I am convinced that business owners can benefit from one another. It is unfortunate that most business owners view one another with suspicion and distrust. In reality, many owners would benefit from getting to know one another to see how they could work together.
Several larger businesses have understood the possibilities of alliances, education, shared gain, and understanding for years. The heads of Fortune 500 firms know one another. They work together. They are friends, and allies. So, why should a top executive or an owner consider participating in something that appears to be just one more group of business types getting together?
First of all, we must end the isolation. The old saying “It is lonely at the top” is true. You cannot share your misgivings about your partners with your partners or with your employees, less you undermine the relationships, organizational structure, and mission of the business. Top executives participate in peer groups to have someone that they can speak freely to, without recourse or recrimination.
Second of all, they also join to get the perspective of others who are free to speak honestly to them. People at the top need someone who will tell them the “whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Think about that for just a minute. Who in your organization is going to tell you the brutal, honest truth, and risk their paycheck, benefits, and future? Everyone “plays the game” and that means not being the bearer of bad news. If you are at the top, you need to hear the truth from someone.
Third, you will be exposed to educational concepts that are out of your area of expertise. In 2001 I wrote a column titled “Will your business die when you do?” and it struck a cord in many that read it. Most people don’t like to think about their own demise, but it sure was a wake up call for people who did not have any type of exit strategy. This is just one small area that typifies that while the person at the top is supposed to have all the answers, they don’t. Regardless of age, going back to school is beneficial.
Continually, one area that keeps coming up with top executives is human resources. Many of those in charge today are from a different generation than today’s workers. It used to be, in a different time, that people worked for a company or an organization for their entire career. Now, people are staying in jobs for about 3 years. How does someone from the old school deal with a labor market that does not have the same work ethic or values? In a peer group, experts can be brought in to address these types of issues.
Fourth, an owner can present ideas to their peer group and those members can take the “devils advocate” position. That same kind of scenario would never take place in a business environment, unless the owner is the most enlightened kind of person. Most top executives strive and desire nothing less than 100% control. Who can the owner turn to for candid opinions about ideas?
Furthermore, being in a peer group provides a perspective from different industries and from different size organizations. What business owners usually discover is that most issues that they face are similar in nature and that only the details of the industry are different.
All businesses and business owners have the same common interests and concerns. They include increasing profits, growing sales, remaining competitive, attracting and keeping qualified employees, managing change in a dynamic market and laying out strategies for the future. Chances are the participants in any group are all experiencing essentially the same thing. Being able to address these types of concerns and to gain the knowledge in a rapidly changing business environment can be invaluable.
If you ask anyone in business today to make a commitment in time and resources so that they can work on and not in their business, you will find just a few willing to make the step. I met with such a business owner recently. He explained that he couldn’t get away for more than just a few hours, lest something “happen” in his business. Two days later I met with an owner who never takes less than two full weeks (16 days in a row) of vacation each summer because, as he said “I wouldn’t have a decent business or good people if I couldn’t at least get away for that long.”
You tell me who has the more successful business. You guessed it right; he is in a peer group of business
Renaissance Management Partners
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