Leaving Work Behind

How to Start a Mastermind Group (and Why You Should)

Written by Tom Ewer on March 7, 2013. 50 Comments

A lightbulb.Running an online business is tough.

You are the master of your own destiny, which is both a blessing and a curse. As much as it is wonderful to be your own boss, you also have the burden of providing all of the necessary motivation, drive and innovation to create something of tangible worth.

With the above in mind, I will explore any opportunity that can help to motivate me and point me in the right direction in terms of making better business decisions. That brings me directly to mastermind groups, which can deliver on both fronts.

In this post I am going to introduce you to the concept of a mastermind group and also explain my own unique perspective on how one should be run so that the participants get the most out of it. Whether you’ve never heard of a mastermind group before or are already in one (or more), please read on.

What is a Master Mind?

The term “master mind” was coined by Napoleon Hill in his infamous book, Think and Grow Rich. If you have ten minutes to spare then you can hear all about it from the man himself:

Hill defines a master mind as follows:

…two or more people who work in perfect harmony for the attainment of a definite purpose.

In the context of online business owners, mastermind groups are meetings of groups of two or more people who help each other to succeed through their advice and assistance. These meetings can be in person, by telephone, on Skype or any other medium of instant communication. While Hill had his own opinions as to how how mastermind groups should be administered, there are no set-in-stone rules.

What Are the Benefits of a Master Mind?

In my opinion there are four key benefits that anyone can experience as a result of joining a mastermind group:

  1. You can seek opinions on potential courses of action relating to your business
  2. Your master mind partner(s) can suggest courses of action that you might not otherwise think of
  3. You can use the master mind as a recurring milestone for the progress of your business
  4. You can use the master mind as a strong enforcer of accountability

Not only do you get the benefit of tapping into other minds, you can also essentially run your business around your mastermind. The meetings can be used to plan the tasks that you will complete in time for the next meeting and you can be held accountable by your mastermind partners to complete those tasks. There’s nothing quite like making a promise to someone that you will do something to galvanize you into actually doing it.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I’ve completely changed my approach to something based upon the advice I have received during a mastermind meeting. One can pretend to be a know-it-all and have the shortsightedness to never seek advice but it is almost always beneficial to seek the opinion of others.

To be honest, I cannot sufficiently describe the benefits of joining a mastermind group. The true reward of operating within a well-run group is impossible to fully convey and only truly appreciated when you experience it.

My Mastermind Model

There are plenty of posts out there that talk about masterminds and they all have a similar approach. However, I want to offer something a little different by talking about the mastermind group I am in and how it is run. Let’s run through the key features.

Once Per Week

Personally I like to hold a meeting once per week. This might be too much for some, but I would be alarmed if I had nothing to talk about after a week of working on my business.

Each week should represent a step forward in developing my business — if I have nothing to talk about then I need to take a closer look at what I am actually achieving.

A Two Person Team

My mastermind group is made up of just two people: myself and Steve Scott. I suppose you could call it more of a mastermind “partnership” but I’m not going to get hung up on semantics. We’ve known each other for well over a year and were actually previously in a failed mastermind group of five people (which taught me a great about how not to run a mastermind group).

I advocate mastermind groups of just two people because it allows each weekly meeting to focus entirely on those two people. Mastermind groups of three or more generally require some kind of “rotation” policy in which just one or two people have the opportunity to discuss their business per meeting. Either that or each person only gets a limited amount of time to discuss their business. This makes sense in terms of making the best of the available time, but in terms of consistency and usefulness I want to be able to discuss and review my progress week by week.

The downside to having a two-man mastermind is you only have two minds to discuss matters. The upside is that you have far more time to dedicate to each other’s businesses and you don’t have the potential hassle of multiple people trying to get their point across at the same time. You also avoid the potential issues of leadership — i.e. who should be in charge and how they should govern the meetings.

Mutual Goals

It is of vital importance that your mastermind partner is on a similar track to you. They don’t have to be doing exactly the same thing (it’s probably ideal that they’re not) but you should be on a similar wave length.

My first mastermind group was doomed from the start as it featured a bunch of people who were doing different things and had different motivations. Not only do you need someone who is operating on a similar wavelength, you need to ensure that they are as motivated and driven as you to succeed. You do not want to be in a mastermind group where the other person isn’t really committed.

Preparation

In my opinion you should spend nearly as much time preparing for a mastermind meeting as you should on the meeting itself. As with most things in life, it is the preparation that determines the effectiveness of whatever you had planned.

I prepare for my mastermind meetings in three parts:

  1. Review my accountability items from last week. (How did I get on? Did I get everything done?)
  2. Make a list of the items I want to talk about in the meeting.
  3. Create a provisional list of tasks to complete in the coming week for accountability.

When you have planned appropriately you will find that you get a great deal more out of the meeting. While it is possible to fly by the seat of your pants, you’ll probably forget to ask key questions and keep your partner updated about important goings-on and you’re far more likely to create arbitrary and contrived accountability tasks.

