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By October 3, 2023October 11th, 2023Education, Member News & Updates

Building a stronger business future together

The Peer Networks programme is for SME leaders who want to grow and develop their businesses with the support of like-minded entrepreneurs from across Devon and Somerset. Delivered by the University of Exeter Business School, the programme is open to around 10 businesses from the area, who will be supported to explore common business issues in an informal and confidential environment.

Experienced facilitators will use action learning techniques to provide a structured and creative framework for exploring and sharing issues and challenges. In addition, all participants have 1-2-1 support from an experienced entrepreneur.

The programme runs from November 2023 and finishes in January 2024. It is delivered through a mixture of both online and face-to-face sessions. Thanks to funding from the Heart of the South West Local Economic Partnership, the Peer Networks programme is available free of charge.

Who is the programme for?

Peer Networks is designed for business leaders in Devon and Somerset who want to grow and develop their organisations for future success.

The programme is available to any SME business that has:

  • An aspiration to improve
  • Been in existence for over a year
  • Have at least 5 employees
  • Turnover of at least £100,000 p.a.
  • Is willing to commit to attend all four sessions between November 2023 and January 2024.

If you are interested in participating but have fewer than 5 employees and a smaller turnover, please do get in touch as we can incorporate 2 smaller businesses.

How does it work? The programme includes 18 hours of interactive group sessions which will be delivered using action learning techniques. The sessions are delivered by action learning facilitators from the University of Exeter Business School, who are experienced in supporting SMEs. The Business School is currently recruiting 8-11 businesses to form a new cohort starting in November 2023.

Each member of the cohort will have the opportunity to present opportunities, challenges, or problems to their cohort, and engage in collaborative discussion with other members to find practical solutions via the action learning methodology that the programme encourages.

Sessions are informal, accessible and focused on the needs of participants. Topics businesses have previously explored include:

  • Finance
  • Sales and marketing
  • Business model innovation
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Change management and new ways of working
  • Leadership development and resilience
  • Recruitment and talent management
  • Embedding formal management processes and systems
  • Digital
  • Use of data to drive value in the business

Sessions will be a mixture of face-to-face sessions held in Exeter along with some virtual sessions conducted on Zoom.

What are the benefits?

By completing Peer Networks, you will:

  • Find ways to overcome business challenges
  • Identify new ideas and approaches that can help you grow your business
  • Build a trusted network of connections to support you now and in the future
  • Improve your long-term personal and business performance

The programme builds on three previous successful Peer Networks cohorts involving 30 SME owners and leaders across Devon that took place during 2020-22. Participants reported that the programme had been transformational in helping them think about, and formulate action plans to address their business challenges:

  • Joanne Caine, from Cathedral Appointments, a participant on the pilot programme found the programme transformational in her approach to solving business issues: “The Peer Networks Programme is an alternative and great way to openly discuss business issues with likeminded business owners and identify a range of solutions that might not have been considered by yourself. The people on the programme were all highly supportive and we all learnt quickly that sharing and trust is a very powerful thing! I will be using action learning for any problem solving / business issues moving forward.”
  • James Woollan from David and Charles Ltd found the sessions also found the programme extremely useful for developing his business: “I found the Peer Network and Action Learning sessions incredibly valuable and relevant to my business. We had a group that was very supportive and I felt completely at ease sharing some of our business challenges throughout the sessions. The program was expertly facilitated, with clear actions and follow-up from each session. I learned a lot, met some great people and came away with some new ideas to take our business forward. I found the meetings with the entrepreneur-in-residence very valuable and a great complement to the Peer Network sessions.”

When does the programme start and what’s the commitment?
Dates are as follows:

8th November 2023 9.30 – 4.00 In person in Exeter
22nd November 2023 9.30 – 1.30 Online via Zoom
13th December 2023 9.30 – 1.30 Online via Zoom
10th January 2023 9.30 – 1.30 In person in Exeter

How can I sign up?
If you would like to discuss the programme, please contact Ciara Eastell at [email protected].

To register interest in joining the programme, please complete the Expression of Interest form: