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Strategy
Peers suing together on mountain top

The Power of Peer Networks (1/2)

Since the beginning of the human experience, your survival depended mostly on the people around you.

 

As trade and commerce evolved, this continued to be of importance.

 

The most successful traders throughout history are those that set up networks around the globe.

 

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’.

 

Although an exaggeration, there is a lot of truth to it.

 

Whether it’s applying for work, breaking into Hollywood or acquiring customers – who you know matters. Talent and value can take you far – but to go further and get there faster you need to surround yourself with the right people.

 

You likely already know the value of having smart team members, aligned investors and advisers who are experienced in your industry.

 

But there’s another type of network you should invest in – your peers.

People vs product

 

 

Depending on your background, you may scoff at the idea of investing in your network.

 

It’s easy to think about cultivating networks from the stereotypical ‘schmoozing’ perspective.

 

For founders and executives who come from a technical background, this is more prominent.

 

Your focus is likely on delivering excellent value through your product offerings.

 

Founders and leaders from business, marketing, and sales backgrounds may have the opposite view. You may inherently realize the value of strong network building as you are more people-oriented.

 

Looking at the two perspectives, it’s obvious that you need a combination of both.

 

Business is about building things people want. It’s fundamentally a human domain. You aren’t building products for your own satisfaction. The aim is to get your product into the hands of people that need it. And one of the best ways to commercialize your products is through the networks you cultivate.

 

At its best, your network represents your platform for accessing the world of commerce.

 

Business networks

 

Before we talk about the benefits of a peer network, it’s important to take a look at the other types of business networks. That way, you can clearly see the unique value peer networks provide and how it amplifies your other networks.

 

Source: Business Advice

 

  • Investor networks – Having people that understand your vision is essential when giving up part of your company. You want a robust investor network to be able to find the few investors that are the right fit. And importantly, to keep them close in case you need an injection of cash.
  • Talent networksHaving a pool of talented professionals who can actualize your vision is the first network you have to build. But it’s an ongoing process – especially when you need to expand rapidly.
  • Supplier/partner networksYour partner network is essential to the processes and distribution of your products. These relationships are a mix of exchanged value and cultivated relationships. The strength of these networks affects your expansion and bottom line.
  • Customer networksThe customer network you build is the most important. It’s what we’re all in business for. Strong customer networks amplify your products reach through word of mouth.

 

Peer networks – the difference

 

When you take a look at the different types of business networks, there is one thing that binds them together.

 

These networks are conditional. 

 

What does that mean?

 

Your ability to cultivate these networks is purely about the results and value that you can provide. For the most part, the nature of these relationships are selfish.

 

Customers want the best product. Investors want a big return. Employees want to work for a market leader with growth potential. Partners are only loyal to the money you are helping them make.

 

Nothing said here should be surprising.

 

Although business is a human domain, the nature of the beast means that it can be cold and ruthless.

 

 If you aren’t meeting somebody’s needs, they don’t want to hear from you.

 

A different type of business network

 

A peer network is about cultivating the people who are walking the same path as you.

 

This could be other founders, entrepreneurs and executives. 

 

Peer networks are unique in the sense that they bring out the human side of business. It’s no longer purely about driving results and adding value. Peer networks are more unconditional in their nature.

 

Why is there a difference?

 

With peer networks, you aren’t beholden to produce for anyone.

 

Instead, you are all producers, and you are on the same journey together.

 

There’s no underlying tension with your peers. You will find people who want to help you. Not because they want something in return, but simply because they understand where you are coming from. And likewise, you would want to help them for the same reason.

 

These networks differ from other business relationships in many ways:

 

  1. The group is comprised of people in the same position as you
  2. There’s no underlying tension to deliver
  3. They are more open and authentic
  4. You can talk about and solve problems relevant to your role
  5. You can use these networks to amplify your other networks

 

Examples of peer networks

 

 

 

One relevant example for business leaders is the Young Presidents’ Organization.

 

As the name suggests, it is an organization for entrepreneurs and leaders under the age of 45 who are executives that meet a certain threshold in each industry. This threshold is typically quantified in terms of total employees or annual revenue.

 

To give you some perspective, the YPO has been operating since 1950, with 24,000 members in 130 countries. It’s one of the oldest peer networks for business leaders. Some notable members include:

 

  • Charles Schwab – Founder and CEO of the Charles Schwab Corporation
  • Sheryl SandbergCOO of Facebook
  • Robert Wood Johnson llPresident of Johnson and Johnson
  • Penny Pritzker – US secretary of commerce

 

How they work

 

Networks such as the YPO typically operate in a decentralized way, with local chapters in each city. 

 

The chapter serves as your home where you will meet regularly, learn, socialize and share ideas. With local chapters,  you get the benefit of meeting people who operate in your local economy.

 

This is particularly useful if your business relies on locality. The locality of your peers also goes a long way to creating lasting bonds that you can rely on.

 

Peer networks also provide ways to connect at regional, national and international levels through forums and conferences.

 

There are also means to connect based on interests and industry through online networking and webinars. A combination of which can give you access to people you wouldn’t have met under normal circumstances.

