Going it alone in business can be a real struggle, especially when your friends and family don’t understand.
Facebook communities are a great way to dip your toes into a community of like-minded people (if you’re a web designer or developer, you should join the Unstoppable Design & Development Crew), and make connections.
But personal connections are much more powerful, which is why I always encourage members of my Facebook group to reach out to others via email.
The next step is meeting “face-to-face”, whether it’s in person, or via Skype. These conversations and connections are much stronger, and have the added benefit of you actually opening your mouth and talking to someone other than your cat. The best way to do this and grow your business at the same time, is by participating in a mastermind group.
What is a mastermind?
A “mastermind” is really just a fancy word for a group of people who get together and talk about business. They help each other brainstorm, solve problems, come up with new products, and deal with difficult customers. Masterminds can be as formal and structured or as casual and loose as the group prefers, but in general, most groups involve each person discussing a problem they’re having, and the other members chiming in with ideas to help.
A basic outline of a typical mastermind meeting goes something like this:
- Each person discusses their goals or problems from the last meeting and what they’ve done to accomplish the goals or fix the problem.
- Each person then discusses a problem they are currently having, and the other members offer ideas and advice.
- Each person sets a goal to accomplish before the next meeting.
If this is too structured for you, do what works best for your business. I’m a member of a few mastermind groups, and while we roughly follow this outline, it’s very informal and relaxed.
What’s the benefit of a mastermind group?
There are many benefits to being in a mastermind, not the least of which include:
- New ideas from other members. You no longer have to depend on just your brain when it comes to coming up with new products, services, or solutions for your business.
- Someone(s) to lean on. As much as we love our friends and family, many of them just don’t “get” what we do. Talking to them isn’t always helpful, because they don’t have the same problems. Having other people who understand what it’s like to run a small business can make a huge difference when you’re struggling.
- An outside look at your business. Sometimes we’re too close to things to see our businesses the way outsiders do. Having someone with a fresh set of eyes to look over your website, offerings, branding, etc. can let us know how we’re coming across to other people.
- Accountability. It can be hard to accomplish goals when no one else is holding us accountable. Declaring your intentions to a group of others–who will check up on you–is a great kick in the pants.
- Socialization. I’m sure I’m not the only one who goes a week or two without leaving my house, right? And talking to my cat is fun, but I think I would have gone crazy by now if not for my weekly mastermind meetings. When you work from home, socializing can be hard–so even if it’s “just” Skype, talking to people can boost your mood and make you feel like less of a recluse.
How do you find a mastermind group?
Both mastermind groups I’m currently in, I was invited to. But you can start your own very easily. Just reach out to other small business owners you’d like to get to know better and see if they’re interested. Here are a few great places to look for potential mastermind members:
Small business Facebook groups
This is where I’ve done most of my networking and “met” most of the people in the masterminds I’m a part of. You know that people in these groups are already interested in growing and improving their businesses, so all you need to do is figure out who you would like to get to know better. And Facebook makes this easy since you can stalk peoples’ profiles and see what they’re interested in.
Who are you already following on Twitter? If you’re following people who do what you do, shoot them a DM and see if they want to join a mastermind with you.
If you want to get out of your house and see people in real life, you can search for entrepreneurial meetups in your area, or start your own.
A few things to consider before starting or joining a mastermind
Before starting or joining a mastermind, you and the other members need to consider a few things to make sure you’re on the same page. If you’re starting a group, don’t be shy about asking potential members the questions below. You want to find people who have similar goals, and who can make the same commitments. If it doesn’t work for the members, the group will quickly fall apart.
What do I want to get out of a mastermind?
Just meeting people is fun, but you and the other members will have certain expectations. If three of you want a social meeting and the fourth wants a structured meeting focusing on creating passive income products, the fourth person will leave unhappy. It’s better to know upfront what everyone’s expectations are.
What can I contribute?
A mastermind isn’t just about you picking other peoples’ brains. What can you bring to the table to help the other members?
How much experience do I have?
You want to be on a similar level as the other members in your group. When someone is too far ahead of the other members they may feel like they’re not getting anything out of the meetings, and that they are always having their “brain picked,” which isn’t a fun feeling. Likewise, being really far behind can make someone feel inadequate or like a failure. With members on a similar level, everyone is more likely to feel comfortable and be able to contribute and benefit equally.
What topics do I want/not want to talk about?
Again, everyone will have certain expectations. Some masterminds focus on more specific topics, like passive income, while others are more broad and can cover anything from creating products to how to remember to eat lunch every day. You should also think if there’s anything you don’t want to talk about. Some people don’t like to discuss income and money in detail, while others are fine sharing their income down to the penny. If you don’t like talking about specific dollar amounts, you may want to avoid any “Make Six-Figures” type of masterminds.
How often can I commit to meeting?
There’s no right or wrong answer here, but you need to commit to attending meetings. If weekly is too much for you, be upfront about it. In general, it seems that most masterminds meet either weekly or monthly. Decide what is right for you, and stick to it.
What days and times work best for me?
In order to commit, you need to be able to show up at a day and time that works for you. I personally wouldn’t attend a mastermind on the weekends as I reserve that time for other activities, but other people can only commit to weekend meetings. Be realistic with your schedule and other commitments.
Do I want structured meetings or not?
While I would recommend at least SOME structure (so you get something accomplished), there are a lot of different levels. Some people like formal and organized meetings, and others like very loose unorganized meetings. Be honest about what you like–if you love structure you’ll get frustrated in a loose meeting, and if you hate structure you’ll get bored in a formal meeting. Be honest, or the mastermind won’t work for you.
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