Businesses urged to seek strength in numbers through new programme

Richard Jeffery

Greater Manchester SMEs facing barriers to growth will be enabled to build their own supportive network of local business peers, through a new Government-backed scheme.

The new Peer Networks programme, funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and co-ordinated nationally by Manchester’s GC Business Growth Hub, brings together multiple business leaders to collaborate and solve common issues.

The fully-funded programme is open to GM businesses over one year old who employ more than five people, have a turnover of more than £100,000 and an appetite to improve.

The programme aims to help SMEs build resilience against a challenging economic backdrop, develop in-house capabilities and, ultimately, grow.

Each cohort group of up to 11 complementary Greater Manchester businesses will receive specialist support from one of the Hub’s expert facilitators through managed interactive action learning sessions, followed by tailored, one-to-one support for each company.

The fortnightly Peer Network sessions will offer participants regular opportunities to discuss business challenges, gain and reflect on feedback from peers, and implement practical solutions.

While all sessions will initially be held online to respect social distancing, it is hoped that the programme will evolve into face-to-face meetings in due course.

Richard Jeffery, director of Growth at GC Business Growth Hub, said: “At an extremely challenging time for SMEs, the Peer Network programme offers far more than just new business connections.

“The diversity of fresh perspectives on offer and the structured environment for collaboration offer an invaluable opportunity to business leaders in overcoming shared issues.”

He added: “Greater Manchester has always been a hotbed for business innovation and collaboration, so it’s fitting that the Hub has helped BEIS develop and deliver the Peer Networks programme.

“We’re excited to be working closely with our own network of regional growth hubs to co-ordinate the development of new peer-to-peer groups right across the country.”

The Government’s 2019 Business Productivity Review found that businesses adopting formal management practices, such as peer-to-peer learning, are more likely to achieve higher turnover, better employment levels and productivity growth.

The Peer Networks programme officially launched in August 2020 and will run until March 2021, with a target of recruiting 10,000 like minded businesses nationwide.

Regional Growth Hubs will team up with a range of local business partners to help deliver Peer Networks, including Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

Colin Brew, head of strategic relationships at GC Business Growth Hub, said: “There’s growing evidence that shows the benefits of external advice in improving business performance.

“Because no two organisations are the same, there’s a vast supply of diverse experience and insight on offer to Greater Manchester SMEs within the local business community, just waiting to be tapped into.”

Peer Networks is financed by the Government via the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Hub, part of the Growth Company, is also supported by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Greater Manchester local authorities.