Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Peer Power: Learning from your Competition

Peer power is the benefit you get from interacting with your peers. Your peers are people that are doing the same job that you are doing. Or running the same type of business you are running. Or running a related type of business. They are also what is known as your competition and you need to talk to them.

I'm a member of several peer groups. I'm an MSPSN Master. We're a group of 10 IT company owners from different parts of the Country. We get together once a month and hash out how we deal with a business issues, employee issues, or marketing strategy. I also participate on several peer group mailing lists. These are technical. Here I learn how other IT people from around the world solve issues for their clients and we come up with best of breed solutions. I also run a local peer group. Where I essentially train my competition on how to run an IT business. I also speak at conferences, do webcasts, write articles and chapters for books. This trains my competition too. But what I gain from doing that is enormous. I couldn't have developed Harbor Computer Services without them. Well, I could have but it would have been a lot harder, a lot slower and much less successful. I'm not here to reinvent the wheel. Someone in one of my peer groups has already met the challenge I'm facing. I only need ask.

One of our clients had the opportunity to participate in a peer group and when I met him a week later, he was still giddy about the experience.

...I find it to be a very unique opportunity to sit around a table with a small group of peers that have nearly the exact same job function as I do but do not compete within my geographic territory.  It's an opportunity for a free exchange of ideas and "best practices" on everything from pricing strategies to employee compensation, benefit packages, warehousing and inventory strategies, commission programs, and vendor interaction.  There can be great benefit if you get the right people around the table and strike the right balance between active listening and active participation.

I hope that everyone has an opportunity to join a peer group. It's powerful. In a peer group, you quickly realize that your problems are not unique. They are not insurmountable. Other people have had that problem and found the solution and they will offer you the solution, if only you are there to listen and offer them solutions too.

I have to say it again. Peer groups are powerful. Just make sure that they are large enough and diverse enough to provide a range of opinions and before you take their advice that you have taken the time to get to know that person and their business. Once you do that there's no problem you can't solve.


Post a Comment

<< Home