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‘You are not alone’: Peer networks deliver vital support for business leaders

AMBITIOUS business leaders have been told “You’re not alone” as companies are forced to close their doors and work remotely from home as part of the latest lockdown restrictions.

With Covid-19 cases surging, businesses have once again found themselves working from makeshift home offices, with employees having to juggle the demands of working life with home-schooling children kept away from the classroom.

Senior staff feel isolated and frustrated at being ‘away’ from their business. But a new scheme launched in the South East Midlands for business leaders has created an expert-led network to stimulate business development and growth.

Peer Networks is a national peer-to-peer programme managed locally by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Hub. The mentoring sessions are led by experts from Cranfield School of Management.

The scheme brings together groups of individuals from businesses across Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire to work through common issues and develop an action plan to resolve them.

Vicky Hlomuka, SEMLEP’s Growth Hub manager.

The first cohorts started earlier this month and initial feedback has revealed the sessions are proving a lifeline for business leaders who would otherwise be stuck at home on their own. A total 83% were delighted with the session and the input from other businesses attending.

Growth Hub manager Vicky Hlomuka said: “It is hugely encouraging to see such positivity from our first cohort. These businesses will be going on a journey together and already you can see the benefits of working alongside like-minded business leaders to develop your own ideas which will ultimately benefit both your company and others.”

“Working from home is likely to be a reality for many of us for months to come and it can be tough, particularly for those who work best in social environments and thrive on human interaction. Peer Networks allows this to happen despite the restrictions placed on us all by Covid-19.”

Facilitators from Cranfield School of Management manage the interactive action learning featured in the Peer Networks programme, giving business leaders the chance to openly discuss their own challenges, gain and reflect on valuable feedback and implement practical solutions to overcome them.

The Peer Networks programme is available to any SME business in the South East Midlands that has operated for at least one year and with a turnover of at least £100,000. Ideally, participants should also have the potential to scale up and the ability or potential to export overseas.

Sabrina Sommer.

Sabrina Sommer, director business growth portfolio at Cranfield’s University’s Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship, said: “This programme offers an opportunity for SMEs to spring into action and address and overcome some of the major challenges they face.

“The first sessions have got off to a fantastic start and it was good to see such energy and positivity from all those attending, at such an uncertain time for all of us.

“We all need to work together to overcome this unprecedented challenge but it’s hard to do that in isolation. Peer Networks is about telling business owners ‘you’re not alone’ and bringing people together to give them the tools they need to prosper in the post-Covid world.”

Places on the programme are still available. To register interest in the Peer Networks programme, complete the enquiry form at www.semlepgrowthhub.com/peer-networks.

Ms Hlomuka said: “By engaging with our Peer Networks programme, businesses can ensure they are ready to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever, equipped with the knowledge and expertise they need to build and grow. 

“Peer Networks enables you to make connections that go far beyond traditional networking, this is about building a trusted network of connections to support you both now and in the future, improving your long-term personal and business performance.”


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