You might be worried about starting out on your own entrepreneurial path, knowing that you will be responsible for all decisions, big and small. You will also be responsible for the achievement of all goals and general accountability. Without co-workers right from the start, who will you bounce ideas off of? Or maybe you find yourself needing to brainstorm with people other than your co-founders. Perhaps you feel too busy working on your new business to maintain your normal network. A mastermind group can help you with all these problems.
Being an entrepreneur and starting a new business does not mean that you always have to work alone. If you are worried about working alone, coming up with ideas all by yourself, and having the sole accountability for your goals, then you are a good candidate for joining or helping to develop a entrepreneurial mastermind group.
What is a mastermind group, and how will one benefit you?
Mastermind groups tend to focus around a central theme. In this case, the theme would be developing your business. Keep in mind, though, that it is just as valid to focus a mastermind group around something like learning to play a musical instrument. The group is then made up of multiple people all working toward similar goals.
In a mastermind group, you benefit from sharing your plans for development, so that other people can know your plans and help to hold you accountable for them. A feeling of mutual support pervades the group. The supportive tone of a mastermind group keeps it from being a place of shaming, and allows the members to help each other problem-solve when there are set-backs.
You will also get to hear different perspectives that can help to inform your decisions and give you more confidence in your plans. The networking opportunities involved in a mastermind group are also excellent for an entrepreneur. The nature of the group makes it a given that you have something to talk about with the other members, so it’s not necessary to build your relationships on awkward small talk. Each member carries with them their own skill-sets and abilities that will help you build a more successful business.
How can you begin?
Most mastermind groups meet in person, but it is becoming more common for them to take place solely on the Internet. I’ve even heard of co-working spaces hosting speed-dating-style mastermind groups to help entrepreneurs network, perfect their elevator pitch, and test out some ideas that they might have. If there isn’t already a group that you’ve been networking with to join, it is totally possible, and perhaps even more rewarding to be part of the process of starting your own mastermind group.
You want to begin with picking your theme or topic. This could be as broad as entrepreneurship in general, or narrowed down to a group for graphic designers, consultants, or freelancers. Depending on how you want your group to run—in person or over the web? maybe a mixture of both?—the availability of people in a specialized field could be low, forcing you to broaden your theme. This may not be a bad thing, because it will introduce you to the thinking and problem-solving of people from diverse disciplines.
Who will be in the group?
It’s in your best interest to be careful when it comes to picking your partners. You must trust the people in your mastermind group. Ideally, you will be opening up to them about your goals and plans, as well as your productivity and shortcomings. To set yourself up for a helpful experience, it’s best to make sure the group is made up of people who will be comfortable talking to each other.
The people in your mastermind group will have a strong influence on your business, as they help you to establish and achieve your goals. They will also be offering advice and helping to problem-solve. In this case, you need members whose advice and input you respect and wish to hear.
Everyone will need to be able to benefit from the group. Everyone should be in the position of asking from the group and well as giving to it.
It’s best if group members all have a similar drive and sense of commitment. An individual who is fine not achieving his or her goals week after week will drag down the overall drive, and morale of the group. Make sure that all your members are serious about what they’re doing before they become part of the group.
How to start?
Schedule formal meetings. It might help to do weekly meetings if your business is relatively new, since there will be all sorts of obstacles for you to tackle in the early stages of your business development. Some mastermind groups remain fully functional while only meeting once a month. Discuss the group’s needs in a first meeting or email chain to assess how often the group should meet.
Meetings should take place on the same day of the week at the same time each week, so that each member can schedule time to be there, and the group will feel more like a professional commitment.
Members follow conduct rules established by the group. For instance, it is crucial that each member is respectful and does not interrupt others when they are speaking. Have some free talk to begin discussing the broader goals of the group and understand what each member hopes to gain from it.
You’ll also want to establish the form that the meeting will take. Ask whether it would be easier to have an agenda for meetings. Mention the possibility of someone taking the position of a meeting manager or discussion leader.
What happens in a meeting?
Allow equal amounts of time for each member of the group to discuss their progress. They can talk about their business goals, what measures they’ve taken to accomplish those goals, what kind of success or failure they might have had, and how to learn from it. The group spends time working with each individual to help them brainstorm solutions.
If members are feeling shy, just start by asking them a few simple questions. Use questions such as, “What’s your main concern right now?” and “What can we do to help you?”