Peer Networks – valuable lessons I have learnt from my peers …

Richard Jeffery

Be brave and reach out for support says Richard Jeffery – director of Business Growth at The Growth Company – as he recalls how peer support has helped him in his career

Throughout my career I have been an advocate for engaging with my peers.

Sharing challenges and opportunities and hearing their questions and perspectives has really helped me work through some big questions and key decisions.

So, the work The Growth Company is doing with Peer Networks is a real personal joy. Not only has it been an important part of my own career but it’s an area that we feel adds real value to small to medium-sized businesses.

I was reflecting back on the notion of peer support and it started early on in my career.

I used to work in the textiles sector many years ago and we launched a group called ‘Textile Business Analyst Group’.

We met regularly, shared ideas, challenges, and insights and that was one of the influencing factors of engaging with peer support.

Through the Peer Networks programme there is an element of mentoring and one-to-one support, too, something that I have benefited hugely from.

There is a network of people that I have sought support from, including directors across the group to those in external groups.

People like Vikas Shah, a high-profile entrepreneur, and John Quinton-Barber from Social have been a huge influence.

In my role as director at the Growth Company I introduced an internal peer network programme aimed at the senior leadership team that was based on actionable learning sets and peer support.

When we are operating in a challenging environment it is good to have a network of directors across the entire group who are all dealing with different aspects of economic development and employment.

Bringing everybody together was important because those participating in a structured peer network can get into their challenges a lot deeper, a lot quicker.

A peer network is not just a social network, it’s very much around being in a safe environment to voice a concern or issue, challenges and opportunities and you can then get valuable feedback from that network.

The requirement to articulate what the problem is helps because often you can have concerns that are in your head and being able to say what those key decisions are in front of a peer group forces you to think about, and define, the problem and through the art of articulation can give you clarity.

When colleagues in your peer group then come to you with a set of questions, they can help unpick that problem and help you look at it through different lenses.

Sometimes the solution is obvious, but going through that process helps you see it clearly.

Throughout the country Peer Networks are coming together in small groups to learn from each other on important challenges and opportunities, such as EU transition, recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, HR, tech, finance and marketing.

I would say to SMEs and business leaders that you have got to be brave and to come forward with your concern. If you are willing to take those steps, the benefits are huge, and you will be richly rewarded with the input, advice and guidance that is reflected back from your peers.

If you have a problem, do you want one brain working on it or 11?

The Peer Networks programme is a hugely powerful English-wide network that is going to be life-changing for SME businesses and the legacy of it is going to be massive.

Moving forward I expect we will see peer networking embedded as a core tool in the SME business community across the country.

I am sure business owners and leaders will get so much benefit from it that they will continue to do it, they will want to retain those networks and when you get businesses working well together and collaborating and supporting one another they become better businesses.

It’s been a difficult year for many SMEs and as we go into 2021 there will be opportunities, too, which is why I am delighted this programme is taking place and I would encourage all businesses who want to find out more to get in touch with your Growth Hub.

To find out more about Peer Networks, or to register an interest in joining, please visit