Peer-To-Peer Mentor Groups: Fighting the Isolation of Running a Small Business

It’s lonely being at the top. When so much depends on your performance and your decisions as the owner of your business, it is easy to start feeling overwhelmed, isolated and alone. Without a large organization’s resources, you may long for a sounding board for your frustrations and fears, or for a discreet, impartial advisor to discuss the tactical and strategic challenges of running your company.
 
The myth of the “lone wolf” entrepreneur or small business owner is simply that – a myth. No one gains real success, in business or in other aspects of life, without the support of other people. Looking back at your biggest business breakthroughs, you may find the common thread of an outside third party whom you respect greatly, sharing insight, confirmation, affirmation or aspiration that pushed you to take the major leaps in your business.
 
That is where business owners benefit from a peer-to-peer mentor group – a group of non-competing, like-minded business owners that help to solve problems, brainstorm ideas, share profitable strategies, and build valuable relationships. Members of a peer-to-peer mentor group have no vested interest in your company, other than helping you figure out your next best steps. They provide a safe harbor to come talk about issues of leadership with other business owners who may have dealt with the same problems.
 
Here are a few additional benefits of peer-to-peer mentor groups:

  • Peer-to-peer groups hold you accountable for taking action to solve your problems and work toward your business goals. During meetings, you will feel obliged to report your progress (or lack thereof) to the group, where they can further give you the advice and encouragement needed.
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  • In peer-to-peer group meetings, you will receive specific suggestions for realistic actions to take. Maybe a few of the business owners handled a similar situation in different ways and can share their recommendations of what they did and how they would have handled it differently. Avoid making key mistakes by learning from the recommendations and mistakes of other members.
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  • Members often find that when helping someone else produce change, they themselves gain useful insights on their own problems, just by listening to someone else’s. Through practice and reflection on what works and what doesn’t, you develop and improve your own decision-making and leadership abilities.
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  • There is a sense of camaraderie and a good feeling that comes when you have a positive effect on another person’s business or on their well-being. It also enhances your reputation as someone who invests in others’ success.
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As you seek out a peer-to-peer mentor group to join, it is important to find one that is professionally facilitated. While peer-to-peer groups can be immensely rewarding and help you come up with solutions to your long-standing business problems, it is far too easy for a series of meetings to get derailed by a lack of focus, dominant personalities or hurt feelings.
 
When a peer-to-peer group is professionally facilitated, ground rules, boundaries and expectations are put in place to ensure trust and productivity. These rules are needed to encourage listening, validating, non-judgment, respect and confidentiality. Having someone who is “in charge” also helps avoid conflict between members. A facilitator will take on the duties of member termination, mediating arguments, and holding each member of the group accountable for the rules they have established. Further, they will keep everyone on task by leading the meeting through a structured agenda and taking notes on key findings. Designating this relationship upfront will help create a comfortable environment conducive to openness and fellowship.
 
Accelerate ActionCOACH is currently facilitating three peer-to-peer mentor groups, called ActionBOARDs. If you are interested in joining, contact us today. Due to the confidential nature of our ActionBOARDs, we will meet with you to determine which board would suit you best and will reach out to current members for your membership approval. Learn more about our ActionBOARD program here, and view a sample agenda.

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Sample ActionBOARD Agenda