Moving My Business Forward with BusinessForward

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, September 07, 2010 at 04:00 AM with 6 comments

Tomorrow midday I have a regularly scheduled meeting I highly look forward to. Every other week on a Wednesday is something we call “BusinessForward” which is a peer mentoring meeting.

BusinessForward logo

The origin of BusinessForward came out of need. Myself and my design partner and friend Emily Brackett of Visible Logic, Inc. were talking one day about the everyday challenges we had of running, leading and growing our businesses, plus the need for a peer group to both share with others and get help with our own issues. During that conversation I recalled a similar group I was in several years ago called “Circle of Progress” where we would be held accountable for doing something between meetings by publicly stating it, and supporting each other through the process. Though Emily and I speak and work together throughout the week, I suggested we start it ourselves, with the intent to grow the group organically, rather than seek out a number of people first, as our goal was growth of our businesses, not growth of a group.

A Peer Mentoring Group Is Born

With that, our peer networking group was born. We wanted to call it something, and after bouncing words between Chicago and Portland, Maine, we came up with BusinessForward, as it’s what we wanted to do, move our business forward. As for the structure of the meetings, we decided to meet every 2 weeks, and each week we could commit to a task, outline its steps, and set its priority for the period. At the start of the next meeting, we would recap our previous commitment, if we completed it or not, and why. We would then state a new commitment for the next period. To facilitate this Emily created a PDF form which we would email to each other prior to the call, thus putting our commitments in writing.

Committing to something in writing was not to intimidate us or to highlight failure. Instead, presenting our plans was to benefit everyone – an idea for one business could certainly carry over to another. As well, when talking through the steps with someone else, you may recognize something you may want to do different, or another member of the group may have something to contribute to it. Stating it in writing allows you to use the card as a milestone marker and a target until the next meeting. Positive reinforcement is the hallmark of any peer group, and the bi-weekly card and statements were key to that.

But Before We Begin Each Meeting…

Prior to the first ever BusinessForward meeting, Emily asked if she could share something that was bothering her. I agreed, and thus started something that was an additional tradition and positive point for each meeting, something we called “the bitch of the week!” Before our turn in the meeting, we would state something work-related that was bothering us. It could be a client paying late or an issue with a vendor or whatever. The point of this became to help clear an intangible but clearly impeding issue from our heads and workplace, and by sharing it we could get some reinforcement and feedback from the collective. For me, it is something I look forward to just as much as my commitment of the week.

And Then There Were Three

After BusinessForward was going strong for several months, I shared the concept with Kathryn Neal Odell of Sales-Onsite, LLC, who has become a good friend and trusted colleague. She found the concept interesting and after discussing it with Emily we invited her to join as our 3rd member. The addition of Kathryn was a great move, as it gave not only another person to collaborate with, but someone who has a wealth of experience in working in sales. By contributing her conference call line it added a level of structure so there was no need to hunt down where each of us was. Kathryn raised the bar for participation in BusinessForward and in the selection of any future members.

The Success Is In The Results

So has BusinessForward been helpful to our businesses? I will only speak for myself and scream, “yes!” In addition to the positives sprinkled throughout this writing, I must add as a business owner, many times we make decisions in a vacuum or with what we think is all the information we need to decide. BusinessForward has helped me not only with the larger decisions, but with the steps to take in meeting the objectives of my business growth activities.

Do you belong to a peer mentoring group? How has it worked for you? Do you share my desire to be in one? Your comments on this are appreciated.

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