WHAT IS A SOUNDING BOARD GROUP?
Sounding Board Groups are groups of 8-12 business owners who meet once a month in a confidential environment to discuss business issues using a structured format with a professional facilitator, with an emphasis on sharing experiences, encouraging accountability and developing connections with the group members.
WHO QUALIFIES TO BE IN A GROUP?
Sounding Board CEO Peer Groups work best if the group members are in a similar stage of business growth, as the issues encountered tend to be similar, regardless of industry. There are three group types for three different levels of development:
· Early Stage: For Start-ups in the first year or so of business, with fewer than 3 employees, and under $500,000 in revenue.
· First Stage: For owners in business over a year, with about 3-9 employees and typically $500,000 to $1 million in revenue
· Second Stage: For businesses experiencing rapid growth, with 10-99 employees and $1 million to $50 million in revenue.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Group members meet once a month for about half a day, following the PeerSpectives Roundtable System(TM) that emphasizes confidentiality and honest communication among members. Members are from non-competing, non-referring businesses and focus on experience sharing to aid in executive problem solving. The licensed facilitator keeps the group on schedule, making sure all discussions are relevant and no one person dominates the discussion.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
This roundtable process has proven to be successful in helping business owners find a way to discuss sensitive issues about work with peers rather than employees or family members. Participants gain insight through experience sharing that helps address problems and identify opportunities. The group members hold each other accountable when making difficult decisions, but ease the process by emphasizing sharing similar experiences and not giving advice. Group members develop trusted relationships to share both business and personal issues.
HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM A NETWORKING GROUP?
The purpose of these groups is to create a confidential environment where business owners feel free to share financial troubles, personnel problems, concerns about growing too fast or too slow, and other business challenges. A group should consist of businesses that do NOT want to do business together, as members would feel uncomfortable sharing their challenges in front of potential customers or vendors. Doing business together is strongly discouraged, and competitors are not allowed.
HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT THAN A MASTERMIND GROUP?
A Sounding Board group is certainly more similar to a Mastermind Group than to a Networking Group, as both Sounding Board and Mastermind groups focus on regular peer-to-peer conversations about work. Some Mastermind groups are led by a facilitator and some are not. A Sounding Board Group is always facilitator-led and follows the proven PeerSpectives Roundtable System(TM) agenda to ensure confidentiality, experience sharing and balanced discussion. Groups tend to be a bit larger than Mastermind groups, averaging 10-12 rather than 3-5 members.
HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT THAN AN EXECUTIVE COACH?
Typically, an executive coach works one-on-one with executives to help advance their professional careers. The relationship is more uneven, rather than peer-focused. Early Stage Sounding Board groups do offer alternating coaching services with peer groups, as we feel that entrepreneurs can benefit from the combination. First and Second Stage groups benefit greatly from the confidential, experience-sharing process among peers. Members are welcome to seek out executive coaching for themselves, separate from the Sounding Board group if they desire.
WHAT IS THE TIME COMMITMENT?
Sounding Board groups meet monthly for about 3-4 hours. It is up to the group to decide the best days or times to meet. Some groups meet for breakfast and then run the meeting in the first half of the day; some meet over lunch and the second half of the workday. Evening and weekend meetings may be an option as well. First and Second Stage groups meet 10 times a year, taking off July and December as we have seen those months are the hardest to schedule. Early Stage groups will meet every other month, six times a year, with the alternating months set aside for one-on-one coaching.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
Members are asked to make a year-long commitment to this group, as the greatest value lies in the relationships that are formed in your group. Groups members typically begin the life of their group together, but members may drop out from time to time. Group members have the ability to veto or vote in new members to their group. The annual cost of the group is based on your level. Early Stage groups cost $850 per member per year, First Stage groups are $900 and Second Stage groups are $1000. Membership is annual, but payments can be broken up, and members who drop the group will be refunded unused funds less an administrative fee.
HOW DO THE DISCUSSIONS STAY CONFIDENTIAL?
Confidentiality of the Sounding Board discussions is the most important aspect of the entire process. Members must feel completely comfortable sharing very sensitive issues about their financial situation, personnel issues, personal health and other components that factor into running the business. The facilitator and members all sign a confidentiality agreement. Sponsors, hosts, visitors and potential members are not permitted to sit in for the discussion. The conference room should ideally not be visible to others. All written materials used for discussion during the meeting are destroyed after the meeting. We find that the issues being discussed in the group get more and more sensitive and emotionally charged as the group gets more and more comfortable with each other and the process.
WILL ANY COMPETITORS BE IN THE GROUP WITH ME?
No. All members have the right to veto any potential new members, and no groups will be put together without the express agreement of each member to be in the group with the others. We do not allow competitors, customers or vendors to be in the same group. Ideally, every member will be from a different industry, as the diversity of the group enhances the conversation.
CAN I SIT IN ON A GROUP BEFORE I DECIDE TO JOIN?
Yes and no. An existing group will decide if they want to accept a particular new group member. Then that potential new group member can meet with the group BEFORE they begin the formal peer group roundtable meeting format. But they cannot listen in to the actual meeting, as it is only for members. From time to time, ‘mock’ groups will be held to explain the process, without revealing any of the actual business problems of the group members, using case study examples.
HOW DO I SIGN UP?
Contact Kelly Berry at Kelly@SoundingBoardGroups.com or complete the application on the website and submit it to us. If you're interested in learning more, we hold free Information Sessions from time to time. Contact us to get your name on the list for an upcoming session or check our RSVP page for more information!