By Kevin Brent is director of BizSmart
The latest Office for National Statistics [ONS] figures suggest the number of people working exclusively from home during the coronavirus pandemic has risen from 21% to 24%, and this shows no signs of slowing down as more parts of the UK are at risk of being put into local lockdown.
Many business owners are enjoying the benefits of connectivity and remote working, but it can be a lonely calling, and peer-to-peer business support has never been more crucial.
In fact, our own research recently revealed the majority [90%] of business owners found the support of like-minded professionals instrumental during the first COVID-19 lockdown, and 80% believe the majority of UK business leaders would benefit from peer-to-peer support as the country continues to navigate the pandemic.
Here are some of the main benefits of peer-to-peer support and why all business owners should use it to their advantage during this economically challenging time.
Improved overall business performance and growth
Growing a business is complex and multifaced, and there are many different factors that determine whether you succeed, some of which are often overlooked. Peer-to-peer support isn’t always one of the first things business owners prioritise when trying to hit the high growth and success stakes, but evidence suggests it enables firms to advance growth by two to three times their normal levels, so it is not to be underestimated. Not only that, businesses that seek external advice or undertake formal training are more likely to improve their overall performance.
The powerful combination of connection and knowledge peer-to-peer support provides not only allows entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, it helps reduce the nationwide productivity gap by providing business leaders with a platform to find practical solutions to strategic and operational challenges.
Helping business owners feel less alone
Even business owners with many employees can still feel ‘lonely at the top’ and unable to share their business challenges with others within their organisation.
A peer-to-peer support group provides business owners with a network of external people who understand where they are with their business and what they are going through, and a platform to collaboratively work through common issues, gain and reflect on valuable feedback and implement practical solutions to overcome them.
Regularly sharing challenges with other business leaders gives entrepreneurs a sense of being ‘in it together’. It enables them to see that every business faces its fair share of obstacles, that they are not alone and that these challenges can be overcome.
Peer-to-peer support groups require participants to establish valuable relationships based on trust and building a trusted network of connections to support business owners now and in the future could be instrumental to their success.
Evidence indicates that businesses often prefer to take advice from trusted sources when presented with external challenges and opportunities, and look to their existing networks, such as their peers or their accountants, when taking advice. Through their peer-to-peer groups, business owners can have immediate access to more trusted resources and support than they would on their own and can be opened up to a whole world of new opportunities and creative solutions.
A fresh perspective
One of the biggest advantages of peer-to-peer support is that it offers a completely fresh perspective on any business idea or problem. This is backed up by our research in which 64% of respondents said they find peer-to-peer groups beneficial as they challenge their thinking and help them implement new ideas.
In support groups, business owners are encouraged to exchange anecdotes and antidotes of trying situations that other members are either facing or have faced in the past. Listening to others’ experiences and advice can uncover new approaches and tactics that may not have been noticed otherwise, helping business owners overcome challenges and recognise and act on new opportunities.
Indecision can cost business owners time, money and opportunities, yet so many still struggle to make real decisions in real-time. Timely and strategic decision making is crucial for all entrepreneurs in the current climate, and they cannot afford to play it safe and overthink all the what-ifs.
Confiding in a group of trusted peers can be invaluable in providing the accountability needed to put plans and ideas into action. 14% of respondents told us peer-to-peer groups keep them accountable and force them to make decisive changes. Often, knowing others are watching what we are doing and will ‘tell us how it is’ gives us the push we need to put our words into action and achieve our goals.
In times of crisis, business owners must be willing to lean on one another if they want to build resiliency and restore and identify new opportunities for growth. By engaging in peer networks, business owners can share and benefit from expertise on leadership and growth, increase their productivity and gain the confidence to tackle the issues they face head on, not just throughout the pandemic but in a post-coronavirus world, too.