Hey, want to know a secret? It's all about the "who." Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone out there can't stop talking about and looking for the almighty "what" -- but I'm telling you, start with the "who" and the "what" will take care of itself; in all aspects of life.
"Who," of course, refers to the quality of people you surround yourself with and this is exactly what I wish I could whisper into the ear of every fledgling entrepreneur and small business owner as they embark on their journey. Because in the midst of this financial crisis/recalibration, it is the agile upstarts who will ultimately reshape, redefine, and re-grow American industry and I want to assure that these new businesses get built as securely and successfully as possible.
So, I follow up my mantra of "who" with this great big tip: find (or form) a mastermind group.
To put it in the simplest of terms, a mastermind group is a group of motivated, like-minded individuals who unite to form an inner sanctum or braintrust from which they collectively and synergistically work together towards goals of the members. Mastermind groups come in all different shapes, forms, and sizes (i.e., a group of golfing buddies, a Tuesday lunch or cocktail group, a group who meets and communicates internationally via the web) and there are no set rules for how they form, operate, or govern or how long they exist. The only requirement is that there is a dynamic of trust, respect, admiration, positivity, support, commitment, and fun. Yes, fun. A mastermind group should represent a pure symbiotic relationship in which all members gain from and enjoy their involvement. The cost of operating such a group is minimal, if anything at all, yet the benefits are profound and give your business the best chance for success through all phases of development and growth.
Below are the top 5 reasons that this is so:
Ideas need collective input from different perspectives to develop. When a group is able to brainstorm and meditate together on one idea, that idea has no choice but to grow and/or reinforce. Even if the idea, at the end, remains unchanged, you will have a new confidence in it knowing that it has been thoroughly vetted. A breeding ground for new ideas is also created in this sort on environment where free thought and expression are allowed and encouraged to flow.
Networking and Building Business Relationships
Sharing what your goals with others exposes what your needs are. Often these needs will involve enlisting outside help and often members of your mastermind group will have contact with the next person/people you need to know. Each member's contacts should ultimately become the group's contacts and any introduction that is made on behalf of a fellow group member should be made with complete confidence - or not at all. Business relationships are built on credibility and trust and when outside people/businesses are thrilled to get a referral from within your group, the whole group becomes more powerful.
Although members of your group should be somewhat like-minded, it also helps if each brings something unique to the table in terms of background and experience. Therefore, when you encounter an obstacle or challenge, certain members will have the knowledge and/or physical resources to assist you. For example, a member who needs certain printed materials may find that one member has free access to the printing hardware needed and another has already printed similar materials and can show her how to do it. Such collaborative resources can save you untold amounts of time and money.
This is basic human nature in regards to social pressure. We are more likely to stick to something when others have a vested interest in our involvement. It's sometimes easy to justify to ourselves why we quit but it's always more difficult to let others down. When we make a commitment and state our goals to the group, we are making our self responsible for taking action and seeing those goals through.
Everyone has good days and bad days but when you enter the world of entrepreneurial business, those highs and lows increase exponentially. This is where the support aspect of the group enters as even the most stoic and successful among us will have days that shake their confidence and rattle them to the core. Having business friends to lean on in these moments of doubt that can inspire and motivate you is critical to assuring that you jump back on the horse the moment you fall off.
The value of people and relationships in our lives should never be overlooked or underestimated. As one of my favorite authors, T. Harv Eker always says, "Your network is your net worth." Entrepreneurs, in particular, have a tendency to try to tackle everything themselves and often will lose sight of the fact that they can't (and shouldn't -- after all, everything is sweeter when you can enjoy it with others) do it all alone. Mastermind groups provide a level of camaraderie and productivity unlike any other out there and it is my sincerest hope that you seek one out. At the very least, though, always remember the "who" surpasses the "what."