Successful contractors continue working in winter. The nature of work changes from season to season, but they keep working.

But, even as contractors stay busy with their seasonal chores, smart contractors continue to build upon their business management skills. Some do this by networking with other successful contractors. In my opinion, the development, popularity and participation in peer groups among landscape contractors is one of the most powerful business-building trends the industry is experiencing.

What’s a peer group? Simply explained: A peer group is a relatively small group of like-minded contractors of similar-sized companies from non-competing markets that regularly share their individual business-related experiences. A peer group generally consists of six to 10 members, although there is no defined size.

I facilitate several peer groups, which meet face-to-face or via teleconference a few times each year. My Young Guns peer group is an example of contractors helping each other by sharing their knowledge and experiences. Young Guns members are generally younger contractors, but many have been in business for more than 10 years, and all have the entrepreneurial spirit.

“Being a part of any green industry peer group is invaluable,” says Adam Linnemann, president of Linnemann Lawn Care & Landscaping, Columbia, Illinois, in the St. Louis market. “The knowledge from others in the industry that is shared and usually confidential will help your business succeed and grow.”

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To create real benefits for members, peer groups require a lot of planning by the facilitator, who develops and distributes business-related topics prior to group discussions. This agenda gives members time to gather ideas and other valuable information to participate in the conversations.

During discussions, each member weighs in with comments and suggestions focusing on common business problems and issues. Confidentiality and respect are vital because members often share sensitive information. Some discuss their business plans, where each member wants to be in five years, hiring and retaining good people and customer relations issues.

“Peer group membership is a valuable opportunity for contractors to learn from each other,” says Mike Mason, vice president of Lawn Pro, Louisville, Kentucky.

When a member brings an issue to the group, the group helps resolve the issue with suggestions that have worked them on similar problems. Matters like problems with a difficult employee or hiring a manager result in a spirited discussion and everyone benefits. Peer group membership is by invitation and members are expected to attend scheduled meetings or conference calls. Usually members are from different markets or regions, which eliminates the fear of sharing your knowledge with a local competitor.

Members help each other build better businesses by actively participating and sharing their experiences and knowledge.

Are you a member of a peer or networking group?

Who can better understand what it takes to be a landscape contractor more than other landscape contractors? Maybe that’s why peer networking groups are exploding in growth in the landscape industry. Many of these continue to crop up in the industry, promoting the fact that like-minded business owners from noncompeting areas can get together to talk openly about their businesses. According to Turf’s Twitter poll, 63 percent of respondents are members of peer groups— 50 percent for more than one year.