I can trace almost every single breakthrough in my business back to my mastermind group.
Every second Friday I gather with a group of 3 friends for a 2-hour mastermind discussion. When I look back at my calendar I see that we had the first "formal" meetings back in June 2017. I know that we had had some meetings before that, and they went so well we made them regular meetings back in June. We met every week; initially with three of us and then four.
Over the years, membership in the group has shifted; of the four that started, one has dropped out due to business pressures but we quickly recruited an additional member to go back up to four. It seems that four members works best for us; if one of us can't make a meeting there's still enough interaction to make each session worth while, and keeping it small means everyone gets a chance to speak and be heard.
When I look back at how my business has developed over the last year, I can trace almost every single breakthrough back to something that happened during one of our mastermind meetings. Of course, the mastermind meetings are not the only place where I make progress or break through, but they have been so powerful I would like to share some of this with you today, and give you some guidance on how you can start your own mastermind group.
What is a mastermind group?
Before we look at how this works, let's look at what a mastermind group is. Wikipedia offers a useful definition:
A mastermind group is a peer-to-peer mentoring concept used to help members solve their problems with input and advice from the other group members.
According to Wikipedia, "the concept was coined in 1925 by author Napoleon Hill in his book The Law of Success, and described in more detail in his 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich. In his books, Hill discussed the idea of the Master Mind, which referred to two or more people coming together in harmony to solve problems."
So the concept is simple - a group of peers get together and help each other solve problems. In my case, my peers are all small business owners - in fact solopreneurs. The problems we work on are often not expressed as problems, but as concepts we would like to get feedback on. Feedback from the mastermind group help us understand what others hear, and their insights help us adapt our own thinking.
Should you start your own mastermind group?
A mastermind group is a commitment, and like all things you should carefully consider where you invest your time. Starting or joining a mastermind group is no different.
Without a doubt - yes
On the one hand I can't say enough good things about our mastermind group. It's been an incredible insight and support group as my business has developed. But our mastermind group is not just about professional development. It is also support for when we go through personal lows; sounding boards for each other's thoughts and feelings; and advocates for our products and services.
For me - and I believe for us - it has been incredible and I look forward to every time we meet.
But things can go wrong
But I've also seen and heard of mastermind groups that go wrong. They can easily degenerate into complaint sessions or personal self-help groups - and if that is the reason you started it, fine. But if you start or join a mastermind group be clear about why you're doing it - and get out when it becomes a waste of time.
For my money, I would start or join a mastermind group again any time - and I would pick my peers with the same care as this group. It's what has made this group successful.
How to start your own mastermind group
In essence you can just start meeting with some peers and see how thing develop. But there's a few things that you should take think about before you start:
How formal are you going to be?
You can choose to put a lot of structure into your mastermind group - or not. Generally, the bigger the group the more structure you will need; I find that with the four of us we don't need a lot of structure.
How big should the group be?
Research shows that the optimal size for a mastermind group is no more than 8 to 10. I really like the group of four because it's small enough to minimise formalities and give everyone time to have a turn in the two hours we meet.
Online or in person?
While we meet in person you can just as easily join an online group. I was part of an online group for a while and it worked well - in this case it was facilitated by Anthony (and is how we originally met) but there's no reason you need someone to lead or facilitate - it can be informal.
We originally met once a week - two hours on a Friday afternoon. We scaled that back to once every two weeks at the beginning of this year and that seems to be working well. I suspect that meeting only once a month is not enough - too much happens and missing one meeting means there's a two month gap.
The power of personalities
The one thing that stands out for me in our mastermind group is the different personalities around the table. This is probably one of the strongest reasons the group has led me to experience so many breakthroughs.
I tend to be almost totally systems- and solution-oriented. I see a problem and I want to solve it, or even better create a system that can be used repeatedly to solve similar problems. I'm a highly visual thinker so I'm almost always in front of a whiteboard at some point during the meeting.
If all of us were like this, I would never have made the breakthroughs I did over the last year. My systems-oriented thinking creates blind spots that causes me to gloss over - or worse, not even see - things that are important to others.
But fortunately my mastermind group has very diverse thinking styles. Some are more articulate and some have more creative thinking styles; none of us are completely off the scale though there is a huge variation in thinking and speaking styles.
This variation is one of the most powerful things in my mastermind group. I've often only had an insight when I've been beaten over the head repeatedly (figuratively) or seen someone roll their eyes (literally). These insights are what led to breakthroughs - without them I would have very limited tunnel vision.
Make sure your mastermind group has the benefit of different personality types - otherwise you will have a lopsided view of the world.
What made this work?
When I look back at almost a year of mastermind group meetings, there are a number of things that I know made it work:
If you don't respect someone you're not going to respect their opinion - and respect is at the core of a good mastermind group. Ours works because there is mutual respect all the way round - we may sometimes disagree about things but there's always respect.
I know that I can say things inside the group that I can trust will be held in confidence. And that works for all of us. This makes the group a place where we can say or admit to things that we wouldn't necessarily be able to otherwise - and that trust is never violated.
A mastermind group is there to give you honest feedback and advice - so sugar-coating or beating around the bush is a waste of time. I would never have made the breakthroughs I did without that honesty - but that honesty was never disrespectful or disparaging.
While our mastermind is not terribly formal, we do tend to start by going round the table and asking what each person has to celebrate. Starting off the meetings with a celebration is a great reminder that we each have so much to be grateful for.
The best reason of all to start or join a mastermind group
For all the good reasons to start or join a mastermind group, there's one that stands out above all:
You're not alone.
Being an entrepreneur is a lonely job. Even with a team you're still running the show, shouldering the responsibilities and having to do most of the worrying. Having a partner is great, because they share the load and we can bounce ideas around to get a check on whether we're still sane. But alone or with partners, you're still inside your business.
Getting out of your business, helping others solve problems you've already dealt with and getting their support in return is one of the quickest ways to move forward. You not only realise you're not alone - you're not alone in dealing with that specific problem.
The Tornado Method came out of my mastermind group
The inspiration for what is now known as the Tornado Method came from one of our mastermind meetings. I never would have developed the Tornado Method if Carrie hadn't scribbled this during one of our meetings:
That insight and support led to the Tornado Method - and look where we are today.
A mastermind group is a great way to get insight, advice and feedback. It's one of the best things that's happened to me while building my business, and I can highly recommend that you start or join one.
You'll not be alone - almost all successful business owners are part of a mastermind group in some form or another, and they benefit from diverse viewpoints, skill sets, personalities and networks.
What you can do now
Starting a mastermind group does not have to be formal, difficult to take a lot of time. Get a small group of friends or peers together, tell them you would like to ask their advice, and take it from there. That's pretty much how we started.
And finally, a big thank you to my mastermind group - Sean, Carrie, Anthony and Michael - and Dallas. You guys rock.