What is a Mastermind Group, you might ask? In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill introduced the idea of forming a peer advisory group where business leaders share challenges and opportunities and help one another succeed by sharing experiences they have had when facing similar situations. It is lonely at the top, and you cannot always share all your business concerns with your employees. Having other business owners to bounce ideas off can really help, since two (or more) heads are better than one. Or, as Napoleon Hill puts it, “No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind.”

There is a whole subculture of organized peer advisory groups – EO (Entrepreneurs’ Organization), WPO (Women Presidents’ Organization), Vistage, TAB (The Alternative Board) – based on Napoleon Hill’s principle. I have been a member of four different groups over the past six years. Right now I am still a member of the first one, an ad hoc group created by the Wharton Club of NJ called the Wharton Entrepreneurial Circle, and also a worldwide organization, EO. I get different benefits from each group, and all of them have helped me improve my business and myself as a business leader. So how do you form your own group?

Here are some guidelines for creating a Mastermind Group of your own:

  • Non-competitive or industry-specific? First you need to decide if your group members will come from non-competitive industries so no one will have a competitor in the group or a common industry. All of the peer advisory groups of which I have been a member include businesses that are non-competitive. The reason for this is confidentiality. I didn’t want to be in a group where I would be sharing strategies and vulnerabilities with my competitors. But one of my group members was once in another industry specific group that was not in direct competition, so sharing best practices and challenging one another worked well for his group. Sometimes geography can make the difference. I know TranStrategy Partners used to moderate groups within the transportation industry, which made sense for people who were not in direct competition to share challenges and best practices.
  • Who should be in your group? Once you decide non-competitive or industry-specific, it is time to identify whom to approach. The kind of people who make good Mastermind Group members must be trustworthy and open to sharing. It’s good if they are like-minded in the sense of being optimistic, looking to grow, with more of a positive outlook on life. Negative people will just drag you down. Positive people see the possibilities, and that is what is needed in such a group. Who do you know that fits the bill?
  • How to approach them? The approach I recommend a simple call like: “I really respect you. We are both in business for ourselves, and I know it can sometimes be lonely at the top when you have challenges you can’t share with employees or friends. I recently learned of this concept called Mastermind Groups where you meet with a fixed group of six to eight people on a regular basis to share goals, challenges, and best practices in a confidential environment. Would you be interested in learning more?” These are just ideas, what you say needs to really come from the heart so your potential group members will feel your sincerity.
  • When should you meet? It is important to agree on the meeting frequency and structure. Monthly for three hours? Weekly for one hour? In person or via conference call? All of these items can be decided as a group, but having a preconceived notion of what you would like to do is a good place to start. Remember to be open to suggestions from your group members.
  • What to discuss? Will it be all business, or are you also going to open it up to personal challenges? Are there any subjects that are taboo? In EO members are encouraged to talk about anything, because it is a safe environment where confidentiality is sacrosanct. My Wharton group is mainly business, although after being together for six years, we do discuss personal challenges, but rarely as the main topic for the meeting agenda. A typical agenda for a Mastermind group involves member updates and then a major challenge and possibly a minor challenge, time permitting. Agreeing the agenda as members together is the most effective way, but having a guideline when forming your group will help.

So now you’re ready to create your own Mastermind Group to help you run your Freight Agency better. I hope my experience in this area having been in several groups over the past six years will help in your efforts to form your own group. From within my WPO group, I was paired up with an accountability partner to help me motivate myself into action when I was having difficulty in that area.

In my next blog, I will tell you more about how accountability partners can help motivate each other achieve their goals.

– By Cheryl Biron, President

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