Behold the Power of “Masterminds!”

“When two or more minds come together for a purpose, the purpose becomes greater than the being.”
Napoleon Hill

Several years ago I took over an existing RYZE Network (the SHE Network) and renamed it HER Mastermind Network. It was a women’s network that had some great content but the leader no longer had time or interest in continuing to run it. And I saw lots of potential. Potential great learning experiences, great connections, and the opportunity to lead a social network, which up to that time I had only participated. I changed the name from SHE Network to HER Mastermind to give the network a name that truly reflected our personality and what it is the members did and how they interacted on that social networking site.  (Note: Over the 3 years I ran the network it grew from 300 members to 1177.  AND it became one of the top 20 RYZE networks and maintained that title for the entire 3 years!)

Why do I mention a social network in the same sentence as a Mastermind? And what does that have to do with marketing your small business offline?  Read on and you will see the connections.

Although these types of forums tend to be much larger than a traditional mastermind, the idea is the same. To learn from a variety of perspectives, to get ideas from more people, to brainstorm ways to tackle everyday challenges… and more. And generally speaking only a handful of people on a social network will weigh in on a particular topic if it is of interest to or hits someone’s “hot button.” That was true of RYZE and it is true of many mastermind groups today.

By now you may be asking what is a Mastermind? Here’s my definition: “it is a group of people who meet on a regular basis to exchange ideas, seek the advice of the group and solicit feedback from. It is a resource center of new ideas.

Many small business owners feel isolated and that no one really understands the challenges you face in your business. A Mastermind Group or Mastermind Network will lessen that isolated feeling.

Over the years I have been involved in several masterminds. Some of them meet/met in person, some were and are online such as one I was involved in in the ’90’s – an exchange between female speakers around the world. Some were started by others and I was invited to attend, some were co-founded by me.

Each of them has helped me both professionally and personally, taking my businesses to new levels of success and helping me to crystalize my purpose in life. They have helped me to find out what it was I was really working toward, helped me set and achieve goals, and offered the kind of encouragement that was necessary when things didn’t always go my way. So I decided it would be a good idea to share some of the things I and others have discovered from participating in a mastermind group.

The first thing you need to do is decide what it is you want from a mastermind group and what you can contribute to the group.

Highly successful mastermind groups work best when you follow a few simple guidelines:

1. If you are creating a mastermind group, when deciding who would best fit in your group, choose people who have specialized knowledge you lack. Enlisting people with very different outlooks strengthens a mastermind group.

2. Make a time commitment and stick to it. It doesn’t matter if you meet once a week or once a month. The point is that when you decide the frequency, make the commitment, don’t allow anything except serious emergencies to interfere with your date.

3. Create an agenda to follow. This provides a sense of order during your meetings. Sample agendas might include an open discussion at the beginning of the meeting and then focusing on individual challenges for about 20 minutes each.

One of my in-person groups (of 6 people) focuses on one member’s challenge each meeting with the others offering their feedback or advice. Each member gets her turn to share. This is very powerful because each of us learns something from the other’s challenge. My online group meets in a “chat room” and we each ask a question (there are 5 of us). The other 4 offer their responses. We meet for approximately one hour and we have an open discussion at the end of the meeting if there is time.

4. Our in-person meetings are fun. We meet in a different place each month, and it has become as much a social event as an educational experience.

5. Keep it Small and Simple. If your group is too large you run into the challenge of everyone not having sufficient time to present their own challenges. Groups of 4 to 7 work seem to work best.

6. Decide on your rules of engagement in the very beginning. My in-person group openly discusses details of our companies with the understanding that our “inside” secrets” are never divulged outside of our group. What is shared in the Mastermind STAYS in the Mastermind.

7. Depending on the nature and personality of your group you might consider assigning a facilitator for each meeting to keep the group on target. You learn to facilitate by doing it.

Another key component I should mention is that a true mastermind has an accountability component – that means we help one another achieve our goals by asking how we are doing, offering encouragement and “holding our feet to the fire.”

I love the interaction and dynamic flow of ideas that occur during my mastermind group meetings, and cannot wait to get to work on everyone’s suggestions. It is exciting to see the results at the end of the year.

When you create or participate in a mastermind group for your small business you will see an immediate change in how you approach your own challenges. And the other benefit is that it makes you really look at problems from a new perspective – you find that business owners are more alike than different even when we “sell” a different product or solution to our own target audience.

Being involved in mastermind groups for close to 20 years has been more rewarding for me than I could ever describe, in that I have received so much more than I could ever give back.

If you are not currently involved in a mastermind, I strongly suggest you begin by making a list of the people you would want on your team – I call it your “dream team” – to help your business grow. It may be the best step you take for your business this year!

The REST of the Story: RYZE is still online but there are not many people actively participating in the network. People have gone on to LinkedIn and Facebook because these sites are simply more populated and have an audience to connect and interact with. If you prefer a smaller, more intimate way to connect, Ryze may be a great starting point!