Peer Networks: Huge future potential as economy rebuilds

Partner Sean Farnell and event coordinator Danielle Viviani have led on the delivery of the Peer Networks programme for Burgis & Bullock.

The programme is funded through BEIS and delivered by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub.

In our latest blog the pair highlight the successes and challenges associated with the programme – and look to the future of Peer Networks in the region.

Sean Farnell:

When we heard about the opportunity to lead these sessions, for us it was a no brainer. I have been involved in business mentoring for many years and it seemed a natural extension of what we have already been doing with our clients – but with the potential to have a wider impact on the regional SME community.

The more we can do to promote SMEs, the better we can promote quality of life in local communities and grow the economy.

The Peer Networks use action learning methods and the business owners are there to support and challenge each other.

We’re very much the conduit between the Growth Hub and business owners. We’re keen on helping businesses grow and develop.

The fact is it is lonely at the top and this is a common challenge for all sectors. It can be difficult to find the time and headspace to work on a business, rather than get embroiled in the day-to-day operations.

Peer Networks provide that window, and having the opportunity to take time out of the business and ask questions to Peers is invaluable.

Chances are those Peers have had exactly the same problems and found solutions – this can save days, weeks, months of torment for a businesses.

We’re seeing members come out of sessions reinvigorated with a new sense of purpose and a plan of how they can make the business better and adapt to current circumstances.

We found people reluctant to commit to 18 hours of sessions initially, but after a couple of sessions you get a dynamic in the group and they really start to solve problems.

One example was where the group was discussing funding, and research and development tax credits came up. From that conversation an introduction was made and a business has now made a claim for a tax credit they didn’t know they could qualify for.

We’ve seen businesses from a range of sectors in the groups sharing their expertise and encouraging their peer to think differently and find positive solutions to challenges.

We’re keen that the Peer Networks initiative continues through 2021 and 2022.

As the economy opens up and optimism grows we’re seeing business make firm plans for the long-term future, Peer Networks will help to support businesses in making those plans and having effectively a non-executive board to discuss ideas with.

Danielle Viviani:

I was keen to take on the role and support the leading of these groups – and I’m glad I did! I have sat in on every session and been able to develop a good objective view of the benefits businesses are seeing.

It’s a great initiative and you can see people learning in every session. This is all from people in similar situations to them, but it’s much more than just networking – it’s like a community of friends.

There have been challenges with recruitment in such a short amount of time and with the pandemic, but I’m confident with a longer lead in time more businesses would be keen to get involved.

I think these groups work through friendship. People start to trust each other after a few sessions and you can see them give more, and take more and more away.

People are stressed at the moment in all areas of life. They come onto the call downhearted, but by the end you can see they are ready to attack their problems again. Any idea that they may have held about it not being worth the time attending a Peer Network is wiped away by the end of the session.

One of our cohorts has already said they plan to meet up when lockdown restrictions lift – which is testament to the connections they have developed.

To find out more about Peer Networks with Burgis & Bullock visit

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