The Meeting Itself

Mine and Scott’s meetings tend to last from 30 to 60 minutes. The format goes something like this:

  1. Hellos and chit chat
  2. General discussion about any important events in the previous week
  3. One of us will discuss how we got on with our accountability tasks and follow up with accountability tasks for the following week
  4. The other will follow suit
  5. We’ll conclude by discussing any final items that spring to mind

When the meeting is over I will know exactly what I plan to do in the coming week and why. I won’t be working for the sake of working — I will be doing work that is designed to take my business further. Better yet, I have had the concurrence of my mastermind partner in terms of the viability of my plans.

How to Find a Mastermind Partner

Finding a good mastermind partner can be pretty tough. As I said previously, you need someone who is on a similar wavelength to you and also as motivated for the group to succeed. I would not recommend that you reach out to a stranger to form a mastermind group — far better to suggest it to someone that you already know. If you’re brand new to blogging then this will be a great excuse for you start talking to other bloggers in your niche.

I’d also recommend forums as a great place to find potential mastermind partners. Establish yourself in a forum in your niche and get to know the regular posters. After a while it will become obvious which person or people might be right to form a mastermind group with.

Finally, offline seminars and conferences are a great way to meet new people and also discover if you are on the same kind of wavelength. There’s nothing quite like a face-to-face chat to get an idea of how well you might get on with someone.

Getting Started

I believe that you should adopt a “softly softly” approach to starting a mastermind group.

Begin with a couple of no pressure sessions in which you simply get an idea as to whether the dynamic between you works then begin to introduce a bit of structure when it seems appropriate to do so. Far better to build something that works organically for the two of you then try to force a structure from the get-go.

You’re likely to find that the shape of your mastermind group will change over time — adapting to suit what the participants aim to get out of it. As I said earlier, there are no set-in-stone rules as to how a mastermind group should be run, so do as you see fit.

What Are Your Thoughts on Mastermind Groups?

Are you currently in a mastermind group or not? I’d love to hear from you — especially if you have a strong opinion on the topic or feel that you have something to add to my post. Fire away in the comments section!

Photo Credit: “Caveman Chuck” Coker

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50 Responses to “How to Start a Mastermind Group (and Why You Should)”

  1. Yannick Van Broeck
    March 7, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Once again, excellent read!

    I’m not in a mastermind group myself but I see that it can be very useful. To me it’s propably going to be a problem to find similar people since i’m real new to all of this. I’m spending hours each day reading up on SEO, freelance writing, blogging, writing myself for my own blog. It would be really nice to meet people out there who can partner up and strive for a similar goal. It’s just seems so hard as there are loads of places for these guys to go on the internet and it makes it a bit unpersonal.

    Anyway, again, great article 🙂

    Yannick

    • Tom Ewer
      March 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Hey Yannick,

      There are loads of places you can reach out to people! Like here for instance 🙂

      Just get involved — check out some forums, comment on other blogs, etc. The key is not to try to establish relationships with big bloggers because they’ve already got a lot on their plate. You want to find guys in the same situation as you.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  2. Olatunji Femi
    March 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    Hey Tom,

    Another Great Post as usual, but in my opinion i will rather liken being in a mastermind group as self evaluating one’s business. but the interesting thing about having a master mind group is that it ensures you don’t get stuck in a project as you have someone in the same niche as you to help out or get a first hand information from. all this just accounts on the fact that no man is an island of knowledge.

    • Tom Ewer
      March 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      Hi Olatunji,

      The big difference between self-evaluation and a mastermind group (as you point out) is that you have another pair of eyes on your business. That can make a huge difference. Plus self-accountability will rarely be as powerful as holding yourself accountable to someone else.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  3. Steve
    March 7, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Awesome overview Tom! I agree that our first group didn’t work because of conflicting goals. Looking back, it seems like there were five people with five different business models… so it was hard to relate to one another.

    The one thing I’d add is the importance of the ‘negative consequence’ to not achieving an accountability statement. It’s a small thing, but our “Smoothie Count” does motivate me to complete what I promise to do each week.

    BTW — Two already done for this week 🙂

  4. Ben Block
    March 7, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Great post. I have been thinking about forming a Mastermind for quite a while. I actially met my wife through one a number of years ago, but that aside, I enjoyed the support and the input from other business people. I am a businss lawyer and entrepreneur now so may have more to contribute as well. My challenge has been locating interested people who are as you said, “on the same wavelength”. My best prospect has proven to be a bit of a nay-sayer, which isn’t ideal, so I will have to continue the search.

    I almost took this off my goal list for the year out of frustration…I’m glad I saw this!

