To strengthen peer-to-peer networks and support small business owners growth goals, CEOs need additional peer network accountability and stronger support. Here are three approaches from Morriah Kaplan, Program Manager at NYCSBS, on how to build and cultivate healthy networks for entrepreneurs.
THREE WAYS TO BUILD PEER-TO-PEER NETWORKS FOR CEOs:
1) Alumni Mentors: Build your network through giving back
“There has been a sense of alumni wanting to give back and engage,” Morriah says. “Most really loved the program and wanted to give back, as well as continue professional development and deliver on their growth plans.”
Using the feedback from her alumni, and a program outline from Interise, Morriah introduced the Alumni Mentors program this year. A group of local alumni mentor the current class of business owners to offer them support, guidance, and personal experience as they write their own growth plans.
“Alumni Mentors have been helpful in that they can give a sense of how the program works, and advice about how to approach it and get the most out of it. The whole thing can feel abstract and overwhelming for participants, so having alumni speak to it has been helpful.”
2) Local reunions and events: Build your network through personal connection
Building a network through addressing common interests and needs will allow you to connect with people on a deeper level – beyond just business prospects. You can engage people in the network to hold you accountable to your goals, to offer continued learning opportunities, and to explore unique partnerships.
Ongoing meetings with classmates and local reunions with the broader network of alumni are having a big impact in many Interise communities.
“[The alumni] were interested in meeting other people in the network and reuniting with their class. [They are] also interested in doing more structured networking activities in the future, and they are ready for substance. They are asking for more structured ways to explore partnership opportunities,” said Morriah of the needs and interests of alumni. In New York City, the most recent alumni class divided their growth plans into monthly goals, and they meet every month to check in on each other.
3) Alumni Advisory: Build your network through leadership
To guide her design of alumni programming in New York City, Morriah created an Alumni Advisory Group. “They focus on 3 key areas: event planning, online alumni engagement, and program publicity. This places value on their engagement…It’s important to have alumni drive and generate content for what they are doing, rather than me thinking what would be most helpful. We are going into this having no idea about the capacity [of the alumni], and what they are able to take on.”
Serving in a leadership role within a network can be incredibly impactful. Network leaders help guide programming that they believe to be valuable, making it worth the time and effort. Network Leaders also increase their own visibility, making them more accessible to new and existing network members.
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Morriah Kaplan is the Program Manager for Strategic Steps for Growth (SS4G), Interise’s longest standing program partner. SS4G has been running programs since 2010, and they now have a network of around 150 NYC alumni. Morriah took on her role just last summer, and already she has engaged a large percentage of SS4G alumni. They are benefitting from programming offered by SBS and Interise, and some are using the motivation to initiate their own meetings.