Building a business as a solo entrepreneur – or even a small business owner – can feel pretty lonely at times.
Sure, you get to be your own boss, and don’t have to wear pants to work if you don’t want to. But you also might struggle with the big picture, have questions that you can’t answer alone, or find yourself talking to the cat a little too often.
One way to cure that loneliness? Finding people like yourself, and actually interacting with them from time to time.
Which can be more complex than it sounds – especially if you work from home.
Where do you find people like you who can help you solve problems, cheer you on through tough stretches, and even benefit from having you around, too?
You might find yourself tempted to dive into a 7,000+ person Facebook Group, or drop a couple grand on a coaching program just for the built-in camaraderie.
But what if you could have connection, growth, and support with less effort – and less expense?
And what if all that leads to a business that not only survives, but thrives?
For a lot of online business owners, the answer is a mastermind group – a squad of peers and partners united in their goals and committed to coordinating their knowledge for mutual benefit.
Want to form your own group?
Here are a few key tips from mastermind experts that’ll help you build the group of your dreams!
Diversify your network
You don’t have to be a Wall Street power broker to know that diversifying your investments can be a good idea.
(You don’t even have to have seen Wall Street the movie.)
This is what stocks, mastermind groups, and trail mix all have in common: it helps to have a mixed bag of complementary components.
Chris Ducker, founder of Youpreneur, has prioritized diversity in his mastermind group members:
The group we put together was the perfect balance between ‘traditional’ business, online business, affiliate marketing, online marketing and SEO, startup and consulting mindsets.
It was, quite frankly, a perfect group of people to get together. And this is what I suggest you do, if you decide to put together a mastermind of your own.
If you’re wanting to focus on creating a group of online business folks, don’t just put a load of bloggers together. Have some bloggers, podcasters, maybe a video marketer, an affiliate person and then someone that perhaps owns an e-commerce business – this way you’re getting the best of all worlds.
Figuring out what kind of mastermind group you want to put together includes figuring out what kinds of business owners you should involve.
You could diversify within an industry, like The Inklings – a group composed of poets and writers who helped to deliver The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings with members like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Owen Barfield. They weren’t all the same type of writer, necessarily, but they were able to contribute to each other’s projects!
Another example is The Vagabonds, a mastermind group with four members whose names you probably recognize: Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, and Harvey Firestone.
(This is probably a good time to mention that you don’t have to give your group a cool name. But hey, why not?)
As author and entrepreneur Gary Keller points out, the membership of your mastermind group is the foundation upon which everything else is built:
One of the most valuable aspects of a mastermind group is the feeling of support that it provides. It is essential that everyone trusts and respects one another. Beyond that you have to know what type of mastermind group you want to belong to. Do the group members operate within the same industry or is each person in a different industry? Do members have similar personality types or is there a conscious effort to have a mix of working styles? Typically, the more diverse a mastermind group is the more value each member gets out of the experience.
Give it structure
Like a flan in a cupboard, a mastermind group will slowly collapse without the right environment set up around it.
As a group, we focus on three items: meeting frequency, online collaboration, and meeting structure.
Simple meeting frequency. Our group meets via Google Hangouts every Thursday afternoon. Having a dedicated time each week works much better than trying to “find” a time to meet each week.
Simple online collaboration. As a group, we rarely use email. It’s just not an ideal collaboration tool. Since the beginning, we have used a private Google Plus Group. This allows us to share ideas, articles, and questions any time during the week.
Simple meeting structure. Our meeting has three essential components: sharing, advising, and accountability. We start with each member sharing their highs and lows from the past week (15 minutes). We then place one member into the “hot seat,” which allows them to tap into the “master mind” of the group (30 minutes). We wrap up the meeting by sharing one high-leverage activity we want to be held accountable for (15 minutes).
At the core, members of a mastermind group lean on each other for business ideas, advice, and even the occasional grievance airing. It might seem like something that doesn’t require a planned-out structure, but time and time again, groups have been left blowing in the wind without it.
Want your group to succeed? Pick a structure that works for you, and stick with it!
Make it your own
Masterminds don’t have to only live online or in your hometown. You can grab some business buddies, book a flight, and brainstorm your next big thing over tacos and surfboards wherever you want!
That probably sounds ridiculously indulgent, but stay with us – Sarah Von Bargen of Yes and Yes has some insights into the value of organizing your own mini-retreat:
Why not join a professionally-organized, already-formed mastermind group? Well, you certainly can, if you want to drop $500 – $2,000. But if the group uses its collective knowledge and resources to help each other, why are you paying for the honor of helping other people? Presumably, you’re bringing a lot to the table, so why should you pay for access to other, equally skilled people?
It’s rare that mastermind groups make their member list public; they might publicize who their group targets, but they probably won’t get into specifics. It’s not unusual to see mastermind groups for online marketers, writers, or bloggers but do you know the people in the group? Will you connect with them? Are they at a similar place in their career?
It’d be a pity to spend $700 on a mastermind group only to discover all the other online marketers are 20-something tech guys from Silicon Valley and they don’t have much time for your ecourse on body-positive fashion.
You don’t even have to do a retreat to organize a valuable mastermind group. Mastermind group expert Barrett Brooks has some advice of his own for coordinating memorable, useful experiences:
Craft annual plans at the beginning of each year (or every 12 months), ask for feedback, and check in every quarter or half year on progress.
Create bucket lists or impossible lists that you read out loud to the group. This will allow the group to get to know each other better.
Undertake common readings (books, periodicals, or blogs). You can take this in many different directions. You could spend the first 15 minutes of each meeting in a book club type format. You could pick one periodical or blog article per person per meeting and discuss them for the first 15 minutes.
Discuss real life case studies. Identify specific examples of excellent, inspiring performance within your industry or area of interest.
Conduct 30 minute “workshops.” If you get the right people for your group, each one will have a unique skillset that you could learn from. Once per quarter, someone in the group could give a 30 minute workshop or walk through of a process or skill that has helped them reach their goals.
So, where do you start?
Now that you’re armed with tips from the mastermind pros, are you ready to get your own group off the ground?
Here are a few ways to scope out potential members:
- Attend a Meetup in your city
- Start a new Meetup – nothing says “I’m an authority on this subject” like hosting your own group
- Go to a local conference with like-minded business owners
- Join a few more intimate Facebook Groups, and build relationships with their members
- Rekindle relationships with old coworkers, peers, and business contacts
- Join a coworking space and network with other members
Just remember to pace yourself scoping out the right people – finding and building a group like this takes time!
Are you in a mastermind group?
Are you trying to create one, but running into roadblocks?
Share your experiences in the comments below!