Mastermind groups: Setting the table

As discussed in my last postrunning a mastermind group can be a highly effective way to build your business and raise your stature as a thought leader and trusted advisor.

Getting a mastermind started will take extra work, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Rather than starting from scratch, look at groups that specialize in masterminds. For instance, EO, YPO and Vage have it down to a science. Use their model as a template for launching your mastermind. Another recent column is about taking the best of what other firms are doing and doing it even better.

Getting started

Before sending out invites and booking a meeting place, however, you need to figure out your goals for the group. What are you hoping to get out of the group? What do you think is most important for prospective members? For example, how do we get noncompeting entrepreneurs in a room together to talk openly about growth challenges and opportunities? Getting clarity on your goals will determine your next steps.

Here are some other questions to consider:

How often should the group meet? I’ve found monthly meetings are a good starting point. If you meet more than monthly, it might be too much of a burden for members. But, if you meet less than monthly, you’ll likely lose momentum between meetings and lose touch with some members.

How long should the meetings be? I’ve found that three hours is a good benchmark — more on that in a minute.

What’s the agenda? You’re not hosting a cocktail party here. You need a well-defined agenda listing the order of topics to be discussed and roles and responsibilities for each member. Otherwise, it’s just a get-together. Members may enjoy each other’s company, but without structure, there won’t be specific outcomes or results.

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

What level of accountability should there be? I’ve found that the higher the level of accountability, the better the meetings will be and the deeper the relationships that will result. It’s OK if someone has to miss a meeting occasionally. We all have crazy travel and family emergencies, etc. But, if a member misses more than one meeting in a year, consider setting up a penalty system. For instance, it could be doubling 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 masterminds rotate each month at a different member’s office. Others meet at the same location each time if a particular member has a great conference space or meeting area. You can also rent a conference room each month, preferably near a restaurant where you’ll be meeting afterward. The key is to have the meeting locations nailed down well in advance. You don’t want to scramble around the day before the monthly meeting to decide where you’ll be convening. Members are too busy for that.

Again, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How often will you meet?
  • Where will you meet?
  • How many people are in the group?
  • Is attendance mandatory?
  • What are the penalties for not showing up?
  • What are the goals of the group?
  • Will there be “homework” between meetings?

Answering these questions will go a long way toward setting the table 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 the commitment level high, many members will only be half in. As a result, meetings won’t be that impactful, and the group may die out before it gets rolling.
As the meeting facilitator, you’ll need to stay on top of things. But most CPAs find the effort they put into starting and running a mastermind is more than worth it. Where else do you have the opportunity to get in front of your best clients and prospects on a regular basis all at the same time? 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 a core part of your service offering, along with tax planning and advisory work. For more about getting the most out of your time, see my article The 64/4 rule.

What’s your take on mastermind groups? I’d love to hear from you.

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