Organisers and facilitators of a Coventry and Warwickshire ‘Peer Networks’ programme say the initiative has provided essential support and counsel for businesses during the pandemic.
Accountancy firm Burgis & Bullock has been delivering four cohorts of The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Peer Networks programme since October.
The firm has been supported by partners from Trinity CPD Training Ltd, business growth specialists Enquir3 and LinkedIn expert Charlie Whyman.
Partners involved have all called for the Peer Networks scheme to be extended through 2021 to help realise the full potential of the groups already created and for more businesses to experience the benefits.
The Peer Network programme is funded through BEIS and delivered by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub.
Burgis & Bullock has supported businesses from across the manufacturing, retail, professional services, IT and digital sectors.
David Mack, from Trinity CPD Training Ltd, facilitated some of the groups and says it has given businesses a vital sharing space during the pandemic.
He said: “When you get a group like this together it can be very powerful, it has been like a non-executive board for members and provided support through a difficult time
“It’s a place to share your problems, the challenges being faced and then be supported by likeminded businesses to find solutions. It’s has been a reinvigorating experience for businesses.
“In lockdown we have all lacked that community, but even though the programme has been delivered virtually it has created a community.”
Daniel Plowright, Director at Enquir3, supported on the project management of the programme and also acted as a facilitator. Businesses have told him the Peer Networks have been transformational.
“It’s clear that a lot of businesses are in the same boat at the moment, regardless of their business experience,” said Daniel.
“The Peer Networks have helped members to realise they aren’t the only people facing certain problems.
“We’ve been able to bring in specialists to support in certain areas and signpost them to other support that they perhaps weren’t aware of. When a business uses words like ‘this is transformational’ that is a great result for such a short programme.”
Peer Networks sessions run for two or three hours once a fortnight for up to nine weeks, and the programme also includes three-and-a-half hours of individual one-to-one support from Burgis & Bullock’s experts.
The sessions have been open to any SME which has at least two employees, has operated for at least one year, has a turnover of at least £100,000 and has an aspiration to improve.
Charlie Whyman advised on the marketing strategy of the group and believes more businesses need to be aware of the benefits of the sessions.
She said: “One of the biggest challenges has been to encourage business owners to see the value in the groups and see the big picture. For those that have participated it’s opened a lot of doors and new business opportunities.
“There are lots of different things challenging businesses and they can feel like they’re not doing it alone as part of a Peer Network.”
Sean Farnell, Partner at Burgis & Bullock, added: “We have been running four cohorts and for us it’s about doing what we can to support local businesses to grow and develop.
“It’s essential to society that SMEs are successful. They are the underlying engine for growth of the economy. The more we can do to throw support behind SMEs as they recover from the pandemic, the quicker and stronger the bounce back will be.
“We’re keen for the Peer Networks initiative to continue through 2021 and 2022. A team is often better than the sum of its players, and that has certainly been the case with these groups.”
To find out more about Peer Networks with Burgis & Bullock visit https://www.bb-bmg.uk/peer-networks