Summary : Mastermind Group Blueprint by Tobe Brockner

1. To describe the Mastermind concept, let me give you a quick analogy. Let’s say that you have an apple and I have an apple. If we trade apples, you still only have one apple and I still only have one apple. But, let’s say that you and I both have an idea. If we exchange ideas, then you have two ideas and I have two ideas. That is, you have your original idea plus my idea, and I will have your idea plus my original idea.

2. Hill stumbled upon this particular principle while researching the life of Henry Ford. He found that Ford met formally with a group of men who did not work at Ford Motor Company at least once per month with the intent of sharing ideas, solving problems, and identifying opportunities.

3. In this eclectic group, Ford found solace, like minds, and inspiration. When asked about the secret of his success, he said on several occasions that his monthly group meetings with these four men were pivotal in helping him reach the heights to which he arose.

4. Why You Should Join or Start a Mastermind Group:

  • The Ability to Work “on” Your Business Instead of Just “in” Your Business

  • Camaraderie and Understanding - I have long said entrepreneurs are some of the loneliest people on the planet.

  • Unique Perspectives

  • Motivation - When you surround yourself with business people who are excited, passionate, and energetic about the challenges they’re presented with, you can’t help but feel the same way.

  • Accumulated Experience - No two people will ever see the same events the same way.

  • Ability to Serve - I know it sounds cliché and it probably is, but it is still true: the more you give, the more you receive.

  • Accountability

5. It is much easier to recruit potential members when limiting group membership to only one company per industry. Think about your own industry. If you were in a group with one or two of your biggest competitors, would you be as open when it comes to sharing ideas and strategies? Probably not. So, do your best to find members from different industries.

6. Commitment - For the group to be as effective as possible, individual members must be committed to it. If attendance is sporadic or inconsistent, there will be subpar results. Besides that, it’s not really fair to other members if one or two don’t attend regularly. The whole point is to have a collaboration of ideas. When people aren’t there, collaboration suffers.

7. Membership Dues One of the most effective ways to ensure group commitment is to charge membership dues. These can range from $25 up to $1,000 or more a month. There will be some costs involved in running a group such as food, beverages, handouts, printing costs, room rental, and marketing materials. Apart from having the funds to pay for these items, there is also a psychological reason for charging dues.

8. If someone is paying to be a part of your group, he or she is much more likely to stick with it and take it seriously. I currently charge $297 per month for members to join our Mastermind Group, and members rarely miss a meeting.

9. Charge whatever you want, but make sure it is enough to keep them committed.

10. Similar Situations - Although you should only have one person per industry in your group, you should also make sure that everyone is relatively similar in where they are in their business’s growth stage.

11. You don’t want a member who has a fifty-million-dollar, twenty-year-old company partnered with a company that has been in business for three years and is barely making five hundred thousand dollars annually.

12. Optimism and a Positive Attitude - It’s okay to plan for worst-case scenarios and create alternative plans, should your Plan A not work out, but there is no room for the eternal pessimist. Find members who have a generally positive outlook on life and business.

13. The pessimists of the world are fairly easy to spot, and you need to be on the lookout for them within your group. This is the guy (or gal) who complains about every little detail, from the venue to the food to the topics being presented.

14. Remember, one of the main benefits of the Mastermind Group is to be inspired and motivated by smart, sophisticated, passionate business owners. One bad apple can spoil the bunch, and nothing will make your group disintegrate faster than negativity.

15. If you encounter a pessimist in your group, you will need to take quick action to rectify the situation. I recommend first having a frank discussion with that person. If things do not improve, you may have to ask them to leave the group.

16. Absolute Discretion It is critically important that you instill a grave sense of discretion among your Mastermind members. This goes beyond the whole “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” concept. Your members (and you) are going to be sharing intimately personal details about themselves, their employees, their competitors, their business practices, and their trade secrets. It is absolutely imperative that the group members treat this with the utmost respect and care. Trust is mandatory.

17. My Mastermind members are required to sign nondisclosure agreements that have stiff violation penalties. Fortunately, I have never had to use any of the penalties against anyone, but the simple fact that I take it so seriously with my members goes a long way in fostering a culture of openness and trust. I strongly suggest you do something similar.

18. Finally, traditional Mastermind Groups consist of no more than six people, each from different industries.

19. Concentrate on keeping your group to a total of around four to six members, including you. Keep in mind that you can set up as many of these groups as you want, depending on the kind of time commitment you can make. My colleagues in other areas of the country are running anywhere from five to eight Mastermind meetings at once.

20. If you ask people to shell out $300 to $1,000 a month to attend your Mastermind Group, then you need to make it a GREAT event. Catered food is virtually mandatory.

21. The way you sell this thing to people is by making it an elite, exclusive club into which they are being invited. It’s not something just anyone can join. There is a screening process and possibly a waiting list. Reality is perception. Every little component—every little component—has to be congruent with this positioning, including the food. Maybe even especially the food.

22. There’s a time and a place for casual dining, but your Mastermind Group meeting is not one of those times or places.

23. Along with the food, make sure you provide plenty of drinks. I usually buy a few types of soda, juices, teas, and then also have plenty of bottled water on hand.

