While the idea of peer teams (peer-driven accountability groups) are not a new concept to the IT Reseller space, the participation of peer teams by technology-focused owners, service and sales managers has ebbed in popularity over the years. Manufacturers of both technology and software have attempted to brand peer teams over the years to help business owners acquire the business acumen needed to grow their business and to secure wallet and mind-share.
What makes peer teams so attractive is their ability to provide owners and leaders with the opportunity to implement practices and methods that lead to greater success and profitability (or at least in theory). Through these teams, a participant can share and learn from the successes and failures of their industry peers and short-cut the mistakes that often come with growing a business for the first time.
Of course, the challenge most business owners face is simply the balance of working both in and on the business. Finding the time to commit to travel, group calls and time out of office can be daunting when many of the owners wear multiple hats and play both owner and sales role.
The benefits of belonging to a peer team are equally as rewarding. Peer team members gain the immediate advantage of being able to talk with their peers, broaden their perspective and take a step back from the day-to-day rigmarole to gain a fresh perspective on issues around employees, performance, and profitability.
So, why would not every business leader be a part of a peer team?
First all, not all peer teams are created equal. As mentioned earlier, there are peer-led teams, manufacture or software-branded teams, business consulting teams and more. Nearly every flavor of peer team is available in the market.
Secondly, not all peer teams are effective. Peer-lead teams are just that, peer lead. They often lack an outside facilitator to keep the group on topic and focused.
And finally, not all business owners are dedicated to doing what needs to be done to grow; not everyone has time; not everyone is in the same place in their business, etc. There are many reasons why leaders and owners do not join teams, but none of these reasons outweigh the benefit. We have put together the three of the most valuable reasons to consider a peer team. Helping you understand what to look for and what to expect will help you make a more informed decision.
3 Key Elements to Look for in a Peer Team Environment:
1. Look for a team that will provide the roadmap to help you organize your business on a solid infrastructure.
This means that you are going to look for a team that brings templates and best practices to the table. At Bering McKinley, we believe strongly in the “Documented Business.” Working through the Peer Team environment, we help participants evaluate best practices around the daily challenges, procedures, and decisions, and to turn those best practices into a documented process that helps each business owner make a more rational, vetted decision.
In short, the documented business helps owners remove emotional purchases and ad hoc or under-evaluated decision making that gets a business into financial trouble. For example, our teams will build best practices around topics like how to build compensation plans, sales performance reviews, employee promotions, dispatch ticketing, evaluating the profitability of a contract (and much more). An effective peer team will help you dissect the routine tasks that keep many businesses from performing better.
2. A Peer Team should provide a sound understanding of your financials and what impacts those financials have on your business.
Not all financials are the same. Many groups will collect the service results of hundreds of businesses, display the results and tell you if you fall above or below the intended goal. What they fail to teach (not tell) is the reason behind those numbers. The $1.5 Mil annual revenue IT provider has dramatically different issues, cash flow, and processes than that of a $22Mil IT provider. This type of reporting does not take into consideration your IT stack or your specific type of portfolio (i.e. percentage of hardware vs. services). Simply looking at how you compare in numbers will not help your business grow if you can’t pinpoint the root cause of the problem and determine which action to take.
Bering McKinley uses a proprietary set of metrics we call the Essential 14. We believe that having the numbers in front you provides owners with a starting point for a conversation around the core financials of the business. The Essential 14 is a starting point, not an ending point that helps business owners evaluate how to make systematic improvements that are on-going.
- What makes up your Net Profit?
- What is your Net Profit?
- Do I have a target Net Profit?
- Why that target?
- If I have 7.5% Net Profit, is it because my general admin costs are too high relative to my income?
- Or, is my Product Gross Profit or my Service Gross Profit too low?
- And, if my Net Profit is high, an owner needs to know why so that he/she can continue to repeat the actions that got them here.
Bottom line: numbers need to tell you what actions to take next.
Being a part of a financially focused peer team that understands the right numbers and knows what actions to take helps owners be proactive in their success. Numbers without action will never move the needle.
3. A Peer Team must create a deep sense of accountability and comradery for the participant.
Let’s talk comradery. Many owners find themselves in a position of isolation. They run, hire, manage and make many executive decisions alone. One owner once told us that running a business is like having dinner night after night at a “table for one.”
You carry the weight of the business on your shoulders and there is often no one else in the business who understands or does what you do. If you have ever found yourself sitting in your office wondering how you got into this position, then a peer team is long overdue. The real value of peer team is simply the fact that you are sitting around a table with nine other (really smart) people that do what you do, understand your struggles, and can provide meaningful input and advice on the very things that you do daily.
Phil Neuman, CEO and founder of PDN Consulting, a technology MSP out of Scotts Valley California, told us, “I need to be around businesses similar to me that share ideas and will be honest about helping me grow my business. Prior to joining a peer team, I had no one to keep me accountable and to encourage me to go beyond what was comfortable. I was not going to grow until I was willing to leave my comfort zone.” [Read Phil’s entire story on how Peer Teams helped his business to grow.]
What’s Next for You?
Peer teams can have a massive impact on daily tasks as well as your ability to strategically position your organization for growth. Finding the right team is a matter of setting some criteria, evaluating your options and committing the time to get the most out of a peer team investment.
At Bering McKinley, we offer Peer Teams for leadership, sales and service professionals. Our teams are crafted around the unique roles of different individuals within the management structure. As a result, you will find our meetings to be convenient, relevant and impactful. We have invested heavily in our training and in our development to bring you an amazing experience every time.
Or speak with Josh Peterson directly. [Schedule a Meeting]