The importance of finding a peer group for growth


I was recently in a conversation with someone who reminded me of my own story — let us call him Jim. Jim joined YEO (now simply known as EO) at a time when he had around $1.4M in annual sales. It is same hurdle now as it was back then — your business needed a minimum of $1M in annual sales to join YEO. At the time Jim joined there was someone in his local group that was doing over $14M in annual sales. Jim reflected back to how impossible it seemed to compare his business to someone else’s who was doing almost as much sales in one month as he was doing all year long.

Through the short number of years that followed, Jim’s company grew to the point where he was doing almost $14M in sales a month. For those doing the math that is one-hundred times the annual run rate from when he joined YEO. Later Jim partnered with a private equity firm in 2011 and sold his business to a major national brand in 2014 for the nice sum of nearly $400 million dollars.

For myself I joined TEC (now known as Vistage) in 1995, partnered with private equity in 2004, and sold my domestic business in 2008. In 2006 I moved on from Vistage to TIGER 21 (coincidentally Jim is now a member of this group too), and have since found further growth deeply involved in the XPRIZE Foundation since 2011, and now, additionally, Joe Polish’s Genius Network.

We were in different parts of the country, we had vastly different businesses, there was no one in common that we worked with — but the thread of a peer group being important to our success stories was the same. Depending on what you are looking for and where you are in your life the cost of being a ‘member’ of these various groups range from under $10,000 to over $100,000 a year.

One thing I am definitely not talking about are social groups where the ‘value’ comes from the bragging rights of being a member. These aren’t country clubs. They are groups where you will be challenged, supported, and, at the same time, able to help others get through tough times you might have already experienced. They work the best when everyone gets a chance of being the smartest person in the room depending only on how they can add value to the problem of the day.

When looking to hire for a growing business look for people the business can grow into and not the other way around. When looking for a peer group you know you are in the right place if you feel you need to grow into the group. You will also know if you are in the right place if the cost of being a member is being returned to you in multiples without needing to do any hard accounting.

Most likely through time you will out grow your group and look to move on, or you might be lucky and find a group that will grow together in ways that cannot be imagined up front. Though this world has become a place where scaling and building a ‘winner takes all’ business is almost thought of as the norm no one who has become an ‘overnight success’ can do it alone. Find the group that is right for where you are today, for where you want to go tomorrow, and who you want to be around while doing it. The pieces will then come together to make everything happen as if by magic.

(Originally posted to Medium)