Since the beginning of the human experience, your survival depended mostly on the people around you.
As trade and commerce evolved, this continued to be of importance.
The most successful traders throughout history are those that set up networks around the globe.
We’ve all heard the saying, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’.
Although an exaggeration, there is a lot of truth to it.
Whether it’s applying for work, breaking into Hollywood or acquiring customers – who you know matters. Talent and value can take you far – but to go further and get there faster you need to surround yourself with the right people.
You likely already know the value of having smart team members, aligned investors and advisers who are experienced in your industry.
But there’s another type of network you should invest in – your peers.
People vs product
Depending on your background, you may scoff at the idea of investing in your network.
It’s easy to think about cultivating networks from the stereotypical ‘schmoozing’ perspective.
For founders and executives who come from a technical background, this is more prominent.
Your focus is likely on delivering excellent value through your product offerings.
Founders and leaders from business, marketing, and sales backgrounds may have the opposite view. You may inherently realize the value of strong network building as you are more people-oriented.
Looking at the two perspectives, it’s obvious that you need a combination of both.
Business is about building things people want. It’s fundamentally a human domain. You aren’t building products for your own satisfaction. The aim is to get your product into the hands of people that need it. And one of the best ways to commercialize your products is through the networks you cultivate.
At its best, your network represents your platform for accessing the world of commerce.
Before we talk about the benefits of a peer network, it’s important to take a look at the other types of business networks. That way, you can clearly see the unique value peer networks provide and how it amplifies your other networks.
- Investor networks – Having people that understand your vision is essential when giving up part of your company. You want a robust investor network to be able to find the few investors that are the right fit. And importantly, to keep them close in case you need an injection of cash.
- Talent networks – Having a pool of talented professionals who can actualize your vision is the first network you have to build. But it’s an ongoing process – especially when you need to expand rapidly.
- Supplier/partner networks – Your partner network is essential to the processes and distribution of your products. These relationships are a mix of exchanged value and cultivated relationships. The strength of these networks affects your expansion and bottom line.
- Customer networks – The customer network you build is the most important. It’s what we’re all in business for. Strong customer networks amplify your products reach through word of mouth.
Peer networks – the difference
When you take a look at the different types of business networks, there is one thing that binds them together.
These networks are conditional.
What does that mean?
Your ability to cultivate these networks is purely about the results and value that you can provide. For the most part, the nature of these relationships are selfish.
Customers want the best product. Investors want a big return. Employees want to work for a market leader with growth potential. Partners are only loyal to the money you are helping them make.
Nothing said here should be surprising.
Although business is a human domain, the nature of the beast means that it can be cold and ruthless.
If you aren’t meeting somebody’s needs, they don’t want to hear from you.
A different type of business network
A peer network is about cultivating the people who are walking the same path as you.
This could be other founders, entrepreneurs and executives.
Peer networks are unique in the sense that they bring out the human side of business. It’s no longer purely about driving results and adding value. Peer networks are more unconditional in their nature.
Why is there a difference?
With peer networks, you aren’t beholden to produce for anyone.
Instead, you are all producers, and you are on the same journey together.
There’s no underlying tension with your peers. You will find people who want to help you. Not because they want something in return, but simply because they understand where you are coming from. And likewise, you would want to help them for the same reason.
These networks differ from other business relationships in many ways:
- The group is comprised of people in the same position as you
- There’s no underlying tension to deliver
- They are more open and authentic
- You can talk about and solve problems relevant to your role
- You can use these networks to amplify your other networks
Examples of peer networks
One relevant example for business leaders is the Young Presidents’ Organization.
As the name suggests, it is an organization for entrepreneurs and leaders under the age of 45 who are executives that meet a certain threshold in each industry. This threshold is typically quantified in terms of total employees or annual revenue.
To give you some perspective, the YPO has been operating since 1950, with 24,000 members in 130 countries. It’s one of the oldest peer networks for business leaders. Some notable members include:
- Charles Schwab – Founder and CEO of the Charles Schwab Corporation
- Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook
- Robert Wood Johnson ll – President of Johnson and Johnson
- Penny Pritzker – US secretary of commerce
How they work
Networks such as the YPO typically operate in a decentralized way, with local chapters in each city.
The chapter serves as your home where you will meet regularly, learn, socialize and share ideas. With local chapters, you get the benefit of meeting people who operate in your local economy.
This is particularly useful if your business relies on locality. The locality of your peers also goes a long way to creating lasting bonds that you can rely on.
Peer networks also provide ways to connect at regional, national and international levels through forums and conferences.
There are also means to connect based on interests and industry through online networking and webinars. A combination of which can give you access to people you wouldn’t have met under normal circumstances.
Benefits of peer networks
In part 2, we will go into detail about the benefits of peer networks and how they can drive results. If you would like to learn more about different peer networks, inquire today about the Argonauts Club. It’s our exclusive network for successful entrepreneurs where you can meet your peers, learn, grow and succeed.