“Life is not a solo act.”
– Tim Gunn
And neither is running a business.
In fact, to run a successful business, you’re going to need help – and a lot of it.
We’ve talked before about the importance of building your team to support the operations side of business. But it’s perhaps even more important to make sure you have support for yourself.
And one of the best ways to get that is through a mastermind group.
Years ago, when starting my first business, a counseling practice, I created what I called a “monthly networking luncheon”. Each month, I invited a variety of people with a common interest in mental health to meet for lunch at a local restaurant.
Back then, I’d never heard of masterminds. But when I think about how I set that up, and the way it tended to function, I realize that it was, in a way, exactly that. Today, I’ve been in a formal mastermind group for years, and can’t imagine running a business without it.
The original idea for masterminds started with Napoleon Hill, author of a classic book from the early 1900’s, Think and Grow Rich.
He explored common factors that led to success for the “Bill Gates” types of his day. Among other things, he noted that most of them met privately with small but specific peer groups to discuss challenges and opportunities each faced in their businesses.
He said: ”No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind.”
And that “third mind” is the powerful perspective of a well run, well structured, mastermind group.
Anyone can start a mastermind, but not every group works as it should. If you’re not careful, they can devolve into a social gathering where everyone feels good – but nothing changes and no one grows.
Here are some things to consider if you want to create a mastermind group of your own.
The ideal size for a group would be 7-10 people, each of them business owners themselves – but who should come?
Would you rather have people all in the same industry ( like healthcare, law, financial services)? Or would you rather have a variety representing all types of businesses?
Do you want to make your group specific in other ways? Some examples are: women-only groups, groups for business owners with a certain annual revenue or employee count, groups for people who’ve been in business for a certain # of years.
Do you want this to be a closed group with a set membership, or an open group that newcomers can join at any time? And how will members be recruited, and approved, for membership?
Mastermind groups can be short term (time limited) or long term (ongoing). They can meet anywhere from once a week to once a quarter. And they can meet any length of time from an hour up to a full day, depending on how intensive you want the experience to be.
Consistency is what matters most.
Mastermind groups can meet in person, at someone’s home or office or favorite restaurant. Or, they can meet on line via video conferencing tools like Skype or Zoom. If structured well, they can even work as conference calls.
You can offer a mastermind group for free, as a joint venture among colleagues. Or, you can charge at least a small fee, either to cover any costs (room rental, coffee service) or your time as facilitator.
In my experience, people value, and are more committed to, that which they pay for.
The strongest masterminds establish ground rules that keep everyone working together.
For example, principles such as confidentiality, mutual respect, and regular attendance are emphasized. Members are expected to come prepared to help, and to be helped.
And the most effective masterminds follow a specific structure for the process itself, with no room for idle chatter. :)
In my group, each person holds the floor for 20 minutes. They spend the first five addressing their question. “This is my business, this is my challenge, and this is what I would like help with…”. For the remaining fifteen, the group asks clarifying questions and offers feedback.
When the timer goes off at 20 minutes, it’s high-fives all around, and on to the next.
Perhaps more than anything else, be clear on your ‘why’. Why are you starting a mastermind group at all? What are you hoping it will do for your business? And for those who come?
Run well, masterminds can provide powerful and mutual support and accountability. They can help entrepreneurs get clarity, and provide new perspectives on sticky problems.
And to tell you the truth, just having a safe place to think out loud among people who ‘get you’, believe in you, and expect more from you, is huge.
Finally, who will lead or facilitate the group? You don’t have to have a designated leader, but it can help – especially if your structure’s a little loose or you’re working with people not used to this kind of personal growth work.
With a clear structure, purpose and leadership, a mastermind group could be exactly what you need to push your own business to the next level.
What about you? Have you been in a mastermind group? What did you like about it, and what would you change?
In fact, with enough interest, I’m considering starting a group like this myself. Tell me in the comments below if that’s something you’d like to see, and I’ll make sure to keep you posted.