The benefits of peer networking
It’s more than just seeing what the competition is doing better
If you’ve read Reeves Journal’s Coach’s Corner before, you’ve probably seen the name Nexstar Network. While being a part of Nexstar is wonderful, there are benefits to being a part of any network for the plumbing and HVAC industries. Other networking opportunities can be found within organizations such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America Association and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association.
At Nexstar, the ultimate goal is to bring contractors together to help raise our industry standards as a whole. This is one of the main benefits to being part of a network! The willingness to share business insights helps raise the bar for everyone involved.
Nexstar brings members together through annual events, regional meetings and other types of gatherings, but one of the most rewarding member connections we encourage is what we call the Personal Board of Directors. These types of groups can be tricky. The ones that work extremely well have often formed organically out of friendships, and the dynamic of the group is often the key ingredient that will determine the success of said group. Now that Nexstar has a dedicated connections coach, we hope to help with the proliferation of these groups within the organization.
In keeping with its name, the PBOD is a more personal, smaller group of representatives from companies in your industry. The people in these groups tend to know a lot about the ins and outs of the business: It’s usually an owner, CEO, president or general manager. There should be a sense of equal footing across the group — you want to learn from those in a similar position that you are.
It can feel intimidating to open up your business practices to someone else in the industry and even downright wrong. But to get the most out of these types of groups, you must be willing to open your books and to listen to constructive criticism. In doing this, you are holding yourself and others in the group accountable in following through on change in your businesses. One way to avoid having to share this type of information with your direct competition is to look for group members outside of your service area; search for people in your trades of a similar company size elsewhere.
Running a successful PBOD
When forming a group like this, it helps to have a dedicated person whose role is to make these connections for you, as we have at Nexstar. However, if you’re looking to form a group through another organization, or you want to try to reach out on your own, here’s how to create and run a successful PBOD:
• Group size. You want to have a minimum of four companies in your group, but no more than seven. Depending on what you are looking for, four companies can be more intimate. You’ll get to know these people and businesses well, and you’ll have the chance to get each person’s detailed opinion. When you have seven or more companies in a group, you can have some group members start to break off in side conversations. This is not necessarily bad, but can defeat the purpose of a small, connected group.
• Business goals. You want to join up with people who have similar business goals to you, such as the desire to grow your business and be the best in customer service. If you are not on the same page or don’t have similar goals, you might not be a good fit with that group and you will not get the most you can out of it.
• Personal traits. It helps to have something personal in common. For example, hobbies such as riding motorcycles, golf, etc. Some Nexstar PBODs travel together on vacation every year. They all know each other’s spouses or significant other and bring them along. Age and personalities can also play a role in the group; it can be a good idea to find people similar in these areas also.
• Geography. As mentioned previously, sometimes it helps to ensure that your group members are spread out, so you’re not sharing your best ideas with your direct competition. At Nexstar, there are PBODs whose group members are on opposite coasts. You must be willing to travel if this is the case.
• Meetings. You should meet over the phone or video chat once or twice a month, but you should meet in person at least twice a year. Holding a meeting at one or multiple of the group members’ businesses is a great way to do this! Put money in your business budget to travel — this group is intended to support and grow your business, so include it as part of your overall business plan.
The main requirement for a group like this is for everyone to participate. You must give advice and take advice in order to make this work! Before you have someone new join the group, make sure they say “yes” to these two questions: Are you willing to do whatever it takes? Are you open to change?