“The only source of knowledge is experience.”
Albert Einstein’s famous quotation holds particularly true for business owners and C-level executives: no amount of education or training can fully prepare an individual for the rigors of managing a real-world organization. That does not mean you have to go it alone. If you are an executive facing a challenge you feel unprepared for or just want to validate some of the day to day decisions you have made or need to make, consider joining an executive peer advisory group composed of non-competing firms. Executive peer advisory groups exist to offer decision-makers a valuable resource: practical wisdom from those who have been there before. It may even prevent you from enduring painful mistakes. Comprised of local executives and advisors, a peer advisory group is a great option for anyone lacking access to a regular source of strategic guidance. Better yet, a peer advisory group also provides you with the opportunity to share your own knowledge for others’ benefit. Here are four more reasons why participating in a peer advisory group is a wise decision for your organization—and your career:
People in senior-level management positions have to contend with complex issues that, due to their often-sensitive nature, are not always subjects that they prefer to discuss with their employees other executives in their firm, or even some of their third-party consultants. Peer advisory groups allow you to talk through these matters in a more comfortable, relaxed and collaborative environment with other seasoned business executives. Conversations are friendly, informal and—because the other participants have no stake in the outcome—comments are unbiased. Thus you are more likely to hear fresh perspectives and, in some cases, unconventional ideas. Although the ultimate decision on important issues rests with you, it is encouraging to know you can count on other experienced executives for guidance when needed. When the majority of the group suggest that you proceed but on a slightly altered course, hold off entirely, or completely consider changing course, you are likely to find the informal advice quite convincing and—, at the very least—worth taking very seriously.
Peer advisory groups are not just for executives. Some—including the one I facilitate—bring in local resources such as bankers, financial advisers, and CPAs, as well as an array of discussion leaders on topical subjects. For a fraction of the cost of what many consultants would charge for an engagement, participation in a peer advisory group provides you with unfettered and immediate access to diverse points of view. While peer advisory groups are not intended to be a complete substitute for the services of consultants, they can provide a creditable source of information in an atmosphere composed of business colleagues whose goal is simply to be frank, honest, and helpful. Your peers can hold you accountable without dictating your next move: unlike a board of directors, a peer advisory group wields no authority. That is, its guidance is non-binding. You choose the advice to internalize and that which you wish to ignore.
Networking With Regional Leaders
Aside from its informational function, a peer advisory group is an unbeatable occasion to connect with other leaders and influencers in your area. Participants may end up working together in a professional capacity, become personal friends, or aid each other through referral marketing—all of which often evolve as a result of meeting with each other on a regular basis in a peer advisory group setting.
Low Cost and Time Commitment
Participation cost and time investment in executive peer advisory groups varies. Sometimes they range in cost from as much as several hundred dollars a month to as high as fifteen thousand dollars a year or more —and cause you to invest up to a full day per month of your time. Not every group is as time intensive and costly, however. Having to borrow money to join a group, or being worried about being away from your business for long periods of time should not become an obstacle to you participating. These barriers can be overcome by considering other alternatives. Some chambers of commerce and trade groups offer forms of roundtables as a member benefit –though different they are a starting point for learning from peers. If you decide to look into this approach, carefully research whether the participants are really peers seeking constructive guidance or, if instead, the group consists of sales and marketing professional looking for leads. If the group is affiliated with a trade or profession, consider whether being a part of such a group which includes competitors will chill the frank interchange that you may be seeking. Another alternative is the group that I facilitate which meets for two hours most months of the year and the cost is far less than the sums mentioned above. In fact, the cost has been calculated to be just high enough to assure that each participant will only pay it if they are fully committed to coming to most meetings. Regular participation will hopefully engender group bonding, which is needed for participants to be as candid as possible with each other during our sessions. As facilitator, I try to provide everyone with maximum value without asking participants to overextend themselves in terms of time or financing. We also try to “mix it up” now and then with networking and special events that offer opportunities to bring together all of the groups that I facilitate. You may hear from a well-recognized economist who can provide projections, for instance, or government officials that can offer information on available grant programs and planned projects that are intended to assist the business community. Sometimes, we read a popular business-related book and discuss it together. On occasion, we’ve even taken field trips to visit other participants’ businesses to see their operation first-hand. (Manufacturer participant businesses are particularly interesting to see.) Participation in these activities provides opportunities for everyone to get to know each other on a personal basis and further spawns relationship building. Interested in learning more about or participating in a group? Perhaps you would like to attend a meeting of a group that I facilitate as my guest to see it for yourself. Click here to get in touch with me.
About B.”Buddy” Marvin Potler
During his more than 40 years of practice, Buddy Potler has concentrated his efforts in the areas of business law and business litigation. He has represented numerous institutional clients and local businesses in commercial litigation and bankruptcy cases, and during the last several years has actively participated in the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process as a Mediator. In that regard, Mr. Potler has been appointed by numerous courts to facilitate resolution discussions. You can also connect with Offit Kurman via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
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