"masterminding for your small business"One of the many things that can help a small business owner is to be surrounded by a support system, a group of people who understand you and what you go through in your small business, people you can talk to and share ideas. People you can turn to for advice and support. People who can make valuable connections for you.  While its not technically marketing your small business offline, it is a natural result of the time and efforts you put into building relationships.

It’s called Masterminding.  Here are Eight questions people ask about being involved in a mastermind and how it can elevate a small business.

1. What is masterminding and how can it help my business?

I think of a mastermind group as a “success team”. They are a success-minded, achievement-oriented group people who join forces to dramatically leverage the success of each individual within the group.  They pool their talent, energy, experience and wisdom to build momentum and create powerful results.

A mastermind group can impact your business in a multitude of ways.  Let’s say for example you’re leaving your job as a corporate sales director and you’ve decided to become and independent realtor. You decide that you’d like to hit the ground running, so you assemble your own mastermind group.  Your group consists of the following people:

*  You (a successful corporate sales director)

*  A seasoned successful realtor

*  A creative mortgage broker

*  A licensed builder who runs his own remodeling business

*  The woman next door who runs her own cleaning business

*  Your college roommate who used to work for the township planning commission

You’ve got 6 people all with different levels of expertise, different backgrounds and skills. Put them all together in a room once a week and together they can help each other increase sales, solve problems, avoid pitfalls, achieve goals, shorten the learning curve and maybe most importantly… think bigger than they would think if each person were “going it alone”.

2. Now that we know what it is, what are the key elements to an effective mastermind group?

a. Proper planning and strategy – In my opinion, this is the number one reason groups fail or never get off the ground.  It takes a lot of planning, clarity and time to think it through properly the first time around.

b. Getting it right the first time if at all possible – Once you get your group together it’s really important to start the bonding and collaboration process.  Losing and trying to replace 1 or 2 people costs time & effort and drains the energy of the group.

c. Chemistry – You want the right personality mix and people who know how to collaborate and communicate

d. Commitment & Purpose – Each purpose must be totally committed to the success of the others.  You want “givers” not “takers”.  And each person within the group should have clear goals and measurable results.

3. How can I start my own group and how many people should I consider? And what characteristics traits or experiences should I consider when looking for people to create my own group?

First, I think the perfect number is six.  You could go to eight, but 10 is too many.

I look at the process in four – five Phases

Phase 1 – Get Clarity & Get Focused

Clarify your wants and needs.   Think through your intentions, expectations, logistics, required commitments, your ideal member, etc.   Draft some preliminary documents to use as reference as you communicate your vision to potential members

Phase 2 – Target and Invite

Target potential members (start with a   list of at least 12 people – not all will accept) Identify “preferred” members.

Invite them to join (call, email, letter)

Give them time to consider

Compile replies

Determine next steps

Phase 3 – Ramp Up

Schedule 3 – 4 weekly meetings.

Facilitate bonding, trust building, revisions to your preliminary documents (phase 1) so the group as whole can create a vision, operating principles, expectations, structure, additional needs, etc.

Phase 4 – Launch

Finalize working documents.

Standardize the facilitation, process individuals, clarify personal goals and identify needs.

Get feedback from the group on how things are going.

Phase 5 – Begin To Normalize

4. What characteristics should I consider when looking for people for my group?

People who will get along and collaborate well.

People who are open minded, respect differences, other viewpoints.

People who are undoubtedly committed.

People who communicate well and are creative.

Innovative thinkers.

Big thinkers.

5. So tell us, what are the various formats for a mastermind group?   How often should we meet, for how long, where should we meet?

Lots of people still prefer to meet in person at least occasionally.  Today though, the virtual options are almost endless.  I’d recommend more than one option so that people have a place to collaborate in-between official meetings.

Some examples: Social Media, Webinars, Teleconferences

6. How often meet, for how long, and where?

This really depends on your group.  Have an official meeting (regardless of format) at least monthly, for about 2 hours.

Regardless of where you meet, be in a place you can focus and have a place to write.

In person meetings could be held at a library, chamber of commerce offices, restaurants, church facilities, conference rooms, whereever the group can gather and share ideas in a safe environment that is conducive to their goals.

7. Now that we know who we should include, should there be a leader for the group? Someone to coordinate the meetings? Do you recommend an agenda? Do you recommend we create a list of “rules” for the group?

I recommend a “structure” or “process”…and mostly I recommend that everybody knows what’s going on. You’ll probably try more than one way before you get your rhythm.

Should there be a leader in the group?  Someone to coordinate meetings?

Yes…but I recommend two things about that.

First, “shared responsibility” so everybody gets to lead.  With a group of six people everybody would do it two months each year.

Secondly, provide information/coaching on “how to facilitate”.  Don’t assume everyone knows how to keep the meeting moving, keeping conversations lively, etc.


Yes, at least initially (or if the group changes).Your group needs to have a shared understanding about expectations, “how” you work together, and other do’s and don’ts.  What’s most important is the discussion, balthough I do favor a list of ground rules.

8. Could some of the rules include accountability and in your opinion, just how important is accountability to the mastermind process? How do you deal with difficult members?

Yes, ground rules are a perfect place to address accountability. If you have no accountability…you have no mastermind group.  It’s that simple.  It might be helpful to create a document called the “Laws of Participation”.

What about Difficult Members?

First, if you’ve done a good job of selecting members up front, you don’t have to deal with difficulties. If someone becomes “difficult”, assume something is changing (going wrong) for them.  Talk to them privately as if you were talking to your best friend. Tell them what you noticed/observed.  Tell them how it might be impacting the group today, and what might happen if it continues. Ask how you can help/support.

One of the ways we have addressed members who have not been “committed to the process” (by that I mean show up) is to include attendance requirements in our “rules.”  Then we can address them when or if we must.

Remember,  without accountability, there is no group.

These are the cornerstone principles to creating a functioning, productive mastermind group to help promote your small business offline.  Each group will have its own personality and distinct needs and goals. Once you get the right people in the room, the rest will begin to take shape and flow. And you can start to watch your small business grow.

Final thoughts: 

a.  Understand the investment – Up front there’s a huge investment in time and planning. Your investment will come back to you many times over if you can just get through the first phase. Consider hiring a coach/consultant to help you.

b. It’s an evolution – not a revolution!  If your group is working well together at the end of the first year consider it a success!  These people will be your trusted advisors and it takes time to create deep relationships.

3c. It will change! – After you put in all of the up front time and planning it’s likely to change.  For the sake of creating a cohesive group THEY need to take ownership of the vision and operating principles.  So look at your initial set of documents as a “first draft”…and detach from personally “owning” them!