In part one, we introduced the different types of business networks. We spoke about how peer networks such as the YPO are distinctively different from other networks. Let’s now take a look in detail about the benefits you can receive from peer networks.
Amplification of business networks
Driving business results is the most tangible reason to have a strong peer network. In the previous article, we looked at the different types of business networks which were:
- Client networks
- Partner/supplier networks
- Investor networks
- Talent networks
Your peer network has the capability to increase the effects of your other business networks. You could view it as the ‘network of networks’ in the sense that it sits at the heart of everything else.
Amplifying client networks
The strength of your business networks affects your outcomes.
The larger your client networks, the more customers you have access to. When joining a peer network like YPO or EO, you could make friends with people who could become customers.
Is there a big account that your team has struggled with? What if you could have face time or get a referral to somebody in their leadership team? That’s the power that being part of a peer network can give you. It can give you the ability to reach into accounts that you would not have access to traditionally.
As it’s a shared environment, there is also more trust as the relationship begins in a more lighthearted setting. It’s the closest thing to being part of a modern ‘old boys club’.
Amplifying partner networks
You are also likely to run into people who could be lucrative business partners.
This could be in the form of
- Technology partners
By building close relationships through a peer network, you can expand your reach by finding common ground in a trusted environment.
Amplifying investor networks
In a peer network, you will find leaders of companies both large and small. Some of these companies could be important financial partners: both in terms of raising capital and company restructuring. If you join an executive peer network, many of these leaders will have access to their own broad investor network. And if there is ever a time when you need to inject new capital in your business, your peer network can be the first place you look for new introductions.
Amplifying talent networks
Leaders in your peer network will likely also have access to a wide pool of talent they have worked with. If you are headhunting for a hard to fill role, it may be difficult to do so through conventional means. Often times, talented executives can be picky. They are usually coveted and can join any company they wish. But through a peer network, you can get direct introductions to people who would be a great fit for your company.
Through this network, you have an advantage over companies who are using impersonal headhunting techniques to attract them. If you can get a strong recommendation from one of your peers, then all the better.
Whichever organization you choose to join, you will find lifelong learning to be at the forefront. There is only so much you can learn from books and your own experience. Sometimes, the best way to learn is from people that have been there already.
It’s almost like a cheat code to life.
You get access to the right answers in the shortest space of time.
Through your peers, it’s possible to avoid costly mistakes. More often than not, the path we are on has been walked before. Most challenges in each generation of business are experienced by the majority of companies. Whether that’s digital transformation, dealing with globalization or getting hiring right. Through a strong peer network, you can achieve your vision faster through fewer bottlenecks. It allows you to avoid the common mistakes that you may have been blind to.
You may have a particular problem that you are finding difficult to solve. It may be strategic or process-oriented. Either way, sometimes a problem is best solved when you bring new perspectives to the table. This way, you can escape the often one dimensional way of seeing things.
Your peers can help you with this in three ways:
- They can bring different perspectives to solving the problem
- They aren’t emotionally invested so are unbiased
- They may have experienced the problem themselves and can tell you the solution directly
Besides an MBA, there isn’t any formal education on how to be a business leader. And even an MBA doesn’t always reflect the practicalities of the situation on the ground. For the most part, business leaders learn their job through experience, self-study and reaching out to peers.
Organizations like YPO and EO create structured learning initiatives. These are based on their network’s collective experience. And unlike an education from a university, the knowledge shared has all been thoroughly tested. It’s not just theory.
These learning programs are practical ways to help you become a better leader. You no longer have to figure it out yourself or manually reach out to people.
Aside from acting as an amplifier and a fast-track to learning, peer networks are unique in that they are unconditional.
Although there is typically an entry requirement, the nature of the relationships within the organization isn’t based on what you can provide. This creates an environment which is much more open and authentic.
Your peers are also all on a similar journey. They can empathize with your experience.
This means that your peer network is probably the only place where you can really open up. This network provides you with the opportunity to discuss:
- Your business problems – No matter how good your relationships are, there are simply some things you can’t discuss with your business network. It’s always expected that business leaders put on a strong face and act like everything is running smoothly.
- Personal problems – In a similar vein, you may have personal problems that you can’t discuss with either business acquaintances or family.
- Fears and anxieties – Mental health in business is something that takes a backseat in the presence of our results-orientated culture. You can’t speak about it openly, but that’s the only way to deal with it. A peer network allows you to speak through your emotions.
But it shouldn’t only be about you.
It’s also important to be the listener among your peers. It’s helpful to understand the problems that others are facing. This way you gain more perspective into your situation. Listening also helps you build stronger relationships with people as they allow themselves to be vulnerable with you.
A side benefit of the emotional support and shared experiences is that you will start to develop genuine friendships with your peers.
Friendships are typically made when people see each other repeatedly with common interests. The strength of the friendship is deepened when people are able to open up and be themselves. Local chapters and even online networking can achieve this. Some groups such as the YPO even have spousal or family retreats. These retreats allow business leaders to integrate their personal lives into the network. This strengthens the bonds between members even further.
Ultimately, peer networks have two main benefits:
- Increasing business outcomes – This is achieved by amplifying your existing networks and solving your business problems through learning.
- Humanize business relationships – As peer networks are more unconditional in their nature, you can relate to other business people on a more personal, genuine level.
Being a YPO member myself, I can tell you from a personal perspective that being part of a strong community of peers is a valuable experience, both professionally and personally.