Peer Networks’ offers local business leaders vital support during latest lockdown

12 January 2021

Ambitious business leaders have been told ‘you’re not alone’ as companies are forced to close their doors and work remotely from home as part of the latest lockdown restrictions.

With COVID-19 cases surging, businesses have once again found themselves working from makeshift home offices, with employees having to juggle the demands of working life with home-schooling children kept away from the classroom.

It all adds up to a tricky time for companies, with senior staff often left feeling isolated and frustrated at being ‘away’ from their business.

But a new fully-funded scheme launched in the South East Midlands for ambitious business leaders has created an expert-led network to stimulate business development and growth.

Peer Networks is a national peer-to-peer programme managed locally by SEMLEP’s Growth Hub. The mentoring sessions are being designed and delivered by experts from the world-leading Cranfield School of Management. It brings together diverse cohort groups of individuals from businesses across Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire to collaboratively work through common issues and develop an action plan to resolve them.

The first cohorts started earlier this month and initial feedback has revealed the sessions are proving a lifeline for business leaders who would otherwise be stuck at home on their own.

A snapshot from the first virtual meeting showed that 83 per cent of businesses were ‘very satisfied’ with the quality of the session and also the quality of input from other businesses attending. One delegate said they were “really looking forward to engaging more with everyone on the journey ahead” while another said it was “really exciting” to be part of the first cohort.

Vicky Hlomuka, Manager of SEMLEP’s Growth Hub, said: “It’s hugely encouraging to see such positivity from our first cohort. These businesses will be going on a journey together and already you can see the benefits of working alongside like-minded business leaders to develop your own ideas which will ultimately benefit both your company and others.

“Working from home is likely to be a reality for many of us for months to come and it can be tough, particularly for those who work best in social environments and thrive on human interaction. Peer Networks allows this to happen despite the restrictions placed on us all by COVID-19.

“By engaging with our Peer Networks programme, businesses can ensure they are ready to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever, equipped with the knowledge and expertise they need to build and grow.

“Peer Networks enables you to make connections that go far beyond traditional networking, this is about building a trusted network of connections to support you both now and in the future, improving your long-term personal and business performance.”

Experienced facilitators from Cranfield School of Management are managing the interactive action learning featured in the Peer Networks programme, giving business leaders the chance to openly discuss their own challenges, gain and reflect on valuable feedback and implement practical solutions to overcome them.

Sabrina Sommer, Director Business Growth Portfolio at the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship at Cranfield University said: “This programme offers an opportunity for SMEs to spring into action and address and overcome some of the major challenges they face. The first sessions have got off to a fantastic start and it was good to see such energy and positivity from all those attending, at such an uncertain time for all of us.

“We all need to work together to overcome this unprecedented challenge but it’s hard to do that in isolation. Peer Networks is about telling business owners ‘you’re not alone’ and bringing people together to give them the tools they need to prosper in the post-COVID world.”

The Peer Networks programme is available to any SME business in the South East Midlands that has operated for at least one year and with a turnover of at least £100,000. Ideally, participants should also have the potential to scale up and the ability or potential to export overseas.

A limited number of places on the programme are still available, with businesses urged to sign up as soon as possible to guarantee your place in the cohorts.

You can register your interest in the Peer Networks programme by filling in the enquiry form at A representative of SEMLEP’s Growth Hub will then be in touch to discuss further details about your eligibility, the cohorts and start dates.