 

Benefits of peer networks

 

In part 2, we will go into detail about the benefits of peer networks and how they can drive results. If you would like to learn more about different peer networks, inquire today about the Argonauts Club. It’s our exclusive network for successful entrepreneurs where you can meet your peers, learn, grow and succeed.

Why Vision Is a Leader’s Most Important Skill (1/2)

What makes a great company?

 

Every industry has various companies competing for market share.

 

Yet, there always seem to be a few outliers. These companies dominate and make it hard for competitors to displace them.

 

Vast hours have been dedicated to answering this question. The best academics and consultants have all tried to figure it out. With good reason – 80% of entrepreneurs fail within 18 months of business.

 

But nobody can agree on a single, definitive factor. Business can’t be reduced to a simple formula.

 

Instead, there are many factors colluding to create the stopping power of the most successful businesses. Factors such as team, market and customer demands.

 

There is one factor that brings them all together, however. There is a metaphorical  ‘glue’ that gives meaning, direction and coordination to the various elements of successful business.  

 

The ‘glue’ i’m referring to is vision.

 

By providing a destination and purpose for the organization, a powerful vision is capable of bringing people together to define an industry.

 

Destination and purpose

 

Vision acts as the destination and purpose of an organization’s existence.

 

Where do you want to end up?

 

In order to make progress towards something, you have to know what you are aiming for.

 

You need a target – a goal.

 

Vision represents a combination of the two. It is having a moving target that you are continually trying to hit. And also, an idealistic endgame.

 

Vision represents how your company moves on a day to day basis. It’s the driving force that energizes your people as they build products and interact with customers.

 

It also represents the big why – the big change that you want to see in the world.

 

If we actualize our vision, how will the world be different?

 

Understanding vision

 

The story of Steve Jobs has been told countless times. It’s been dissected and taught throughout business schools. It’s even been made into movie (more than one actually).

 

But the reason why it’s effective is that the message is clear and easy to understand.

 

Especially if we want to define and understand vision.

 

Source: Engadget

 

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak changed the world. They built one of the most successful companies of all time. They named it Apple, Inc.

 

The name itself doesn’t seem fit for a computer company. Had they been working with business consultants at the time, they would have walked out in protest.

 

But the name itself gives insight into where Jobs was coming from.

 

He wanted to be different. He wanted to challenge the status quo. He was the ‘square peg’ that society wanted to fit in the ‘round hole’. He rejected this idea.

 

He believed that personal computers should be in the hands of everyday people.  Not just business executives. He wanted to empower the masses by giving them tools to advance the mind. He wanted these computers to have an intuitive user experience – designed for the everyday person. He wanted to beautify and democratize access to technology.

 

That was his vision.

 

The how, the why and the what

 

In his best selling book, ‘Start With the Why’, Simon Sinek created a model that encapsulates what vision is.

 

Source: Simon Sinek

 

In what he calls the golden circle, there are three aspects: the why, the how and the what. Here is some further clarity:

 

  • The Why – This circle represents the problem or need you are solving. It also represents the shift in the status quo that you are trying to bring about. You could be solving the problem of internet connectivity in Africa. But your broader why is to bring the human family together.
  • The HowAlone, the why of your vision is just a dream. There needs to be a pragmatic road map that leads to the achievement of the why. This is the building aspect where processes and systems are put in place to achieve the vision.
  • The WhatThe final circle refers to the output of the two inner circles. What is the product or service that is being built in relation to the vision? What are the features that allows it to solve that particular problem?

 

Starting with why

 

Having vision is about the why of what you do. The best businesses are laser focused on the problem they are solving. But they go further. They have a definitive mission which goes beyond that particular problem. And ideally, they define a new status quo. 

 

Here are some examples of company vision and their why:

 

Facebook – To give people the power to share and make the world more connected.

 

Apple – To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind. (This was quoted from Steve Jobs as his original vision).

 

Google – To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

 

Amazon – To be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

 

TED – To spread ideas.

 

None of these vision statements talk about what they do. Nor do they mention how they do it. But in the background, these are the factors that allowed them to achieve the why. Hence, the why, how and what are all interconnected and codependent.

 

Google doesn’t speak of the complexities that their search algorithms have. But it’s this robust technology that allowed them to organize the world’s information. This despite there being others on the same mission.

 

Apple’s original vision statement isn’t about how aesthetic their products are – although this was a core part of how they achieved their vision. Instead, there is a greater feeling of revolution and empowerment. Great user experience was just a means to achieve that.

 

In all, although the how and what of vision is important (critical to achieving it), the why has to come first. Otherwise, there is no concrete destination to build towards.

 

Becoming a visionary

 

In the next part, we’ll expand on why vision is important. We’ll talk through how entrepreneurs with vision are better suited to navigate the challenges of business. We will also take a look at practical steps that you can use to develop your vision.

 

If you feel you need hands on help, Argopreneurs offers a 1-3 day workshop that will allow you to create a sustainable corporate vision. We will help you set your entrepreneurial goals and define the steps required to get there.

 

Reach out to us today by email or phone for a quick chat.

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