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Why Engaging With Peers Could be the Missing Link in Growing Your Practice

If you’re like most other practice owners, chances are attending conferences and workshops may have dropped off your list of priorities.

After all, who has time to take a day out from the day-to-day work of giving advice, managing the workload and otherwise just keeping on top of what needs to be kept on top of?

The whole COVID period also got many of us into a mode where travelling outside of our usual area became something that didn’t need to happen much at all. As such, the time taken to do so has made it something we’re less likely to jump at in quite the same way.

Well, I’d like to challenge some of the thinking on that and, if this is where you’re at, put forward the case that engaging with peers who share similar goals and objectives is a major ingredient to help practice owners drive progress and greater success.

The Last Live Program Workshop:  A Brief Reflection

The last live program workshop I ran happened in February 2020.

It was a week before we even knew what a lockdown was, let alone any of the other acronyms – LGAs, RATs and the like – that would come to become a second language over the two years that followed.

It took place at Bridgeclimb Sydney. The topic was Client Experience, and to this day, I still look back on it as the best two-day workshop I’d ever put together.

Despite this, it was attended by only 60% of the clients I was working with at that time.

Previous workshop turn-out rates had been consistently around 80% to 90%, regardless of whether we held them in Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast or any other venues we’d used.

Clients would travel and invest the time to be part of the experience.

In truth, attendance rates had begun to slowly decline around 2018, inverse to the growing workload that had been foisted on practice owners as legislative change was rolled out, Licensee requirements became more intense and the level of administration work grew and grew.

I’d also noted at live events I was speaking at how crowds had begun to look thinner.

 

The Impact of COVID  on Peer Engagement

Then came Covid.  In many ways, it accelerated what had been developing for some time, namely the decline of peer engagement amongst practice owners.

Whilst, as I write this, it’s showing slows buds of returning, it’s still nowhere near where it was.

This leads to the key question:  Why invest time into peer engagement when there’s so much else to do?

The answer for me is that it makes it easier to achieve success.

It’s important to note that success – whatever your version of that – is influenced by many other factors, including talent, hard work, opportunity and determination.  However, in most cases, peer groups have been proven to be a serious tool for achieving greater success sooner.

The Benefits of Peer Engagement: Research Evidence

Research shows this to be the case.

One study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that individuals who worked out in a group setting had greater levels of physical activity and adherence to exercise than those who worked out alone.  The study concluded that social support and accountability played a role in increasing motivation and helping individuals stick to their goals.

Another study published in the International Journal of Business and Management (1) found peer support and collaboration can be highly beneficial for entrepreneurs in particular, as the act of giving and receiving feedback, advice, and the exchange of ideas frequently assisted in overcoming challenges associated with growing their businesses faster.

In short, as well as the benefits of sharing ideas and providing critical feedback, the social dynamics of a group can motivate individuals to work harder and strive for improvement.  However, there are some common barriers that stop business owners from leveraging peer engagement as a growth tool.

Common Barriers to Peer Engagement

It all boils down to five key findings that explain why some choose not to participate.

  1. Lack of trust: Many business owners may be hesitant to engage with peers because they are concerned about the confidentiality of their ideas and business practices. 
  2. Competition: Some business owners may view other entrepreneurs as competitors and be hesitant to collaborate or share information.
  3. Time constraints: Running a business can be demanding and time-consuming, leaving business owners with little time for peer engagement activities unless they can see the link between those activities and benefits such as growth or being able to achieve greater efficiency.
  4. Difficulty finding suitable peers: Business owners may have difficulty finding peers who share their goals and interests, which can make it challenging to form meaningful relationships.
  5. Personal preferences: Some business owners may prefer to work alone or default to solitude, which can make it challenging for them to engage with peers.

I can relate to at least two of them personally, but I also recognise that my natural default settings don’t always serve me best.

These barriers can – and often do – prevent business owners from accessing the real, tangible benefits of peer engagement, such as the exchange of ideas, feedback, and support.

However, overcoming these barriers and actively engaging with peers do lead to a more fulfilling and successful business experience.

 

Finding the Right Peer Group and Challenging Perceptions

So, what’s the answer?

For those who see the benefit of peer engagement, it’s mostly about finding a peer group with similar attributes, goals, and objectives, who have or are facing similar challenges.

For those who haven’t seen peer engagement as a growth and development tool or have chosen not to utilise it, sometimes it’s about challenging whether your perception of them as lacking benefit or not worth investing time in is based on perception or experience.

No one says peer engagement is mandatory, but if what’s really stopping you from exposing yourself to an exchange of ideas, feedback, and support that could positively impact your business is lack of trust, time constraints (which you could exert control over), or perceived competition, then it may be a case of taking the long way around without fully asking why.

(1) Study on exercise: Carron, A. V., Brawley, L. R., & Widmeyer, W. N. (1985). The effect of cohesiveness on individuals’ participation and outcomes in sport. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7(1), 94-102.

(2) Study on entrepreneurship: Ekanem, I. E. (2015). Peer support and collaboration among small business owners: Evidence from a developing economy. International Journal of Business and Management, 10(3), 47-54.

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