Real business story

Successfully applying peer learnings requires careful thought

Learning from other businesses provides ideas and inspiration for how your company can evolve.
Julianne Ponan – Creative Nature

Julianne Ponan's peer learnings essentially drove the creation of a new business plan

Applying what you’ve learnt successfully requires first identifying the ideas that could be most useful and then getting the team on board.

Taking part in educational programmes

For Creative Nature, the first step in identifying learnings that could help improve the business was back in 2018 when owner Julianne Ponan took part in a Goldman Sachs programme.

“We were put in a group of 40 different businesses – which ranged from £200,000 revenue companies all the way up to £50m. There were many different types of company and a lot of the issues people were facing were consistent across all types of companies. It was a sort of mini-MBA,” explained Julianne, who acquired the business, which produces a range of healthy snack bars and baking mixes, in 2012.

Part of the programme involved learning about the Business Model Canvas, a business plan template where the participants filled in everything about their business under nine headings – such as value proposition, customers and channels.

Julianne said she shared the issues Creative Nature was wrestling with in having a small marketing and PR budget with other participants.

Other areas that struck Julianne as ones she could learn from and potentially apply in the business were about different routes to market and how other companies manage their return on investment (ROI) for marketing.

Another food company was particularly relevant because, unlike Creative Nature, it had its own manufacturing sites. “That is something we are now looking to bring in-house,” Julianne said.

“What I found was that before I went on the course we weren’t as streamlined as we are now and the changes have enabled us to grow more."

Julianne Ponan, founder, Creative Nature

It’s all in the application

On returning to her company, Julianne set out applying some of the learnings she had taken from other companies on the programme. The first step was to hold a full team workshop day.

“We had all our senior people around the table and everyone had to input their data into the nine segments of the business model canvas,” she said. “We were able to see what our value proposition was, for example, and it was interesting to see the different ideas that people came up with.”

At the end of this process, Creative Nature had what was essentially a new business plan.

Discussion within the team about other customer segments also proved fruitful. As a direct result, the company has now expanded its customer channels to airlines, food service and others that they hadn’t previously thought of.

The day’s workshop with her team was a good start, but applying the learnings didn’t stop there. Following the programme, new people were brought into the business who had more experience in Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). As a result, a lot more processes were put in place.

“What I found was that before I went on the course we weren’t as streamlined as we are now and the changes have enabled us to grow more,” Julianne said.

How to test peer learnings and external advice before rolling out changes

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The importance of acting now

Some important lessons from the programme have been successfully applied, some adapted and others put on hold. However, Julianne said that applying learnings from the programme has been challenging.

One of biggest challenges was to get her team on board to understand why they are going through the exercise, so they can get the maximum value out of it.

Julianne said a key piece of advice for other businesses that want to successfully apply learnings from their business peers is don’t delay. “Once you have had peer-to-peer learning, and spoken to other businesses, actually action it and put it into your company. Don’t just leave it, because you can forget what you learned quite quickly.”

Top three takeaways

Start by identifying the most interesting and potentially valuable learnings.

Your team can sense-check what's right for your business.

Don’t delay. Otherwise the lessons will be forgotten and you will never see the benefits.