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East Midlands Chamber News

Peer Networks programme gives SME leaders a ‘back-pocket board’ to take businesses forward

Senior leaders in SMEs across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire can benefit from a “board in their back pocket” by joining a peer-to-peer networking programme that launches this month.

The D2N2 Growth Hub Peer Networks scheme, delivered by East Midlands Chamber, brings together like-minded directors and senior managers to develop their organisation for future success.

They can share common business challenges and objectives to solve in regular sessions, which are facilitated by experts in their field and supported by specialist guest speakers.

Sector-based networks such as manufacturing, visitor economy, medtech and life sciences, and creative – as well as specialist groups for high-growth and female-owned businesses – will begin over the coming weeks, with the first one on Thursday 4 November.

East Midlands Chamber deputy chief executive Diane Beresford, who heads up the Peer Networks delivery, said: “There are so many directors running a business without the support network behind them to bounce ideas off and discuss problems with – either they don’t have the time to involve other people or don’t want to discuss business problems with junior members of staff.

“With the Peer Networks programme, the group almost becomes their senior leadership team, with more than 100 years of experience in one room able to help participants solve a particular challenge within their business.

“Some people from previous cohorts have even described it as having their own ‘back-pocket board’.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for individuals across the management spectrum to learn from their peers and develop both themselves and their organisations. We’d encourage anyone who feels they would benefit to get involved.”

Peer Networks, which is fully funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), is eligible for any SME that has operated for at least one year, employs at least five people and records a turnover exceeding £100,000.

It must also have an aspiration to improve and the potential to scale up or export – or is exporting already.

Up to 11 individuals are involved in each cohort and are required to give a time commitment of about 18 hours across the entire duration of the free programme, which lasts several months.

They can also gain three-and-a-half hours of one-to-one bespoke support from an expert, meaning they benefit from a package worth thousands of pounds.

How Peer Networks programme has supported SMEs

William Sutherland, director at Original Recipes, a Chesterfield-based family business with 1920s roots, attended a previous cohort of the food and drink peer network.

The company supplies potted meats and pâtés to restaurants, hotels and caterers across the UK and into major retailers, but William asked his peers for support on identifying new sales channels when the pandemic forced the closure of the hospitality industry.

“I really enjoyed being part of a small proactive network of like-minded people,” said William, who was also given new contacts via the group. “I felt my contribution was valued and suggestions were taken on board.

William Sutherland (second from right) is director at Original Recipes

“People’s positive perception of myself, and my business, provided me with a real confidence boost to move forward and make important decisions based on our discussions.”

Nikki Velinsky joined the women in leadership cohort to help her understand how to manage the increased workload that came with her promotion from accounts assistant to general manager at FireRiskAssessments.com, based in Calverton, Nottinghamshire.

Advice from her peers on the programme included establishing which roles other employees could fulfil, what accountability she had and clarifying the expectations of her directors.

It also led to her outsourcing business processes to free up time so she could focus on other key areas, while she credits the “extremely productive” experience with building confidence in her decision-making ability.

Nikki said: “The questioning from peers allowed me to think about areas I hadn’t considered, but it also highlighted some issues I had already identified, which gave me some confidence in what I was doing.

“The solutions suggested were supportive, relevant and easy to implement, and based on others’ knowledge and experience.”

Anyone interested in taking part in the Peer Networks should fill out an express of interest form at www.d2n2growthhub.co.uk/grow/peer-networks

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