    • Tom Ewer
      March 8, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Hey Ben,

      It sounds like your mastermind groups have been in person before — perhaps it’s time to consider a virtual mastermind group? This will give you a great deal more scope in terms of potential partners.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  5. Darnell Jackson
    March 7, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Tom,

    I’ve been hearing more and more about these Master Mind groups this is an excellent explanation.

    I think people underestimate the power of strategy.
    Adding other like minded people can only multiply this effect.

    It’s chess not checkers.

  6. Adrian
    March 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Tom,

    You have a knack of publishing content on a subject just when I am ready to receive it! (When the student is ready……)

    I’ve been thinking recently about mastermind groups and accountability partners (I’m also a fan of Napoleon Hill) as a change in my circumstances recently now means I will be “leaving work behind” for definite at the end of this year and fully plan to earn a living online.

    I’ve got 5 years experience of internet marketing, but despite having lots of theory in my head, I’ve put little of into action (although I have had small successes along the way to build on). This now has to change!

    I’ll contact you directly soon with the plans I have and I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. I’m local to you so if you’re up for it, I’d love to meet you in person over coffee!

    Cheers

    Adrian

  7. Sarah Russell
    March 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Interesting stuff. I’ve always loved the idea of mastermind groups, but found the execution to be lacking – probably for many of the same reasons your former attempts have failed (too many over-committed voices, for one…). The idea of a two-person group is intriguing – I think that’s definitely something I’ll look into once things are a little more established on my site.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  8. Tung Tran
    March 11, 2013 at 6:36 am

    I totally agree with you Tom.

    Being in a mastermind group is the best thing I’ve done this year.

    Actually my mastermind group consists of 4 people (include me).

    We don’t just discuss about businesses, we also share everything about life, love and more 😀 And I feel greatly motivated with those people.

    And we have a mutual project which help make the group closer and achieve our goals faster.

    The key is to have people with the same goals in the group.

    Thank you for this post!

    Tung

  9. Joe Can Write
    March 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve always been a bit dubious of these sorts of things but you’ve put it in a good way that makes it sound quite appealing.

    I had my first call with another internet marketeer the other day, and while it was just to get advice from them, on a one off basis, it definitely motivated me to do more so I can see how these things can be useful.

    I’m quite interested in setting something up now after reading this post.

    Any fledgling freelance bloggers out there who also do a bit of internet marketing?

  10. Karl (business blogger) Craig-West
    March 12, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Thanks Tom,

    was thinking about a mastermind group and you’ve just given me the proverbial kick in the pants to get it going sooner rather than later.

    Cheers
    Karl

  11. Don
    May 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Well I always thought that Nap Hill was writing in code and what he meant by ‘mastermind’ was actually vividly imagining a meeting with people you admire. Doh! He was being literal? People give their time just to progress your business?
    But thanks to your post, Tom, I think I get it now. Its a reciprocal thing.
    I am well up for it. Sounds like the ideal way to get the rudder back in the water and start making some progress.
    Many thanks,
    Don

  12. Bridal Mentor
    May 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Two people doesn’t seem like enough. I envisions a Mastermind group as one in which many can brainstorm on ideas and help each other’s businesses. Two people is too little

    • Tom Ewer
      May 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm

      I’ve got to call you out on a wild generalisation there. Would you rather be in a mastermind group with just Richard Branson, or four aspiring but unsuccessful businesspeople?

  13. Mike Collins
    May 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I’ve never been a part of a mastermind group but it’s something I should look into. Keeping motivated and staying on course can be a challenge and having someone to bounce ideas around with is obviously an asset.

    Mike

  14. Gustaf is a Coding Traveler
    September 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Fantastic article. We started a Mastermind group a few months back and it is great. find the best part being that you can share thoughts that you wouldn’t share anywhere else.

    We are also friends (especially after this) so it is a great way to keep in touch as well.

  15. Nwachukwu Henry
    July 12, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Hi Tom.
    The master-mind concept is definitely invaluable in this business as well as in every sphere of life where growth & advancement are a necessity. It is just not possible to abandon a baby without the care & nurture it deserves & expect otherwise. Like my blogospheric friend would say “keep on blogging the good blog” Tom! Cheers!

  16. Mon
    October 24, 2014 at 2:29 am

    Awesome read!

    I’ve been looking forward to this idea before. I just find it hard to trust someone about my plans and details of my projects. If ever I join a mastermind group, I think I would be more at ease to be with a friend.

    Thanks Tom!

    Mon, reader from Philippines

  17. Brett Hoffstadt
    March 19, 2015 at 1:51 am

    Thanks for the thorough post Tom! I want to start my own master mind and found your article very valuable. I thought 3-5 would be the best number but you made several good points about keeping it down to 2.

  18. Jovanhanna Kristina
    February 11, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    I am in the process of forming a mastermind group and I am glad I came across your article. I enjoyed the suggestions you gave and made notes of things that I can implement. The idea of having a group of like-minded people that also want to be successful is amazing! I’m planning our first meeting and can’t wait to see how it goes.

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