Giant Leap’s peer mentoring groups differ from others in seven important ways.
- Our groups have a maximum of ten members. We have found that the optimal number of people in a group is nine or ten. With this number the right balance between diversity of experience and opinion and intimacy within the group is reached. There is great energy in a group this size, and everyone has an opportunity to explore his or her challenges and opportunities. Other peer mentoring organizations aim for 12-16 members, which is driven by their economic model. They accept that members will miss some meetings during the year, thus ensuring a critical mass at each meeting.
- We want members to attend every meeting, if possible. Members of our groups are committed to helping ensure that everyone is able to attend each meeting. This means we will try to reschedule meetings if a business need will make it impossible for someone to attend. We will also, on occasion, accommodate members participating via conference. Why? Because peer mentoring groups operate at a higher level when everyone is there. When a member misses a meeting, a good part of the next meeting is spent getting caught up. Of course, things happen and people do have to miss owing to illness or a last minute change of plans. But on average we have very high attendance, and this helps strengthen the bonds between group members and leads to greater value from the experience.
- Our presentation approach is powerful and effective. When members have a meaty topic to bring to the group, they prepare in advance with a coach and provide background to the group before the meeting. This gets the “scene setting” part of a presentation out of the way and helps ensure sufficient time is spent understanding the situation and exploring the key drivers in making a decision. We devote 30 to 60 minutes to these presentations, and, if needed, we will take more time to do a deep dive. We complement these types of presentations with shorter scrums to help someone begin to get clarity on how to approach an issue.
- This is not a speakers’ bureau. When we do have speakers they are compensated. Some of the other peer mentoring organizations have speakers at every meeting. This can be a source of great content. If that is what you are seeking, we are probably not the best choice for you. At Giant Leap we have speakers on occasion, usually twice a year. Unlike other companies, the outside professionals who speak at our meetings are compensated for their time. Often, other organizations provide speakers with an opportunity to market to their members, and there is an implicit understanding that this is okay. Of course, if a member wants to follow up with a speaker and that leads to them doing business together, that is beneficial to both parties, but we do not provide outsiders with implicit permission to market to our members. We feel it is disrespectful to members and speakers not to compensate an outside professional and by paying them we avoid undermining the main purpose of the group.
- We focus on developing financial competence. There are a number of things that have to come together for a business to be successful — a high functioning team, compelling product or service offering, the ability to create positive customer experiences, effective sales and marketing, and well-functioning administration and financial management. In our experience, people who run their own businesses are often weakest in the financial area. For this reason, we put more emphasis on talking about numbers than our counterparts. On a monthly basis members share their monthly financial results and key metrics with each other. Then once a year they present their annual financial results — much like a CEO would do to his or her board of directors. Over time this builds understanding and confidence.
- Our groups grow organically. Some peer mentoring organizations are intent on growing their network. They put primary responsibility for finding members onto the chair or facilitator of the group. There is nothing inherently wrong with treating peer mentoring as a business, and there is undeniable value in the network itself. But it can lead to focusing on getting a group to a certain number and putting people together who might not be a great fit. We are also growing our network and the number of groups that are active. But we take a longer view of the process and are not in a hurry to get a group to a certain size. Our focus is on having the right people together, and our group members play a significant role in determining the criteria for participation in their groups and evaluating potential new members.
- Giant Leap’s peer mentoring groups are a good value, and we spread payments over time. Our members spend the same or more time in person in group than other peer mentoring vehicles, and we charge less for participation. We do this for two reasons. The first is that we do not want the cost to be prohibitive for owners and CEOs of smaller, growing companies from being able to benefit from the peer mentoring experience. The second is that we intentionally maintain low overhead so that our mentors are well compensated. The focus is on creating the best experience possible for our members. Finally, we invoice three times a year, rather than requiring payment up front for the entire cycle. This smooths out cash flow for our members and also reminds us that we earn our member’s business at every meeting.
Giant Leap is not for everyone. If you are seeking regular speakers and a more flexible attendance arrangement, then another option may be better for you. But if you want a tight-knit group of people committed to each other and focused on helping each other grow their businesses profitably, then our peer mentoring groups might be just what you are looking for.