It’s been five years since I first joined a mastermind group and in that time I’ve been part of three mastermind groups. In two of those, I was the member who organized them, and the third I run to help people run better businesses.

In each of the masterminds I’ve been involved in I’ve formed great trusting relationships with amazing business people who have helped me grow my business.

But it’s not easy to know what a mastermind should look like or how it should be run when you’re first trying to find one. Here is what I look for as I try to find mastermind groups or run them for others.

Why is a mastermind a good thing?

Masterminds can take up a fair bit of time in your week depending on the meeting schedule. I’ve had some that take 90 minutes every week or others that take five hours once a month. If you’re going to be involved in something that takes up that much time you need to make sure you’re going to get a great return on investment.

To help you determine the value of a mastermind you might be considering, here are the top 3 things you should be getting out of a group:

1. Group Sourcing Ideas

Which email marketing provider is the best option? Which CRM is easiest to use? What marketing tactics work well?

Until you’ve been in business for 10 years you won’t be able to answer many of these questions. Even with 10 years under your belt new CRMs are going to come out and unless you spend all your time trying out new tools, you’ll never know if one works better than the current option.

In a mastermind group you get the benefit of the experience of many people. Someone has used a great CRM so when you’re looking for one, you can get recommendations from people you trust. It’s likely that a few of the people have used CRMs so you’ll have two or three recommendations. That means you can take the time to look into only those three options instead of the 3,000 options out there for CRM software.

Being in a mastermind group means that you don’t only have your experience to rely on. It means that you have the experience of many other business owners to rely on so you can run your business better.

2. Accountability

Getting your work done week in, week out is hard for pretty much everyone. Even those people who seem super productive have times when motivation is low and not much gets done.

Having a group of people to be accountable for every week to push your business forward will help you do just that. It’s much harder to look back at a week when almost nothing really happened when you’ve got to tell a bunch of other people that not much happened. At the very least you’re going to work double hard to make sure that the next meeting you have some progress to show towards your main goals for the week.

This accountability for relentlessly moving forward is going to mean that you just get more done and have a better business that…keeps moving forward.

3. Referrals

Referrals are the lifeblood of so many businesses and they only come when people know you and know what you do. Sitting down talking with the same group of people over and over as you win and struggle at your business will bring about both of these things.

In the first year I was in a mastermind I got referrals for at least $30k of work. I still get referrals from that same mastermind group and from the current groups I’m in. One of the big reasons I run a six-figure solo consultancy is that I get referrals from people I’ve built relationships with.

By putting time into a mastermind group you’re going to get referrals from other members. It may be clients they choose not to serve because they’re not the ideal client but fit you well. If you have a wide diversity of businesses in the mastermind group then there will be little overlap. The dry cleaner who finds a fellow dry cleaner looking for a new site won’t think about doing it themselves, they’ll refer it to the person in their mastermind group that builds websites.

How should a mastermind get run?

Masterminds (or mentoring groups) walk a fine line between taking up your time and being useful. You need to watch for the tension between some friendly banter to build relationship and digging into your business so it can get better.

There are two main formats I’ve been a part of in mastermind groups and either can work, depending on how the group prefers to operate.

Hot Seat

The first method that I’ve seen work is often called the ‘hot seat’ method. In this method, one person gets the focus for a meeting. They talk deep about their business and everyone is focused on them.

You generally leave a bit of time at the end of the meeting to address any really pressing concerns from other members in the group. Usually there is one person who has a question which needs to be addressed right away. Address it with the time left and then the meeting is over.

The biggest drawback to this method is that you may have 3-5 weeks before it’s your turn in the hot seat. That doesn’t mean you don’t learn things for your business, since others will be having similar problems and you’ll learn from the solutions offered to them. But, it does mean that you don’t get the focused attention of the group every week.

Weekly Reports

This is the method that my groups use. Here everyone gets 15-20 minutes to recap their week. The format is centered around these questions:

  1. What went well this week?
  2. What didn’t go well this week?
  3. What can you do to avoid these setbacks next time?
  4. What are your goals for next week?
  5. Anything else?

Every week you get together and, as a group, address these questions. The key questions are 3 through 5. Question 3 is you setting up a plan each week to run your business better as you work to avoid the next issue.

Question 4 is making sure you have some goals and thus accountability for the next week.

Question 5 is where we cover everything else. Maybe you’re thinking of moving email providers and you want to solicit feedback on some choices from the group. This is where you get a huge benefit from the experience different group members have.

One big key to any mastermind group is that you need to have one person in charge of each meeting. The job of this ‘moderator’ is to move the conversation along when it’s lagging. It’s to pull everyone back to the topic at hand when the banter derails the conversation.

If you simply leave it up to ‘the group’ to moderate, it won’t happen. You’ll end up wasting a bunch of time waffling around or always talk mostly about a single person to the exclusion of the rest of the participants.

Either of those options is a recipe for a mastermind group that isn’t worth your time.

Who is in a good Mastermind?

In the first mastermind I ran I was less picky about who I let join, which led to some issues. Primarily I had people join who wanted to talk about running their own business mostly because it sounded neat. They did not want to do the hard work to actually get out on their own and have that business they said they wanted to run. This dragged the whole group down, as two people consumed most of the time in the group every week and sucked the motivation out of the group with their excuses about why things didn’t get done.

The most crucial starting point for everyone in your mastermind groups is that they are actually motivated to get to a similar goal. They don’t have to be in the same industry or in the same physical location. They don’t have to all work online or all offline. They do all need to be motivated to get things done and push their business forward.

[Tweet “Every person in your mastermind group should be equally motivated to get to a similar goal.”]

Outside of that one requirement a mastermind can be made up of many different people across many industries. You don’t need just online entrepreneurs or dentists. A good mix of industries is ideal, though not required.

How do you choose a mastermind group?

The final question when looking for a mastermind/mentoring group is which one is right for you. Not everyone will fit with every group — sometimes the personalities will not mesh and sometimes the topics you focus on won’t fit. If you’re much further ‘ahead’ in business than the rest of the group it’s likely to not be a good fit since you’ll spend more time helping others and get little help in return.

What you’re looking for is a group with a leader that you feel can keep things under control. You’re looking for a set of businesses in the group that are at a stage similar to yours. Some may be a bit bigger and some a bit smaller, or maybe they’re all a bit smaller. The key here is that they’re working on the same type of problems you are.

When you’re looking to join a group ask the person that leads it for a rundown of the businesses in the group. Even better, ask for contact information for some of the group members so you can talk about the group and get a feel for the problems they’re dealing with in their business.

If you’re looking for a mastermind currently, then you should get in touch. I’ve got a few spots left.

photo credit: 38446022@N00 cc