Peer Group Seminar
Attending a peer group seminar at BSCAI is good first step to forming a group

How the peer group operates is up to the group, but those with experience recommend keeping in touch with phone calls once a month. Calls typically last an hour and a half and cover one pertinent topic for a member, for example, how to recruit new janitors or test a new market.

Through these phone calls, the group becomes a sounding board for each other. Members share lessons from past experiences — both good and bad — rather than dispense advice. It might be embarrassing, but it’s better for BSCs to share their mistakes than let a member go through that same problem.

Ted Hsu, president of Horizon Services Company in East Hartford, Connecticut, joined an existing peer group a year ago. Through this form of networking, Hsu realized one of his concerns was what would happen to his company if something unforeseen and unfortunate happened to him.

To answer Hsu’s need, the group devised a plan that would still leave the member’s heirs in charge, but the other peer group members would advise the family on next steps for the business. Unless the family worked for the company, it’s possible the peer group members know more about the business than anyone.

“[Group members] presume the principal is not there to make an orderly exit from the company,” says Hsu. “We can provide some objectivity and industry-specific advice. We act as support to the family. Otherwise, they’d be completely dependent on the M&A advisor or buyer.”

In addition to the calls, members typically take turns visiting each other’s facilities throughout the year to take an in-depth look at operational procedures and processes. This inside peek into another company is what makes peer groups so special and different from normal networking, says Val Garcia, president and CEO of SMI Facility Services, Alburquerque, New Mexico.

“To go into someone else’s business and see how it operates is something you always hoped you could do,” says Garcia.

Site audits analyze all aspects of the business: operations, sales, leadership issues, growth plans and more. It’s a chance for a deeper dive into the company’s current challenges.

“The site visit is a ‘business colonoscopy,’” says Klein.

Peer group members meet with individual departments without the principal member present. The visits provide a fresh set of eyes to look at the company and offer a different perspective.

“We are careful not to be judgmental; we keep professional objectivity,” says Hsu. “The advice we give should be the same advice we are executing.”

Although it’s not easy to hear one’s faults, exposing the problem is the first step to creating a better company.

“It’s a wake-up call; it hurts,” says Garcia. “But then a few days later, you get your team together and start fixing those problems.”

Even though BSCs might be analyzing another member’s company, they can still learn best practices to take back home and improve their own businesses.

“It’s a win-win all around,” says Garcia. “It’s very rewarding for everyone involved.”

Peer group meetings don’t always have to be business-minded. Throughout the year members will get together outside of the site visits and phone calls. Often, if members attend the same conventions, groups like to get together for dinner and enjoy each other’s company.

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