How Peer Networks helped A Digital.

Originally established as Armitage Online in 2009 and renamed to A Digital in 2016, Director Andrew Armitage describes the business as a digital transformation agency, specialising in consultancy, advanced websites, and digital marketing.

Andrew was contacted by Cumbria Growth Hub about the prospect of joining the Peer to Peer Networks. Eager for the opportunity build a network with people of a similar situation, in similar sized businesses, Andrew stated that initially he did not appreciate the value he would get from having some very open and frank conversations with the other business leaders in the group. “As much as connecting with the other businesses was my primary aim, the greatest value I received was the opportunity to be challenged, sometimes put in quite an uncomfortable situation that the facilitated networking environment allowed.”

He continued that he felt that the nature of the networking made them all feel comfortable and confident enough to share some of the issues they were facing as businesses and ultimately gain the objective input of others. “As business owners and directors, we are often too close to what we are doing operationally on a day-to-day basis. We are often firefighting and chasing our tails, these 3-hour networking sessions really forced us to detach ourselves from our businesses and listen to the perspectives and challenges of one another.”

“What I found was that there were far more similarities between us than I thought there would be, and each of us having the opportunity to talk out our ideas and issues, helped us to get to a situation were we felt much more positive and confident that we weren’t alone and that there are other ways to address our concerns and work our way out of them. We didn’t just have to come up with the ideas and the solutions on our own.”

Andrew explained that their facilitator Sarah make everyone feel comfortable. She set the ground rules for the group in a fair and reasonable way. They all recognised the importance of this as they were sharing potentially confidential insights, challenges that they and their businesses were facing, and how they were potentially looking to develop their businesses into the future. “Her creation of a confidential environment made it clear to each of us that we were not looking to criticise or close down the ideas of one another. She had us focused on thinking about approaches we could offer, asking open-ended questions, often forcing us into examining our own thinking. It was clear that we would not necessarily get the answers we were looking for from the others, but that the questions and suggestions often would prompt us into further thinking, and other potentially paths to the answers.”

When asked whether he would recommend the Peer to Peer Networks to others, Andrew responded that he 100% would. He added that if potential networkers were daunted by the time commitment, it was incredible how fast the time went during the networking. “The session lengths were ideal to be able to detach yourself from the business and openly and honestly listen and share.” He further reiterated that he had originally joined the networking group to start up some new business relationships but that this became a by-product of the sessions, as he gained so much value out of the frank discussions and conversations between the participants.