Being a business owner is a dream come true for many: you make your own schedule, work towards your “Why,” choose the clients and the projects that are a good fit, and know you’re doing something you genuinely believe in. But amazing as it is, being a business owner, especially a solopreneur, can also be a frightening and lonely experience.
As the business owner, you’re the leader. Your employees, whether 3 or 3,000, look up to you for guidance, encouragement, and a positive face even when things are looking a bit bleak. You may have developed great relationships with your team members while keeping it to a professional working relationship. That means you don’t discuss business specifics or challenges with them.
If you’re at all like other business owners, and no matter whether you’re new to business or have years of experience under your belt, you’ll find yourself asking these questions:
- Who can I turn to when I need a sounding board?
- Who can I talk to when there are challenges with my team, my customers, or my business?
- Where do I find the help I need to make the best decisions for my business?
- How in the world do other people do this alone?
These questions and more can be answered with 2 words: Mastermind Groups!
Lack of Knowledge
I was having lunch with a prospect one day and we were talking about mastermind groups. At one point she stopped her fork half-way to her mouth and put it down. She shifted in her seat. Pushing her salad away, she folded her arms on the table in front of her and leaned forward a bit.
Not knowing what was coming, I braced myself for whatever it was.
“Laura,” she said, “I’m embarrassed to admit this. I’ve been in business for over 25 years and I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. I’ve heard of mastermind groups, of course, but I don’t know what they are or how they work.”
With that she unfolded her arms, leaned back in the booth, and waited.
The rest of our lunch was spent talking about mastermind groups. She opened my eyes that day: I was assuming people in business knew and understood what mastermind groups are all about. How wrong I was.
Mastermind Groups Are Still Misunderstood
Originally introduced in the 1930s by Napoleon Hill, a Mastermind group, or “alliance” as Hill dubbed them, gives credence to the old adage “two heads are better than one.” According to Hill, “a mastermind alliance consists of two or more minds working actively together in perfect harmony toward a common definite objective.” That objective is a successful, thriving business for you and your fellow group members, not to mention a balanced and happy life.
So what can you expect from a mastermind group?
Accountability: In your mastermind group meetings, you’ll be setting goals for yourself. You make a promise to get something done. Want to know what helps ensure you’ll keep your promises? Telling someone. And not just anybody: people who care about your success as much as you do – your mastermind group members. Setting goals is fine. Being accountable to somebody else for following through means you’re far more likely to achieve those goals. (You can even use your mastermind group to set those goals!)
Brainstorming: If you have ever had coworkers, or you’ve been sitting around a table sipping wine or coffee with friends, you know that discussing and sharing ideas is the best way to generate new ones. People just work better when they’ve got someone to bounce thoughts off of. As a business owner, it’s usually just you coming up with ideas. Imagine having 4 or 5 other business owners who look at your problem with fresh eyes and provide creative solutions to your issue?
Support: Being a business owner can be an incredibly lonely road. Family and friends are not always supportive, making life even lonelier. Even if they are supportive, if they haven’t been where you are, unless they’ve carried the responsibility of a business on their shoulders, it’s difficult for them to provide the type of support you need. Members of your mastermind group are all business owners. They know exactly what you’re going though and can give you the kind of support you need to succeed.
Helping Others: Most people want to help other people whenever they can. During every mastermind group meeting you get to do just that. Other members are going to have problems and challenges they need help with. It’s your chance to share your own experiences in business to help them succeed in their.
And there’s so much more. Talk to anybody who’s in a mastermind group, or somebody who has been, and they’ll give you a list of all the things they get from membership.
What Makes Up a Successful Mastermind Group?
But there are three factors that make the difference in whether or not a mastermind group is successful and that members are reaping all the benefits:
- The Facilitator
- The Partisipants
- The Mastermind Group Structure
Who is Your Facilitator?
Have you ever participated in a mastermind group only to be disillusioned by the whole process? If you answer yes, you’re not alone. There are many people claiming to offer mastermind groups who don’t have the skills or knowledge for it.
Two experiences come to mind when we talk about mastermind groups that failed because of the facilitator:
- The facilitator gathered a group of people who might otherwise have been perfect as a group. The mistake was in her hijacking the entire conversation and making it all about her. Members were not given opportunities to offer support. Instead, the facilitator shared her own stories, then acted as a consultant or expert and responded to everything herself.
- Mastermind groups are intended to be motivational and action-oriented. In this case, the facilitator allowed members to complain about what was happening in their business and meetings turned into gripe sessions without discernable benefits except for venting problems. This facilitator didn’t control the flow of the conversation to keep his members focused on forward-moving action steps and success.
