Steve Shuchat (left) and Greg Buchner (center) have enjoyed being in a peer group together for the past four years. Todd Hopkins (right) helped match the pair together. Photo Courtesy of BSCAI

Four years ago, Greg Buchner went on a blind date. Well, not exactly. Buchner, president and CEO of CleanOffice in Herndon, Virginia, took a phone call with two building service contractors he had never met: Steve Shuchat, president of Clean All Services in Sidney, Ohio, and Brad Klein, president of Building Professionals of Texas in Houston.

Through his connections with Buildings Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), Buchner was set up with Shuchat and Klein by Todd Hopkins, CEO of Office Pride in Palm Harbor, Florida, who for years played matchmaker for BSCs wanting to create a peer group through the association.

Even though dinner wasn’t involved, it certainly felt like a date as the three gentlemen discussed whether they were compatible enough to form a peer group together.

By joining a group like this, building service contractors don’t have to work alone in the marketplace. Imagine having a trusted set of advisors to help steer the company through uncertain times. Or bounce new ideas off of. Or help fine-tune business practices. That’s where a peer group comes in.

Realizing the benefits, Buchner’s interest level was piqued. He and the other members continued to hold monthly calls over the next few months before finally meeting in-person at an industry event. The group bonded and quickly realized they could trust and lean on one another as a peer group.

“I was skeptical at first, but I could see there were lessons I could learn from them,” says Buchner.

Getting Started

Creating a peer group takes time. The process of establishing the group or adding a member could take anywhere from six months to two years. It’s prudent to go slow because BSCs need to be able to trust one another. Fellow members will soon know everything there is to know about each person and his or her company.

“You are sharing everything — personal life, goals, every mistake you’ve ever made,” says Shuchat.

In the beginning, it’s recommended to start the way Buchner did, with a series of phone calls to feel other members out and get comfortable. If things don’t feel right, they probably aren’t. When that’s the case, it’s best to end the experiment and try again with a different set of members.

“If it doesn’t work out, you’re probably with the wrong people,” says Shuchat.

Groups work best when BSCs are in different geographical markets (so they don’t compete with one another), but in similar stages of the company: size, market offerings, growth strategies, etc. BSCs should spend some time researching the potential members even before the first phone call.

“Be in the same mindset (with each other),” says Klein. “For example, if you’re getting started, it won’t work if someone in the group is trying to sell their company.”

Even more important than sharing company similarities is compatibility with other members, because without it, there will never be trust and the group will fall apart. Signing non-disclosure agreements can help and make members more willing and comfortable to share information, but they won’t guarantee the group will be successful. If members won’t share information without a non-disclosure agreement, then they probably aren’t comfortable enough with the other members to trust them.

“If you can’t fully trust the people, it’s not going to work out and a non-disclosure agreement won’t help the situation,” says Shuchat.

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