Peer Advisory Groups

How to Join a Peer-to-Peer Business Advisory Group

Written by Dave Mischler for Gaebler Ventures

Wondering how to join a peer-to-peer business advisory group? Dave Mischler, an organizer of Inner Circle business peer-to-peer advisory groups in Chicago, discusses the steps involved in joining a peer advisory group.

Most entrepreneurs know that the best lessons, the ones that truly stick, are those that we learn from experience.

As business owners, we inevitably make mistakes and we gain new understanding from those slip-ups.

The brightest entrepreneurs, however, know that the best way to learn is to first broaden your perspective. These owners seek to gain from the experiences, including the mistakes, of other business owners, rather than blindly moving forward based on intuition alone or trial and error.

How does a business owner best tap into the knowledge that other business owners have accumulated over the years?

There are a variety of ways to do it. You can form a business advisory board, hire a business coach or join a business owner peer advisory group.

The last option, joining a peer-to-peer business advisory group, is one that many business owners swear by. While leading peer advisory for business owners, I have witnessed the amazing, transformative effects of collaborative learning through peer-to-peer interaction.

If you have not yet checked out a local peer advisory group, you would be well-served to do so. Here's how the process of joining peer-to-peer advisory groups typically works.

The Screening Process for Peer-to-Peer Advisory Groups

Chemistry between the members is very important in peer-to-peer advisory groups. As such, the leaders or facilitators will typically have a fairly intensive screening process.

The goal of the screening process is to ensure that the prospective member is a fit for the group, meaning that their business does not compete with any of the other members, that they will obtain value for themselves to grow their business and they have the capacity to provide value to other owner's businesses as a result of their membership.

For example, to join an Inner Circle peer advisory group, the person must first be an owner / operator. We are not seeking investors who do not run companies on a day-to-day basis. We are also not looking for senior executives who have no vested financial interest in their organizations.

Once the owner / operator "ante" has been established, we meet with every owner face-to-face in order to assess his or her mindset. It is the mindset of the business owners that really determines the fit. Without an interest in working in teams, an ability to share, a true openness to new ideas and a desire to help others, the owner would likely not aid in driving it towards it purpose - to help each member become more successful and satisfied with what he or she is doing.

If it seems like the business owner would do well in a peer advisory group, we try to find the right group for them.

In the case of my Chicago peer-to-peer advisory groups, we make the first attempt to match the members, but ultimately it is the owner / member that decides if the fit is right. Prospective members typically attend a meeting to get a feel for the process and for the other members. Usually, they know right away whether joining is something that they want to pursue further.

What is critical is that the owner feels safe in the sessions so that he or she can trust that the meetings are confidential, comfortable and productive. Only in this way, will the owner share the challenges of the business and be receptive to suggested solutions.

If you think peer advisory groups might help you take your business to the next level, you should get in touch with a local facilitator and get a conversation started.

Tapping into the power of peer advisory may be the best business decision you ever make!

Dave Mischler is President of Sun Advisory, which creates and operates Inner Circle peer advisory groups for Chicago area business owners. Previously, Dave worked in marketing, in leadership roles at Leo Burnett; Foote, Cone & Belding; Aon Corporation; and LaSalle Bank -- and in accounting at Deloitte. Dave has an undergraduate degree in accounting from The Ohio State University and an MBA from Indiana University.

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