24. However, our traditional Mastermind Groups are held in a large conference room at a local credit union.

25. Venue layout is important to the overall flow of your meetings. For a smaller group (four to six members), a round-table-type layout tends to work well. You don’t want members sitting in rows where some sit behind others. For high group interaction, a layout like that is highly inconvenient. Members should sit in a circle or half circle where everyone is facing inward, towards everyone else, making group discussion much easier.

26. Any large room free from distractions will work. If in a large conference room, make sure you can close the doors to limit the amount of noise and distractions.

27. Other options for meeting rooms are hotel conference rooms, universities, public libraries, corporate offices, or executive suites. (Executive suites often provide a large conference room to its tenants, and these can sometimes be rented for less than one hundred dollars.) Look into various options, and you should be able to find an acceptable venue without too much trouble.

28. Depending on how many people are in the group, I will go over a marketing topic for the first thirty to forty-five minutes of the meeting. We then take a quick restroom break and start with the first group member. That group member then has about forty-five minutes to talk about three or four challenges they are having in their business. The whole group participates in making suggestions, giving ideas, or fleshing out concepts related to the particular challenges under discussion.

29. Someone, usually my assistant, will take notes of the interaction and create checklists, to-do lists, and action items for that member to complete during the next month. This gives that member something tangible to take home and implement in business during the next thirty days. These meetings are not just about theory or ideas. They are about action.

30. After the first member is finished, we move on to the second person and the cycle repeats itself.

31. A lot of the real growth in the group comes from hearing about a successful strategy in one business or industry and then applying it to another business or industry, with only minor modifications. In this way, we all get to have a chance at shortcutting the learning curve, and more importantly, we get to implement something in our own businesses that has already been proven in another business.

32. At the end of each meeting, I will usually take five to ten minutes to leave the group with a motivational or inspirational thought. This ends the meeting on a positive note and gets everyone excited to get back to work and start implementing their ideas through the next month until we meet again.

33. Every new member receives a copy of a welcome letter (a letter welcoming him or her to the group and providing the necessary contact information to get in touch with me), a copy of the nondisclosure agreement (which must be signed and turned in before the meeting starts), and a copy of the ground rules (which I will cover here).

34. Ground Rules for the Meeting:

  • Attend Every Meeting - I am pretty firm about this one. If you can’t make a meeting, then you need to have a very good excuse. It’s just not fair to the rest of the group (or to you) to miss a meeting. I have actually instituted a “Two Strikes, You’re Out” policy, where if you miss two meetings during a calendar year, then you are gone.
  • Stay for the Whole Meeting - The group is only as strong as the members’ willingness to give to one another.
  • Silence/Turn Off Cell Phones - This is the one place where you give yourself permission not to be at the mercy of the daily distractions that plague you. The group needs everyone’s full attention, so turning off cell phones is a must.
  • Actively Participate - If members just sit there without offering anything to the group, I will usually try to gently draw them into the discussion with a friendly, “Well we’ve heard from everyone so far except for you, Jack. What do you think about this problem?”
  • Constructive Criticism Only/Be Positive
  • Don’t Interrupt One Another
  • Keep Your Comments Concise. Don’t Be a Time Hog.

35. A basic meeting agenda will look like this: 

  • 9:00 a.m.–9:45 a.m. Presentation to Group 

  • 9:45 a.m.–9:50 a.m. Break 

  • 9:50 a.m.–10:30 a.m. Member 1 Speaks 

  • 10:30 a.m.–11:10 a.m. Member 2 Speaks 

  • 11:10 a.m.–11:15 a.m. Break 

  • 11:15 a.m.–11:55 a.m. Member 3 Speaks 

  • 11:55 a.m.–12:05 p.m. Lunch 

  • 12:05 p.m.–12:45 p.m. Member 4 Speaks 

  • 12:45 p.m.–1:00 p.m. Wrap Up/Q&A/Etc. 

36. This agenda assumes you have at least four members in your group. The times will have to be adjusted if there are more or fewer members.

37. Talk About During Their Allotted Time? The short answer is “whatever they want.”

38. In the event they need a little guidance to get started, ask them to come prepared with three challenges or opportunities they are facing right now.

39. Marketing generally isn’t sequential, but here is a basic process you can follow: identify, find, attract, and convert.

40. The biggest thing you want to look for are business owners who read a lot of self-help books, business books, and any other nonfiction works designed to help them improve their lives or business.

41. The second character trait you want to look for in a business owner is aggressive marketing. These entrepreneurs are the ones actively and aggressively trying to grow their business and aren’t afraid of spending money to do it.

42. Finally, you want to find those business owners who are somewhat established. Entrepreneurs involved with very young companies or startups are pinching every penny and may balk at spending money to join your group, even if it will benefit them.

43. Referrals: This is the best place to begin your efforts. Keep in mind that like attracts like. In other words, we tend to associate with and attract those who are similar to us. Even if you only have a few Mastermind members right now, you’ll want to start by getting them to refer their friends and colleagues to you.

44. Chances are, they are friends with and can positively influence potential members who would be a great fit for your group.

45. Members will come and members will go, so you will always need to keep your pipeline full of potential prospects.

46. Keep this in mind when recruiting members for your Mastermind Group. You want those individuals who have a great work ethic and will be master implementers. Their natural enthusiasm for work will spread to the other group members and everyone in turn will benefit.