A small business's guide to Peer Networks

The importance of peer group networks and access to mentors for business leaders has grown and developed in recent years, and in 2021 these groups will be invaluable as part of local support.

Last Updated: 21 Jan 2021

At times of uncertainty, especially during a national lockdown – and the ongoing pandemic, SME business owners should not feel isolated, they are not on their own.

By working with like-minded people who know business best, they can ensure they are getting the right support and advice to prepare them for future growth opportunities and to ‘build back better.’

To do this, the government backed free Peer Networks programme, has been developed to support businesses in England to prepare for the future, while dealing with current challenges.

Businesses up and down the country are already seeing the benefits of local Peer Networks, which have been created with SMEs in mind and are being delivered locally by Business Growth Hubs, supported by the LEP network.

So, what is Peer Networks, and how does it work?

Peer Networks is supporting SME growth across England as small and medium sized business owners work together to navigate their challenges and adapt to the ‘new normal’.

Business owners come together virtually in small groups to learn from and support each other. They discuss the important challenges and opportunities they face, such as EU transition, recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, HR and dealing with digital, financial and marketing challenges.

Each Peer Networks’ group consists of 8-11 owners or managers from the local SME business community. Led by an experienced facilitator, they will typically meet fortnightly as part of delivering 18 hours of action learning. These small groups of fellow business leaders will work together to come up with tangible solutions in a collaborative, non-competitive environment.

Businesses will also access 1:1 support matched to their specific needs to help build on their learning experience.

Business leaders already on the programme say the experience has enhanced their leadership skills, knowledge and confidence and helps them make new connections within their SME business community.

How you and your business can benefit from Peer Networks

There are several benefits to joining Peer Networks which will support businesses to recover from the impact of Covid-19, build lasting relationships with other small business leaders and adapt to post Brexit trading.

Learn from your peers

Find solutions to the real issues your business faces by working with other local business leaders facing similar challenges.

All it takes is your time

Peer Networks is a completely free programme, all it takes is a few hours of your time each month. You can join virtual sessions from the comfort of your home or office.

Varied delivery, real results

Activities take place in structured, small-group sessions, led by a skilled professional facilitator to make sure you see real results in return for the investment of your time. You will also benefit from access to 1:1 mentoring, coaching or advice depending on the support you need.


Peer Networks brings together business leaders working collaboratively to find solutions to common problems. You will not be placed in a group with any competitors, so you can share your expertise and benefit from others.

Each Peer Network is underpinned by Action Learning principles. Each member has the chance to present an opportunity or issue during the sessions and receive help to explore this and any solutions actions needed, whilst also commenting on the challenges for others. 

Participants feedback to the group so they can then reflect, draw conclusions, and learn from this rich experience and integrate the new knowledge they have gained into workplace actions and business plans.

In this video, Lauren Bailey-Rhodes, operations director at Transform Lives Company (TLC) in Liverpool explains what set Peer Networks apart from other networking groups she had attended.

How can businesses take part?

There has never been a more important time to prepare your business for the future and this is the last chance to sign up to this hugely popular programme.

Registration for Peer Networks takes just three minutes, and you can find out more here. Sign up before the closing date for registrations on 31 January. Peer Networks will run until 31 March 2021.

Peer Networks is financed by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). 

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