Mastermind groups: setting the table

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As discussed in my last postmanaging a mastermind group can be a very effective way to grow your business and elevate your stature as a thought leader and trusted advisor.

Starting a mastermind will take extra work, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Rather than starting from scratch, look at groups that specialize in brains. For example, EO, YPO, and Vistage make it a science. Use their pattern as a template to kickstart your brain. Another one recent column is about getting the most out of what other companies are doing and doing it even better.

Begin

Before you send out invitations and book a meeting place, however, you should determine your goals for the group. What do you hope to get out of the group? What do you think is most important to potential members? For example, how can we bring non-competing entrepreneurs together in one room to talk openly about challenges and opportunities for growth? Clarifying your goals will determine your next steps.

Here are some other questions to consider:

How often should the group meet? I have found monthly meetings to be a good start. If you meet more than once a month, it might be too much of a burden on the members. But, if you meet less than once a month, you will likely lose momentum between meetings and lose contact with some members.

How long should meetings last? I’ve found three hours to be a good benchmark – more on that in a minute.

What is the agenda? You don’t host a cocktail party here. You need a well-defined agenda listing the order of topics to be discussed and the roles and responsibilities of each member. Otherwise, it’s just a date. Members may enjoy each other’s company, but without structure there will be no specific outcomes or results.

How big should the group be? There’s no magic number, but I’ve found eight people to be a good starting point. You can always invite others if someone gives up (or is asked to leave).

What level of responsibility should there be? I have found that the higher the level of responsibility, the better the meetings will be and the deeper the relationships that will result. It’s okay if someone has to miss a meeting once in a while. We all have crazy trips and family emergencies etc. But, if a member misses more than one meeting per year, consider implementing a penalty system. For example, it could double their regular contribution to the dinner fund. If they miss more than two meetings a year, it might be worth asking them to leave.

Where will the group meet? Some brains rotate in a different member’s office each month. Others meet in the same place each time if a particular member has a large conference or meeting space. You can also rent a conference room each month, preferably near a restaurant where you will meet afterwards. The key is to have the meeting locations fixed well in advance. You don’t want to rush the day before the monthly meeting to decide where you will meet. Members are too busy for that.

Again, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How often will you meet?
  • Where are you going to meet?
  • How many people are in the group?
  • Is attendance compulsory?
  • What are the penalties for no-shows?
  • What are the group’s goals?
  • Will there be “homework” between meetings?

Answering these questions will go a long way in setting the stage for a great mastermind group – a meeting that every busy member looks forward to attending. The higher you set the bar, the more successful it will be. If you don’t set a high level of engagement, many members will only be half-participating. As a result, meetings won’t have as much impact and the group might die out before it starts.
As the meeting leader, you will need to stay on top of things. But most CPAs find the effort they put into getting a mastermind started and running is more than worth it. Where else do you have the opportunity to be in regular contact with your best customers and prospects? In the best mastermind groups, you’ll find exceptional, highly motivated leaders who solve problems together, share advice, and push each other to achieve massive success. Masterminds can be an integral part of your service offering, along with tax planning and advisory work. To learn more about optimizing your time, check out my article The 64/4 Rule.

What is your opinion on brain groups? I would love to hear from you.

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