CEOs and entrepreneurs have a natural tendency towards self-sufficiency that can lead to decision making in a vacuum or the feeling that no one understands what they are going through. Where can an entrepreneur talk frankly about tough issues, or think strategically about the direction of the business? The Peer to Peer Collaborative is a CEO advisory program of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, that gives growing companies access to a confidential, supportive team of experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders who have been in your shoes and can share lessons learned (often the hard way), as well as strategies for success.
Peer to Peer assembles a team of three accomplished Peer Advisors (CEOs, COOs, and CFOs) who work with you and your management team (if you have one). Over 12- to 18-months, these Peer Advisors help you define business strategy, better understand company financial drivers and opportunities, and grow your leadership skills in keeping with the company’s needs.
Think of a Peer to Peer advisory team as a management think tank. Peer Advisors serve as a sounding board, a trusted source of ideas and expertise - and honest advice. Advisors bring their unique perspectives to help you identify and solve complex problems, create strategic plans for the future, and prepare for and manage growth. At the end of the engagement, you’ll come away with a strategy for building a stronger operational structure, improving profitability and supporting livable wages for your employees. You don’t have to go it alone!
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How Peer to Peer Works
It’s been shown that strong advisory boards improve a company’s chance of survival over time. Peer to Peer Collaborative serves as ad hoc advisory board and paves the way for building a long-term advisory board that can help continue your success. Peer Advisors help you accelerate company and leadership growth by sharing their experiences, triumphs, and failures and by offering an “outside looking-in” perspective on challenges and opportunities you face as a growing business in Vermont. You’ll gain greater objectivity about complex business and leadership issues, and useful advice without the pressure or fiduciary responsibility that a real board of directors brings. Our Peer Advisors do this by:
- Identifying appropriate organizational structure to accommodate company growth,
- Identifying ways to expand and diversify your business,
- Getting your attention off today and on to where you want to be in 5 years,
- Mentoring to build leadership and team skills needed to grow your company,
- Connecting you to a broader network of advisors, funders, customers, vendors, etc.
- Offering three perspectives (CEO, COO and CFO) and brains for the price of one!
Over the years, Peer to Peer has helped small Vermont companies in areas like leadership development, succession planning, business strategy (i.e. what business are you in?), sustainability strategies, employee compensation systems, financial systems analysis (e.g. product pricing and margins, and debt / equity structure), and assessment of sales and marketing strategies.
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Benefits of Peer to Peer
Peer Advisors bring their own experience of being in the trenches and running a business – just like you. Their outside- looking-in perspective and connections expand your knowledge and networks. They offer advice, without trying to control your decision making process. They have been in your shoes, and understand the pressures you’re facing.
Strategic Planning Focused on Sustainability
“In a world of rising energy prices, increased scarcity of natural resources, rampant changes in our climate, growing competition from emerging economies, and increased consumer concern about the quality of life, health and safety, business sustainability is synonymous with business survival.” – Globe-Net, June 23, 2008
Peer to Peer brings a multi-dimensional perspective to helping you grow your business, focusing on strategies and practices that have positive financial, environmental and social impacts on your business. The Peer to Peer Collaborative was created on the premise that livable jobs are the foundation of our companies, our economy and our communities. A livable job is a combination of wages, benefits, and workplace practices that enables a full-time worker to be financially self-sufficient. Peer to Peer recognizes there are many challenges that face small businesses today and we take a holistic approach to helping our clients move forward on their journey towards sustainability.
Ever hear the adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know?” At Peer to Peer, we understand the value of relationships and the critical role they play in connecting businesses with the resources and capital they need to grow in Vermont. We’re a trusted advisor and we partner with economic development entities, the Vermont Small Business Development Center, higher education, state agencies, the investment community and many others to help build entrepreneurial capacity in Vermont. When necessary, the Peer Advisor Team can help you identify additional consultants and technical assistance programs to augment your Peer to Peer scope of work. We make it our business to look ahead for new market opportunities and help you find the right connections you need to grow and be successful.
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Is Peer to Peer Right for Me?
The Peer to Peer Collaborative is a time intensive process. Monthly half-day work sessions are tailored to meet client’s unique needs and are conducted in a supportive, peer learning environment. Sometimes the full Team will meet with you, and other times a Team member may meet one-on-one with you or with another key person on your team. Peer to Peer is best suited for Vermont growth companies that:
- Have an owner who recognizes that leadership skills, operating systems or business strategy needs to evolve and be improved upon in order to accommodate the company’s anticipated growth
- Are owned and operated in Vermont
- Have $1 - $15 million in gross sales and anticipate sales growth in the coming years
- Have 10 – 100 full-time employees
- Have a desire to improve compensation for lowest paid employees (through some combination of salary and/or benefit enhancements, profit sharing, and/or an ESOP)
- Have an interest in reducing their environmental impact (i.e. carbon management) to improve efficiencies, reduce costs, enhance brand and mitigate business risk.
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