Joining a 'mastermind group' could help your business thrive in 2020 - here's how
Courtesy of Julia Wuench
- Julia Wuench is the founder of The Authenticity Guide, a positive-psychology-based career and executive coaching firm that empowers individuals to harness their authenticity to improve life and work.
- As a solopreneur, she found herself dealing with loneliness - and realized she couldn't go about it alone.
- So she formed a mastermind group, essentially a business support group, with two other female solopreneurs.
- Mastermind groups can help entrepreneurs get advice and stay accountable - and let them see the big picture when they're caught up in the day to day.
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I was recently having coffee with a mentor known for asking tough questions. A few minutes into our meeting she asked, "What are you struggling with in your business right now? What's hard that you didn't expect?"
I didn't presume to have an immediate answer (there are so many hard things I grapple with on a weekly basis), but I did. Without thinking, I said, "I'm lonely. I spend a lot of time by myself, which often can be great, but I miss having colleagues." And it was true. Much of my creativity in the past had come from collaboration with peers. I knew that I thrived in group brainstorming sessions, and I couldn't remember the last time I had done that. Sometimes being alone served to stifle new ideas for me, and my doubts about my work tended to amplify.
I was grateful for this mentor's question because it forced me to vocalize and come to terms with a hard truth about my business: I can't do this alone. And, I've heard from many other entrepreneurs (particularly solopreneurs) that they've experienced similar feelings of loneliness at one time or another.
For me, the solution to my problem was the equivalent of a business support group, also called a "mastermind group."
My mastermind group is comprised of three individuals. And here's what I believe makes it so successful: We're all solopreneurs at similar stages of business growth, but we each have very different businesses. Christina Noel is the founder of Noel & Co, a marketing and strategy consultancy. Emily Crookston is the founder of The Pocket PhD, a ghostwriting agency. And I am the founder of The Authenticity Guide, an executive and career coaching firm.
We have some overlapping business areas (like public speaking), but core revenue sources are different for each of us. Christina and I had known each other through our work in the local social impact community, and Christina met Emily while they were both doing contract gigs for the same digital agency. The three of us ran into each other at a WomenEmpowerX conference in Raleigh and bonded about the woes of solopreneurship. It was then that Christina pitched the idea of a mastermind group for the three of us - our chemistry as a group was undeniable - and we got to work.
Here's how our mastermind works: We meet biweekly over the phone and once per quarter in person (meeting in person is easy since we all live within a 30 mile radius). Each person gets a certain amount of time to speak and get feedback from the others in the group. Not only is this an amazing way to get free business advice from people you like and respect, but it's phenomenal for accountability as well. We do things like set 90-day vision plans, create goals, talk about what's hard and seek advice, and - most importantly - we also celebrate what's going well. Recently, the group helped me narrow down my 2020 revenue target areas from 10 disparate ideas to three targeted approaches. I now have a clear, well thought-out direction for the year ahead.
Dorie Clark, marketing strategist and professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, runs regular mastermind groups for successful entrepreneurs in New York. According to Clark, "It's easy for business owners to fall into perpetual 'execution mode,' where they stay busy and work hard - but as circumstances change and their business evolves, they may find themselves working hard on the wrong things. I've run mastermind groups for successful entrepreneurs for the past three years, and I've seen the incredible value of forcing yourself to take periodic short breaks from your business to consider the bigger picture. It's very powerful to have a supportive group of fellow professionals ask incisive questions that can spark new ideas and ensure you're working on the initiatives that will really move the needle."
And mastermind groups are not just for entrepreneurs. They can be great sources of collaboration and inspiration for employees of larger firms, particularly when groups are comprised of individuals across diverse, non-competing firms.
You can join a pre-existing mastermind group or pay a reputable facilitator to place you in one. Facebook and LinkedIn can be useful places to start researching which group to join, or ask the executive coaches you know if they facilitate mastermind groups. But I prefer the a la carte approach to ensure it fits your business and personal needs.
Here are some preliminary steps if you're thinking about starting your own mastermind:
- Think about individuals who you both like and respect and whose business maturity mirrors yours, but whose business offerings differ from yours. You can start by making a list of people you already know and whittling it down from there, or you can ask people you trust in your network for introductions to other entrepreneurs whose businesses are in a similar growth stage to yours.
- Schedule time to talk to those individuals to see if you connect with them - and if a mastermind group would be of interest. Ask them what their goals might be from such a group to see if you're aligned.
- Cap your mastermind group size at four to five individuals. Though larger groups can be effective, I advise keeping the group intimate so that each person gets ample time to share.
- Schedule a regular time to meet that works for everyone and get started!
My mastermind group has solved my loneliness and creativity problems and has created some much-needed accountability for me. Give it a try in the new year and see how it goes.