If championships teach us anything, it’s that experience matters and that nobody gets to the top and stays there on their own. Luck can certainly help you cross the finish line first, but critical too is drawing from the collective successes and failures of those who have played the same game before you and knowing when to infuse new thinking and new strategies into the game you thought you’d mastered. To be a championship team, you need strategy and planning, solid offense, amazing defense, a deep bench and smart coaching. Shouldn’t the same requirements hold true for business growth and success? With fluctuating economic pressures, consolidating retail power, unstable tax and employee healthcare costs, and a host of other factors including a shortage of skilled workers, it’s nearly impossible to manage every issue with the necessary confidence that you’re making the smartest decisions you can. If you had a fantasy team of business executives that had different expertise than you, who could fill in the knowledge and expertise gaps and share their own advice for avoiding mistakes, you’d be strides ahead of your competition. The reality is: you can have your own business fantasy league team. It’s called an executive peer group, and it’s the not-so-secret weapon for top performing business owners, executives and their companies.

You don’t need to lead a billion-dollar conglomerate to benefit from executive peer groups. As a matter of fact, these powerful think tank opportunities are best suited for business owners and executives leading small to mid-size businesses ($5 million to $50 million) who are looking to grow and gain personal independence amidst competitive pressures.

“There is exponentially more power and insight in a group as opposed to individual learning, and companies large and small need focused executive teams that can strategize and win together” observed Glenn Perkins, executive coach and forums leader for Renaissance Executive Forums Silicon Valley. “Some of the most powerful learning opportunities, especially for business leaders, occur when ideas or problem patterns get agitated by outside perspectives or contrary opinions. The discussion automatically expands and deepens, and new solutions arise for consideration.”

Executive peer groups might seem like an oxymoron at first. We’ve all heard “it’s lonely at the top” and other phrases that point to the CEO or owner being the sole individual responsible for their company’s fate. However, if you take ego and competitive pressures out of the mix, seeking advice and counsel from differing perspectives that are not close to yo

ur business operations can be hugely beneficial.

Colin Powell summed it up nicely by advising leaders to seek out peers, especially those that can offer a vastly different perspective: “Use the tools that are out there. Use the digital world. But never lose sight of the need to reach out and talk to other people who don't share your view. Listen to them and see if you can find a way to compromise.”

Business owners and managers who are part of an executive peer group outperform their competitors, showing an average 5.8% compounded annual growth rate average over the last five years versus negative rates for the majority of other businesses. With the added motivation of peer accountability, most companies grow at twice their pre-joining percentage rate after they align with an executive peer group.

Beyond the business growth numbers, there are four qualitative reasons why executive peer groups are being sought-out by growth-minded business leaders.

1. Risk-Free Resource Diversification

It’s expensive to hire and retain senior-level talent, and if you take a chance on an agency or external expert, you might be investing a lot in a singular source when you need expertise you don’t have in-house. With an executive peer group, you can gather a host of experienced opinions to help guide critical choices. One of the core purposes of an executive peer group is to process issues which the members of the group bring up to tap into the collective wisdom of the group to help solve. Like seeking second or third opinions from doctors and medical specialists, executive peer groups give executives other opinions to consider, from those who have been (or are) in similar circumstances. No strings attached.

  1. Strength in Numbers

The more people who have attempted a solution or been through a business crisis situation, the more data points you have to draw from (and the more reliable the conclusions). Similar to the above, more opinions and informed recommendations are better than less, and if you can get quarterback advice from Tom Brady, Payton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young and Joe Montana, versus just one of them, there’s no question which is the better strategy. Beyond steering the ship, executive peer group members lend each other support too, regardless of the situation that each member is in. The whole goal is to keep business owners and executives from being isolated at the top of their respective organizations, and with non-partisan peer group members, it works very well. A big plus is that each member’s network will grow, not just by connecting with their peer group members, but indirectly connecting to every other members’ network and the multitude of connections those can offer. We live in a connected world, and in each executives’ case, that can be thousands of new contacts.

  1. New Strategies and Perspectives

Many business owners and CEOs already believe they’re the best at what they do. So, what do they need outside input for? Well, fresh input for one. The same strategies that put you at the top, or got you to double-digit growth, may not be the same that you’ll need to keep you there. Organizations can get stagnant, especially if they’re comfortable at the top of the food chain. To disrupt entrenched thinking, new perspectives are needed, and they’re easily accessible with peer group interactions. If you ask others who are NOT focused on your day-to-day operations for input, the results may surprise you. Dynamic ideas can come from seemingly mismatched industry strategies: retail learns from tech, food and beverage from overnight delivery (and vice versa)… There may be legions of ideas on how to improve that you might not see because you have blind spots in your vision (or you never thought to look in that direction). These dynamic ideas from others outside your business area can be differentiating and provide competitive advantage against your industry peers.

4. Tough Love Teammates

Probably the most valuable reason why executives join peer groups is their search for the truth. That might sound high-minded and somewhat spiritual, but truth without agenda is hard to find these days, especially when it involves money, growth, business and power. Executive peer group members have no agenda in providing feedback. They’ll tell you where you’re falling short and share with you “the cold truth others won’t tell you.” Peer executives will ask more pointed questions than many sheepish internal employees might (since you sign their paycheck, that plays a factor in every interaction you have), and they’ll help you kick the tires on strategies that may or may not work so you don’t waste time or money chasing your tail. With truth, comes clarity. Even if there’s disagreement, the direct back-and-forth that executive peers share with you can help clarify your values and what you’re really willing to fight for, which leads to confidence and conviction. Like crash-testing a car, put your most critical strategies and ideas up for debate to see which can best withstand the fire. Peer groups are a priceless testing ground.

“Whatever your goal as a business owner, whether it’s to provide the personal freedom you once imagined, grow your business 30 percent over the next two years, improve the performance of a mid-functioning team, or other objectives you may have, it’s much more effective and efficient to learn from other executives who have already gone down that path,” added Perkins. “Being part of an executive peer group is a powerful tool that, process-wise can help you side-step challenges and get to your next level much faster.”

Renaissance Executive Forums draws Silicon Valley’s diverse business leadership community together, allowing business leaders to readily learn from each other and sharpen their CEO skill sets. As an active business advisor and multi-faceted business executive with deep-rooted experience across numerous industries, Glenn Perkins is the leader of Renaissance Executive Forums Silicon Valley, and a conscientious resource for the business leaders and owners in the area. He is continuously spear-heading the formation of new executive peer groups, innovative workshops and business education opportunities as the local, national and international markets continue to evolve. If you are interested in participating or learning more about becoming a forum member, please contact Glenn at gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-213-9513. For more information visit https://execforumssv.com/