The Peer Group: The Benefits of Brutal Honesty

 

Peer groups, as such organizations are called, are everywhere. The three biggest — TEC, YEO, and the Young Presidents’ Organization¬†(YPO) — together boast a membership of more than 16,000 CEOs, presidents, partners, and owners. The companies that belong to YEO and TEC employ more than 1.5 million people all told; their combined sales exceed $210 billion. And that’s just the tip of a very large iceberg.

As peer groups have emerged, so have some rules of operation. For example, no good group allows direct competitors into the same local circle, so members can freely share their fears — and their numbers. Members’ frankness about their own companies is matched by the frank comments and critiques of their peers, who become a kind of de facto board of directors. “Your managers aren’t going to embarrass you” by forcing you to account for your actions, says Andrea Keating, who joined YEO while growing her $5.5-million company, Crews Control. “The peer group never forgets.”

Peer groups can also be great fun, especially for the insatiably entrepreneurial who relish being dealt into the game of business at several tables at once. And occasionally, the experience of running someone else’s shop is more than just vicarious: in one instance a TEC group collectively ran a member’s business for six months after he suffered a heart attack.