place to start, especially if you are new to the business. You will have the opportunity to pick the brains of the most experienced companies at the table.
Word of caution
Until you develop a few good trusted relationships with your peers, it’s important to recognize some of the pitfalls when you first start networking and how to avoid them.
- Everyone will have an opinion on how to fix the problem you are having within your business. It will be important for you to step back, look at any advice you receive objectively, and determine if the advice fits your situation and should be implemented
- It’s tempting to inflate your business and how it is performing to others. No one likes to admit they are failing or not performing well. The best peers are those who aren’t afraid to say they don’t know it all and you can tell are truthful about what is working in their business and what is not working.
A good peer group can be a profitability difference maker to your business. We need others who can relate to our struggles and who can help us understand solutions in our own industry. Ones that can help us avoid mistakes before we make them. Hopefully, peers that turn into friends, like mine have.