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How a network of peers could boost your business

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Leading a small business can often feel particularly isolating. When facing questions such as who to hire, which financing option to take or whether or not to export, business owners can feel unable to discuss what to do with staff, family or friends, leaving them to shoulder the responsibility of growing the business alone.

Being able to connect with a network of like-minded business owners who share these same concerns can therefore be invaluable. One of the core principles of 10,000 Small Businesses UK is the peer-to-peer learning between business owners that is built into the programme. As participants work through each module, receiving practical, applied business training, they are placed into intimate groups of five fellow business owners.

Together, they work to understand each area of running their businesses and develop their business growth plans, sharing challenges and ideas in a trusted environment.
Following this intense educational experience, we regularly see participants continuing the relationships forged during the programme – doing business with one another, sitting on each other’s boards or taking their shared experience to a shared business venture.

Take Rana Harvey and Gez Walsh, who met on the programme in 2012.

The businesses seemed to have little in common: Gez runs Innergy, a bottled gas distribution business, and Rana runs Monster Group, an online wholesaler and retailer. However, through the programme, Rana and Gez became two pillars of mutual support.

When Rana needed to make her first director-level hire, she turned to Gez to serve on her interview panel and give an objective, external and trusted opinion. When Gez was considering expanding his business through e-commerce, Rana and her team of e-commerce experts were able to help.

From accessing finance opportunities to managing the risk of site expansion, from reforming strategy to managing stress, Rana and Gez have ensured the successful growth of both businesses.

Over the years, we have also witnessed our businesses seeing a stronger future together – and merging their businesses.

Ann Rimmer and Michael Clark, who both ran B2B marketing agencies in Manchester, met on the programme in 2013. At first, they were nervous about the similarity between their two businesses, given they had overlapping competition.

However, both grew to become sources of support for each other’s businesses, looking for opportunities to work together. Throughout the programme, each had identified acquisitions or mergers as a key growth opportunity as part of their business growth plans.

After graduating, they made the decision to merge and become Upp B2B in 2016. Since then, they have doubled their combined turnover and created 18 new jobs.

Whether combining forces or supporting individual growth, having a network of like-minded people who have walked in your shoes can take running a small business from an individual challenge to a shared success.

By Charlotte Keenan, Head of the Office of Corporate Engagement International, Goldman Sachs