Make Your Peer Groups More Effective
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Running a creative business can be difficult. Perhaps it is pressure that comes with the idea of selling an unseen outcome—in essence, offering concepts and visions rather than a concrete product. Or could it be the very ‘maverick’ type of mentality that often is associated with this industry?
Whatever the reason, it is hard to argue with the fact that there is a unique dynamic to working in this industry. As strategic consultant Nigel Collin, describes it, “By their very nature, creative businesses are slightly maverick and the people who own and run them can often feel like lone wolves, moving across untrodden ground.”
The value of networking certainly isn’t lost on creative professionals. In fact, the idea of peer groups is often considered table stakes for operating in this space. But there is a right way and a wrong way to leverage such resources—done wrong, peer groups can be counterproductive; but done right, they can have the potential to reinvent your business.
The question then becomes: What is the best approach for setting up a peer group that can truly be effective?
Taking a cue from a special closed door workshop at the recent ILEA Live in Calgary could be a good starting point. This two-day workshop, hosted by Collin, was open only to business owners and C-level employees, offering these individuals the chance at give and take on the topics that impact every event business.
Perhaps most effective about the workshop was the makeup of the room—under 12 participants, a broad mix of experience, all operating under the dynamic of unwavering trust. With the understanding that everything that is said in the room stays in the room, individuals were able to let their guard down, offering up a sense of vulnerability that allows you to truly grow.
Allin Foulkrod, CSEP, President, Creative Visions, attended this workshop. For him, one of the key takeaways was the idea of quality control and execution, and how it’s more than simply not having the right employees in place. Instead, the real issue could ultimately come down to process and how it is managed.
“Quality control is a challenge for any industry, and much more for one that serves broad audiences at events,” says Foulkrod. “Our friend is process executed by trained professionals. A great need is processes to plan, execute and evaluate every event in which we contribute.”
Another factor is the rate at which the market is growing. The fear of not being able to keep up with demand remains real for creative professionals. This is where the ability to network with peers on an ongoing basis can help you solidify a strategy that takes into account the collective ‘lesson learned’ from others.
“It was great to sit in a room of like-minded people who share the same challenges and experiences in growing and running creative businesses,” says Collin. “It was an exchange of ideas, a sounding board and an opportunity to tap into a pool of wisdom and advice. There was an understanding of each other's passions, visions and challenges which is a really powerful yet intimate experience. So for me, it reinforced that we often feel alone but are not.”
Alexandra Armstrong CSEP, BFA, concurs. She came away from the workshop with a better understanding that as a creative professional dealing with business challenges, she simply isn’t alone.
“I learned so many things (during the workshop); the biggest being to make use of your network,” she says. “There are people who can help you, but you simply need to be willing to ask for it.
It’s a reminder that while professionals in this space are, to some degree, competitors—it simply does need to be a competition. Those who portion similar challenges can leverage the shared intelligence and experience in order to create positive outcomes. It just comes down to building your peer groups for success—made up cohorts that allow you to let your guard down and ultimately show some level of vulnerability.
The idea of peer groups isn’t revolutionary by any means. However, being able to build a peer group that allows you to build a tremendous amount of trust in a short period of time certainly can be.
It is time to turn the idea that running a creative business is difficult on its heads. Building a peer group that allows each individual to walk away with a sense of validation, commiseration and enthusiasm be the key to making it a reality.