And there are others. These facilitator failures come from the person not having training or experience in creating and running mastermind groups.
Because mastermind group success is dependent on a skilled facilitator, it becomes that much more critical that your group be led by somebody who knows what they’re doing. You’re going to be relying on your facilitator for a couple of very specific things:
- Screening members. You don’t want to be in a group made up of new business owners, and those who’ve been in business for ten years. The needs of each are very different. The facilitator will screen all members to be sure they are a fit for the group both in personality and temperament, and business experience. Every member needs to be able to give and to get as much as they can and to contribute to other members of the group.
- Running mastermind group meetings. As simple as it sounds, starting and ending meetings can be a challenge. Members get to talking, and the facilitator must pull everybody together to get going, then she must manage the time during meetings so all members get Hot Seat time. Ending the meeting at the scheduled time is will only happen if the facilitator has been able to manage the time of the rest of the meeting.
- Managing members. One of the most important functions and skills of the facilitator is managing members. Your facilitator needs to be able to both draw people out, and quiet some down. He is responsible for tracking member actions and goals and for pushing them to follow through. And it falls to the facilitator to handle problems with members should they arise. Sometimes a member will need to be removed from the group. Tact and diplomacy are often called for.
Your Role as Member
While it’s true that all business people can benefit from membership in a mastermind group, not everyone is a fit. Members have responsibilities that come with membership. Showing up for meetings isn’t enough. You need to be fully present and ready to both give and receive during meetings. The success of any mastermind group comes from the involvement and commitment of its members. You’ll be expected to:
- Be positive and supportive. There’s no room for negativity in a mastermind group. Yes, you want to tell the truth as you see it, but you’re expected to be able to do that without tearing another member down.
- Keep your focus on creating success for yourself and all members. Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum nor does a person achieve success alone. A mastermind group’s members are all focused on the success of all members and work together for it.
- Share openly. You have unique experiences in your life and your business that can help your other group members. Likewise, their experiences are unique to them. One of the beauties of a mastermind group is in sharing that wealth of knowledge to help each other.
- Be prepared. When it’s your turn to be in the Hot Seat, the more prepared you are, the more the other members will be able to help you. In some mastermind groups, you’ll be asked to share your Hot Seat topic with the group before hand to give them a chance to think about it. The other members want to be able to help you and the more they know and understand about what you need, the better they’ll be able to do that. The power of a group comes from the Hot Seats so take advantage of that and get the most from your time by being prepared.
- Honor the confidentially of all members. What happens in your mastermind group stays in your mastermind group. Members in the group share intimate details about themselves and their businesses. They trust that what is shared will not be revealed outside the group. Mastermind groups work because of that bond of trust that allows members to share openly.
Group Structure Matters
The form and structure of a mastermind group is determined by the facilitator. There is a group to fit everybody. You may have to look a bit to find your, but it exists. Here are a couple of factors to consider while deciding what kind of group you want:
- How many members will be in the group? Groups can have as few as 3 members to work. There are groups that have many times that many members. The number of members will impact your experience so make sure you understand how the group will work with the members it has.
- How often does the group meet? Some groups meet once a month, some meet weekly, and still others meet only once a quarter. They all have a purpose and a specific focus.
- Will the group be in-person or will it meet virtually? Live mastermind group meetings have the advantage of time for networking and bonding among members. That can be built into a virtual meeting as well, but virtual meetings tend to start and end at specific times. In-person meetings also require travel time which means you need to allocate more time for the meeting. That’s a big factor for busy business owners.
- How long is the commitment you have to make? Groups of any kind take time to bond and come together. While some groups don’t require a time commitment from you, it’s more likely that your facilitator will ask for a 6- to 12-month commitment from you.
- How often will you get a chance to be in the Hot Seat? It’s true that you’ll get something from all the Hot Seats, even those of other members. But the magic and power of mastermind groups is in the Hot Seat, so the more often you get to be in it, the better.
- What is your investment? You can certainly find mastermind groups that require no financial investment. They exist and they can be good. Most professional groups will have a fee attached. That fee can range anywhere for $250 to over $20,000, depending on many factors. The higher the fee doesn’t necessarily mean the better the group. The best group for you is the one that works.
There is no right or wrong, good or bad structure. They all work. The key is to join a group that fits for you; your time, your budget, and your business.
Bottom line: As a business owner, joining a mastermind group could prove to be the single most positive decision you make for yourself. Almost every successful business person you ask will say they’ve been in a mastermind group that made a difference to their success. You can’t do it alone, nor do you want to. It only makes sense to align yourself with a group of other business owners who are all focused on the same thing: success!