Ask the consultant: What outsiders are important to business success?

The University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business invites you to participate in the Outside Consultant Q&A column, which appears weekly in the Star Tribune's Monday Business Insider. Submit a question.

This week's question:

What outsiders are the most important to business success (e.g., bankers, accountants, investors, board of advisers, mentors)?


All of those mentioned are important to running and growing a successful business. But one "outsider" not specifically mentioned, which I think is the most important, is that of a peer.

It is my experience that business owners get the best, most practical advice from someone who has walked a mile in their shoes, which is why I suggest to my clients that they join a peer advisory group.

The old saying is true: It's lonely at the top. And it is important to overcome the isolation that comes with being the boss. Peer groups offer an opportunity to discuss important issues with those who can empathize and offer unbiased advice. Bankers, accountants and investors that you mentioned can come to the table with biases and agendas that are not necessarily aligned with those of the business owner. I am not implying any evil-doing, but they just come with a different perspective.

The opportunity to network is another benefit of joining a peer group. Professional networking is becoming more important for growing one's business, and often members of these groups end up doing business with fellow members and referrals.

Finally, leading an organization comes with tremendous pressure and responsibility, and can be a roller-coaster ride of emotions that you probably don't want to share with your employees. Having a group of trusted peers allows you to be comfortable sharing hidden feelings and blow off a little steam, too.