Cheshire-based Hydraulics Online is one of many small businesses in the region working together to tackle common challenges, share ideas and drive growth.

Helen Tonks, co-founder of Hydraulics Online – an independent hydraulic equipment and systems provider – based in Alsager, took part in Peer Networks earlier this year.

The programme brings together business owners from a range of sectors and specialisms from Cheshire and Warrington to share best practice, generate new ideas, develop strategies, drive up productivity and find new solutions to problems they may be facing in their business.

Helen said: “Peer Networks was a great opportunity to connect with a group of diverse, but ultimately like-minded, local business owners and leaders, who I would never otherwise have crossed paths with so we could talk and share ideas in a really safe and supportive environment.”

The national programme is delivered in the region by Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub, part of Cheshire and Warrington LEP, and is delivered through online sessions by expert facilitators.

The business owners taking part drive each session, choosing topics important to them to focus on – this could be recruitment, EU transition, leadership or Net Zero. Group members then mentor each other to find solutions and positive outcomes to their individual challenges.

More Peer Network groups are planned for the rest of this year and Helen is keen to encourage more business leaders to sign-up and enjoy the benefits.

Helen added: “I found it hugely rewarding to be part of the process of helping somebody to have a lightbulb moment where they could finally see the proverbial wood for the trees and a way through a problem that had often, quite literally, been keeping them awake at night.

“Taking part in Peer Networks, and seeing others readily taking my guidance and insights on board, also helped build my trust in my own gut instinct and decision making as a leader, which then directly benefits our business every day. It also made me appreciate just how much support I can provide to others and is something that I am now taking further as a mentor working with Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Enterprise.

“Best of all, we have stayed in touch as a cohort and have continued to act as sounding boards for one another.”

Peer Networks offers businesses based in Cheshire and Warrington 18 hours of support working in these small virtual groups as well as an additional three and a half hours of one-on-one support.

The programme is fully-funded, meaning there is no cost to businesses and is open to businesses with five employees or more who have a turnover above £100,000 and have been trading for over one year.

Andy Devaney, director at Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub, said: “We know that Cheshire and Warrington business owners have faced and are still facing a challenging environment and they are now looking at ways to drive growth in their businesses.

“Peer Networks is all about creating a supportive network amongst business leaders in our area, so they can learn from one another. Through the structured sessions with the help of an experienced facilitator, businesses can find solutions to the real issues they are facing, by working with other like-minded business leaders who are also facing similar challenges.”