Many top producers believe that joining a study group is the best way to take your practice to the next level. As James Mitchell of LIMRA International notes, in study groups, ?you are constantly getting ideas and seeing things executed at a very high level. It fills in the gaps and helps you expand into areas you might not otherwise consider.? But is a study group right for you? Are you willing to spend the time and money it takes to reap all the advantages you can get from a study group?
A study group consists of a number of people in similar positions with comparably sized firms that get together regularly to share best practices and hold each other accountable. Through the power of synergy, study groups create a capacity for growth that is bigger than any one member or firm.
Traditionally, study groups have 10 to 12 members from different geographic areas. Meetings are held annually or semiannually for two-and-a-half to three days and follow a predetermined agenda. They always include a report by each member (which usually highlights the best practices of the member?s firm), a discussion of each firm?s accomplishments and missteps and a sharing of goals and objectives. Some groups also have outside speakers, presentations by the host firm?s management team, research studies or hot-topic discussions.
Benefits of study groups
Study groups can have a phenomenal impact on their members? personal and professional growth. Some advantages are:
- Professional development: Study group members share best practices on a range of topics. The emphasis is on sharing practical, proven ideas and providing information and resources so that other members can apply these ideas to their own practices.
- Field management: Through in-depth presentations at hosting firms, study group members learn very specifically how each member?s organization is structured and operates. These presentations provide quality ideas about creating profitable, effective business models.
- A personal board of directors: Members serve as a board of directors for each other, providing insight and advice on a range of topics. This instant sounding board offers a wealth of collective wisdom and experience that members can draw from in making decisions.
- Personal development: Members support each other in personal goals and aspirations and provide counsel that focuses on personal growth.
- Motivation and support: A study group provides a close-knit group of people who understand what it?s like to walk in the other person?s shoes and who can provide support and motivation.
- Industry big picture: A study group provides exposure to 10 or 12 different firms outside a member?s company and geographic region, offering new philosophies and ways of doing business.
Types of study groups
Study groups may consist of members who are all from one company or from different organizations. Company-specific groups provide a chance for members to focus on executing initiatives specific to their company goals. Targeted skill building is easier to accomplish in these groups, and these groups may gel more quickly than others since members share common practices and operate under the same business culture. However, they can easily fall into a pattern in which more time is spent critiquing company and industry efforts than on sharing best practices. On the other hand, intercompany groups provide access to a wider range of ideas and systems and can help open up members to a broader array of practices.
Making a commitment
As mentioned earlier, study groups provide tremendous benefits to members. But they are not without a price, both in the expenses associated with participation and in the time required to prepare for and attend meetings. To be effective, members must be committed to their company’s growth and be willing to share their practices, goals and aspirations freely. Members must be ready to commit approximately $2,000 a year to fund travel and related expenses for meetings and must be able to dedicate three meeting days, as well as 10 to 12 hours before each meeting, to create a presentation. Members should also be prepared to invest at least three years in helping their group become established.
The following is a checklist of some of the requirements you need to consider before creating or joining a study group. Make sure you can commit to all them before moving forward.
For information on how to start a study group, contact GAMA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-770-8173.