Whether it’s to seek out a new position in a gymnastics gym, dance studio or swim school or to expand your network, the benefits of networking with industry experts or peers that may have more experience in the field can be invaluable.
But what about networking with those at gymnastics gyms, dance studios and swim schools who are more similar to us? You may think of this as horizontal networking, or you may not think of it as networking at all, but as relationship development with peers. You may even look at it as simply socializing with your friends. What you’re really taking advantage of is peer networking or networking with peers and making these connections can be tremendously valuable to youth activity center owners.
The benefits of networking with peers can include very high-level topics such as insight into how to overcome obstacles and capitalize on high gain activities. These benefits can be both immediate and long-term.
What are the Immediate Benefits of Networking with Professionals like you?
- Meeting someone who can connect you with some good candidates for a hire you need to make.
- Meeting someone who can provide great advice on a situation that has you stumped.
What is the Long-term Value of Business Networking?
- Making contacts that can fill skills gaps in your staff in the future.
- Meeting someone who can provide you with a service you don’t need now but will need with a little more growth.
What is the value of business networking?
The benefits you can experience from networking within your industry aren’t limited to your organization. Peer networking can put you in contact with people who can help you in your personal and family life as well. In fact, there is a lot of overlap as your conversations with your peers deepen.
You’re sure to have exclaimed “I didn’t know you did that!” when you first learned what a neighbor or a new friend from church does for a living. Nurturing that conversation can shed light on hidden connections that – when exposed – are opportunities for you and your friend to initiate a beneficial professional relationship or deepen a rewarding friendship.
How networking can help your business
Here are eight endearing facts that explain why peer networking is such a benefit to your gymnastics gym, dance studio or swim school:
1. Peer networking is great practice for conversation with seasoned owners.
When you network with coworkers and friends, you can ‘hone your skills’ so that you present yourself as a more knowledgeable and connected professional with more seasoned professionals within your industry or organization or outside of it. Even if networking doesn’t come naturally to you, getting involved in it can help you expand your immediate circle of peers and help you open up a new world of opportunities.
Tip: A great way to network with those in your gymnastics gym, dance studio or swim school that you don’t work with every day is to participate in your company’s volunteer or community service events.
2. Peer networking connects you with those who share similar challenges.
Uncovering common challenges with peers who do something completely different than you provides you with a comfort zone that may be absent otherwise. You’ll learn that you can genuinely share experiences and describe challenges in ways that help everyone. You’ll also have new resources for support and compassion in your day-to-day job challenges.
Stephanie Tomalis, Director of Operations at Charlotte Aquatics (Charlotte, NC)
“Networking with other youth activity centers – specifically swim schools – is critical to our success. Insight is everything when you can gain perspective from a colleague in your industry who is already doing what you do – just in a different way.”
3. Peer networking enables you to befriend someone who can help you in the future.
None of us knows where we might be in a year, two years or five years from now. One of your peers could easily be in a leadership role that could help you in a few years. Befriending them now, sets groundwork for promising opportunities to come. After all, the larger your network, the larger your realm of possibility.
Mitzi Perkins and Jeremy Limberger, Owners of Tumblebus Central Alabama (Sylacauga, AL)
“As new users, it was invaluable to be able to talk with others who are using Jackrabbit and have them helping us understand how to do things to get the most from our software.”
4. Peer networking connects you to friends who can help you now.
After looking for information about service providers you’re thinking of hiring, you wonder who else you can ask about doing this. Your peer group is a tremendous resource for identifying what vendors to use or avoid. Knowing this quickly can save you lots of time and pain in testing out new service providers.
Tip: A great place to network with peers is your college alumni association events which are built in opportunities for connecting with peers that you already have someone in common with.
5. Peer networking made easy.
It requires little more than adjusting your gaze (from those above you to those on par with you) and having conversations. Peer networking comes so naturally, you probably don’t even realize you’re doing it. You feel like you’re talking with co-workers, career associates or friends when, in reality, you’re establishing or strengthening relationships with those who you’ve developed enough of a connection with that they will make the investment in helping you.
Candace Miller, VEGA (Camas, WA)
“I really enjoy networking with other owners about ways you can bring more utilization to your organization.”
6. Peer networking can be a loose form of research
Peer networking is one of the few ways that organization owners can get accurate information. There are no hard and fast rules for how business owners should gather business-critical information. Collaborating with each other has proved to fit budgetary and time constraints on owners in doing research and gathering data – and it’s free and spot-on.
Jon Aardema, Owner of Gymnastics Academy of Atlanta (Atlanta, GA)
“Working with businesses like ours is hugely important to our success because operating a children’s activity center – and more specifically a gymnastics gym – is a tough business with little useful data or budget available to gym owners to help with solid decision making. It’s to our advantage to work together to share our successes and discoveries so we all have the potential for success.”
7. Peer networking reminds you that you’re not in this alone
Networking with peers doesn’t have to happen in person. In fact, Facebook user groups, discussion boards and forums provide immediate contact with hundreds/thousands of people who understand your frustrations and can provide advice. These groups are great ways to reach people from any geographic location. If you want to see another owner in person, head down to the Starbucks on the corner (because I am sure there is one there!) for your weekly morning coffee and impromptu roundtable.
Emily Finch, Owner of Dance 101 (Tempe, AZ)
“Running a dance studio can often feel like you are alone on an island in the middle of the ocean! We encounter so many different issues everyday that it can be overwhelming. And sometimes those outside of our industry just don’t quite understand our complexities. This is why I take the time to nurture my dance teacher and studio owner network.”
8. Peer networking makes building relationships more comfortable
When you’re networking with peers, you’re in a comfort zone because you’re around those to whom you’re so similar.
- You can relax about your conversations.
- You’re not nervous that a more seasoned professional will pass judgment on your lack of knowledge in a particular area.
- You don’t worry any way you could misspeak might dash your chances for future opportunities.
- You feel good that peer networking is a level playing field.
How to Get Advice from Your Peers When You Need It Most
Seeking connections with industry peers who have experienced similar situations as you is empowering and a great way to see best practices in action. Chances are that peers will be happy to share with you: even your competitors.
Many who own gymnastics gyms, dance studios and swim schools meet regularly with their peers to talk about non-competitive topics like human resources, facility maintenance and equipment/supply resources.
You might not discuss your profit and loss statements, but will discuss business details like managing benefits and facilities, pricing out supplies and leveraging small business tax tips with someone whose business and activities are almost a mirror image of yours. How valuable is that? It expands your knowledge base immensely to develop and nurture friend-petitve relationships.
Consider this: Jackrabbit’s most successful clients spend equal amounts of time with business and industry peers and have plans to apply best practices learned through networking to their businesses.
Peer networking gives you a basic group of people with which you’ve already established rapport. It really doesn’t matter where that rapport comes from: neighborhood, church, social networks, clubs, family. The point is that you’re way ahead of the game with a pre-established comfort zone where you can build a new level within an existing relationship. By networking with peers, you’re doing something powerful for not only your business but for you as a more connected, more knowledgeable, more helpful and gregarious individual.
Discover more ways you to grow as a youth activity center owner by downloading out latest eBook!