The Myths, Truths, and Powers of Peer Groups


In his 1937 book about self and business development entitled Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill offers an early description of what business leaders would currently call a peer group. In the book, Hill writes of “two or more people actively engaged in the pursuit of a definite purpose with positive mental attitudes,” and says that this group “constitutes an unbeatable force.”

Since 1937, much has been written about peer groups and how they can help business owners achieve success by providing insight. These groups put business leaders in the room with like-minded individuals, as well as individuals from different industries and those who take drastically different approaches. Some writings about peer groups are useful, but others do miss the point, or spread myths about peer groups that may not be true. By demystifying which pieces of conventional wisdom surrounding peer groups are true and which are myths, we can ensure that business leaders are using this potentially “unbeatable force” to the best of its ability.

Myth: Only those business leaders who are doing something wrong need the advice of a peer group.

The Truth Behind It: Even when things are going well, every business leader stands to benefit from speaking to and learning from other business owners. It’s a good way to keep a pulse on the market and overall economy, as well as to analyze general market wide trends and get advice to help you avoid any stumbling blocks.

Of course, some leaders do have a certain level of clout and experience, and can either employ experts to track market trends, or may already be doing so themselves. But peer groups can have use for those individuals as well. Truth is, running a business is stressful, and leaders often take on more responsibilities than one person should reasonably handle. Peer groups offer leaders a platform to express their thoughts and feelings outside of their organization, providing a neutral space to voice the primary concerns of your business and life balance. It also allows them to get objective feedback and support from people from all walks of life, providing an objective lens into their strengths and weaknesses (everyone has them).

Myth: People who join peer groups do it for opportunistic reasons.

The Truth Behind It: Yes, people do join peer groups with the hope of improving their businesses, but that doesn’t mean they are going to use them as platforms to try and sell their good and services. In fact, many participants in peer groups have stated that the groups are good opportunities to get away from the constant selling they are tasked with in their day-to-day jobs.

The other thing that participants in peer groups have to say on the subject is that the most effective groups are the ones in which members get vulnerable. If members of the groups use them simply as opportunities to sell, network, or build connections, they tend to only present the positives about their businesses. The result is that they fail to get perspective on the issues they came to the peer group to address AND end up leaving with only surface-level connections.

So yes, opportunistic peer groups can be a problem, but a fixable one. If you yourself come to a peer group ready and willing to dive in, be vulnerable, and do the work of actually presenting the challenges you face as a business leader, others will likely follow suit. Then the real work can begin.

Myth: It’s not worth my time to engage in a peer group.

The Truth Behind It: There is some truth behind this myth. Peer groups do take time and intentionality to be effective, and busy business leaders may have to carve time out of already packed schedules to participate. However, it is the opinion of MANY that have participated in peer groups that, when it comes to this tool, “a stitch in time saves nine.” Peer groups can offer solutions and strategies for everything from time management to delegation to life/work balance, and actually might help you save time in the long run. That being said, you may not want to jump into one at your busiest time of year. That is the time to take notes on what is going well for your business when it’s at capacity and what can be improved upon. That way, you can bring those notes into a later peer group to help you solicit solutions and offer advice of your own.

Takeaways: Like anything in business or life, you will get out of a peer group what you put into it. If you show up with a willingness to be vulnerable and spend a little time away from your day-to-day, they can be incredibly effective tools. Participants have cited everything from less stress to innovative practices as things they have gotten out of the process, which has been used over the years by successful business leaders from Andrew Carnegie to many other accomplished professionals.

How EFBC Can Help: If you are looking to join a peer group, look no further than EFBC forums! If you’re not already familiar, our forums allow business leaders to connect once a month in small settings and receive all the benefits associated with any other peer group. And if time is still a concern for you, we offer a flexible option that might work better with your busy schedule. Find out more here: