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Business

How to Build a Thriving Mastermind Group

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This post is part of a series called Strategic Planning for Your Microbusiness.
How to Discover Your Business Values
How to Fall (Back) in Love With Your Business

One of the most difficult things about running a business on your own is having no one to bounce ideas off. When you're wearing so many different hats, it can deplete your creative energy. Even when you're firing on all cylinders, it's good to get a second opinion. Who can you turn to when you need help? Your mastermind group.

What is a Mastermind Group?

Typically, a mastermind group is made up of people who share similar interests or goals. Every so often, they get together to share ideas and inspiration. Each member of the group can bring problems to the table to get new ideas on the best way forward.

The idea of a Mastermind Group was created by self-development author Napoleon Hill in the early 20th century. In Hill's own words, the Mastermind principle is:

The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.

Hill goes on:

No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind.

By getting together with even one other person, you'll discover creative energy that you never find on your own.

Alternative Mastermind Groups

Napoleon Hill conceived of the Mastermind Group in a different era. Life in the early 20th century was speeding up, but it was nowhere near as fast as it is today. Do people today have the time to simply get together and share ideas for a few hours?

If you can find a group that is willing and able to get together every few months, then that's great! But if that doesn't seem possible, you can consider alternative models for your mastermind group. Your alternative mastermind group could be:

  • A list of people you admire and respect, who you meet up with one-on-one for a coffee every once in a while. That way, you benefit from all their knowledge without the trouble of getting everyone in the same room at the same time. However, you do miss out on the creative synergies that would result from getting a group of people in a room.
  • Your all-time heroes and heroines. This is a mastermind group you can access at any time. Spend time getting to know personalities you admire from history by reading about them. Then, when you've got a problem you're struggling with, take time to reflect how your imaginary mastermind group might find a way forward.
  • An email list, Facebook group or Google Hangout session. Technology makes it easier than ever to connect with people. While meeting in person is always better for coming up with creative ideas, you can get together with your Mastermind Group online using tools such as Google Hangouts. The advantage of this is that you can get together a group of people from all around the world.

What's the Benefit of Mastermind Groups?

What you do in your Mastermind Group is up to you. That said, all Mastermind Groups offer the following:

  • A group of people who listen and understand. The value of this can't be underestimated. Even if you don't find a way through the problems you're facing, just sharing your problem will mean you leave the meeting with a lighter load. Your mastermind group is made up of people who are like-minded business leaders, so you'll likely learn that others are facing issues that are similar to you. As the old proverb says, a problem shared is a problem halved.
  • Solutions and ideas. When you share a problem with someone else, you'll often find they have a totally different perspective. This allows you to look at the issue in a new way, and discover out-of-the-box solutions.
  • The experience of business veterans. Experience is the best teacher. While you're still developing your own experience, what better way to learn than from the experiences of those who have already walked the path of running a successful business?

    You may wonder what business will get out of helping you. Look at it from their perspective. They've been in business a while. Perhaps they're a little jaded, or they're not up to speed on the latest technology. They'll benefit from the energy, enthusiasm and new ideas that you, as a start-up business leader, bring to the table.

  • Accountability. Making promises to yourself is one thing. When the going gets tough, it's easy to let things slide. Having a group of people to hold you to account can help you stick to your promises and achieve your goals faster.

How to Start a Mastermind Group

It sounds obvious, but the only place you can begin is where you're at, right now.

You may already be will connected and have a group of people in mind who you'd love to hook up with on a regular basis. Or — more likely — you've taken a step into the unknown to start your business. You're desperate to meet like-minded people, and you don't know where to start. Be reassured. As you've started your business from scratch, you're the kind of person who has the gumption to start a mastermind group from scratch.

The following steps assume you're starting with only a few contacts. Depending on where you're at, you may want to skip the early steps.

Step 1: Start Networking

The best way to begin is to start reaching out to people. Attend networking events and business breakfasts in your city. Go along to conferences in your niche. Follow people in your niche on Twitter. Don't just focus on meeting people with established businesses. Cast your net wide. A broad range of experiences and backgrounds will make for a more creative and interesting Mastermind Group.

Consider this the first stage of the auditioning process for your Mastermind Group. Anytime you meet someone who you think would be a good match for your group, make sure you pick up their business card or contact details for the next step.

Step 2: Ask People Out for Coffee

You can start this step as soon as you've picked up the contact details of someone interesting, as long as you continue to meet new people, too.

You've lined up your candidates. Now hook up with them one-to-one. Drop them an email and let them know you'd like to pick their brains. Some people will be flattered and say yes just because of this! For other people, you may have to offer more of an incentive. For example:

  • Ask if they'd be willing to be interviewed and featured on your blog.
  • Offer to teach them something new (For more on how to do this, check out this advice from Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank).

You may have to be willing to put yourself out to meet at a time and place that's suitable for them, or offer to meet online if you can't easily arrange an in-person meeting.

When you meet up with people, don't be afraid to show off your passion for your business and to share your business values. If they're the right kind of person for your Mastermind Group, they'll be drawn to your passion and vision, rather than turned off by it.

With this step, you've already started building your Mastermind Group. If you want, you can stop here, and simply continue to meet with these people over coffee for advice and support.

Step 3: Put Together Your Dream Team

You've run your auditions. Now you've got to decide who you'll approach to join your Mastermind Group. I recommend going with your gut instinct rather than thinking about it too much. Consider including all the following different types of people.

  • People willing to fight in your corner. When you met for coffee, were they with you all the way? If they were pushing you to succeed, they'll be the ones who'll back you and be there for you when things get tough. These people are perfect for your Mastermind Group.
  • People who are open-minded, not set in their ways. Avoid inviting people who think they have all the answers. If they're not willing to engage in open discussion, they'll keep hi-jacking the group with their agenda.
  • People who have succeeded in business. Not everyone you invite needs to be a business veteran, but at least some of them should be.
  • People with similar goals to you. Whether that's financial goals or business goals. The point is, if you're headed in the same direction, you'll get along well walking the path together.
  • People who have a different outlook to you. As long as you get along well with them, people who have a different take on things will be particularly helpful in uncovering creative solutions.

Step 4: Arrange Your First Meeting

Try to get your list down to 10-20 people, putting those the most you want at the top of the list. Starting with the first person on your list, drop them a line to ask if they'd consider being part of a Mastermind Group. Explain the purpose of the group, and who else you'll be approaching as part of the group.

Once you've got your team together, arrange a time for your first meeting.

Step 5: Keep the Ball Rolling

Your first meeting is a way of testing the waters. Together, you'll set the parameters for what you want the Mastermind Group to be about, and how often you'll meet up. Be sure to arrange your next meeting to keep the ball rolling.

Over to You

Have you ever been part of a Mastermind Group? How did you find it? Would you consider setting up your own group?

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