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How to create and run a mastermind group

Masterminds provide accountability, common goals, key solutions for like-minded people, and are also great business opportunities. Get our step-by-step guide.

March 7, 2019 by Cyn Meyer

So you’re working your tail off as an entrepreneurial side-hustler and putting some serious blood, sweat, and tears into your projects.

And you seem to be making progress toward your goals, so it’s proving to be a worthwhile effort.

The only problem?

It’s lonely as an entrepreneur.

Even if you have a team supporting you, living the life of an entrepreneur (more like solopreneur) can make you question yourself.

  • Am I making the right decisions?
  • Is this the fastest way to accomplish what I want?
  • When will I be able to scale my ideas?
  • Does my audience even care about what I have to offer?

We all get bouts of self-doubt -- but they don’t have to be faced alone.

Starting a mastermind group is a great way to foster a supportive network between like-minded people, make progress toward a common goal, and come up with the best solutions -- and you can do this all while turning it into a profitable business opportunity.

But before we talk about how, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of everything you need to know when starting your own mastermind group.    

What is a mastermind group?

Mastermind groups are collectives where like-minded people provide advice and support towards a common goal and help solve specific problems as a group.

They’re sometimes also referred to as advisory groups or success teams, and it’s not uncommon for members to view them as peer-to-peer mentoring.

Though my favorite term for mastermind groups goes back to the day they were born. Napolean Hill, who authored The Law of Success and Think and Grow Rich, originally conceptualized mastermind groups as “mastermind alliances.”

Napolean Hill defined these alliances as:

“The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.”

While Napolean Hill defines the group as having two or more members, experts recommend keeping modern mastermind groups somewhere between four to 10 members to ensure they don’t lose focus on their goal.

But that isn’t to say that they can’t, or don’t, exceed that volume.

As an example: Dean Graziosi, known for his real estate investing and business scaling, has grown one of the leading mastermind groups, called Organized Brilliance, and accepts 42 members per series.

So as you can see, mastermind groups don’t have hard limits on their volume -- as long as their goals and purpose are satisfied by their growth (or shrinking), they’re performing the desired function.

But before we go any further, let’s briefly cover some ground on what a mastermind group is not.

It is not:

  • Group coaching - One lead coach doesn’t answer to each member’s problems, but rather, each member provides feedback and brainstorms solutions in support of group members.
  • A class - The members can vote for bringing in occasional new teachers and guest speakers, but it is not led by a single instructor.
  • A networking group - There’s much more to a mastermind meeting agenda than exchanging referrals. The mastermind group is goal-oriented and works toward a common agenda.

So, now that you have some background on what a mastermind group is (and isn’t), let’s take a quick spin through the benefits of mastermind groups for creators.

What are the benefits of an online mastermind group?

Back in the day, there were limited options when it came to meeting locations for like-minded people. Without virtual meeting options, they all had to happen in person.

But today, thanks to technology, we have remote options. As long as you have internet access, you can meet up from anywhere in the world.

It’s become a popular way to connect with people in the professional world, in particular, and that isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon.

Trends point to a growing reliance on digital communication methods with nearly 13% of retail business conducted online and an anticipated 50% of employees telecommuting over the next 10 years.

And nowadays, all the online tools you need are at your fingertips, which makes it much more convenient to conduct an online vs. in-person mastermind group.

To give you a better understanding of the many advantages, here are six key benefits of running an online mastermind group:

Benefit #1: Flexibility in location and chosen members

As I mentioned earlier, without being location-bound, you can meet from anywhere. But it’s not just about convenience: you’ll also enjoy significant time and money savings when your mastermind group operates online.

In the U.S. alone, workers in top cities saved as much as 343 hours and $555 in gas annually by conducting work remotely.

The only thing to coordinate with an online mastermind group is your meeting time.

And another huge benefit to this flexibility is being able to choose the most talented and relevant people to join your mastermind membership, regardless of where they live.

Plus, with that flexibility in choosing members who are truly the best fit for your group, you also reap the advantages of collaboration, which we cover in the next two benefits.

Benefit #2: Various perspectives and golden solutions

You know that phrase, “too close to the fire?”

That can happen when you work toward a goal alone and don’t interact with other people. Bouncing ideas off of other people gives you alternative angles to use during your brainstorm sessions, which means more honest, creative ideas, and stronger brainstorming power.

And what comes of all those wonderful differing perspectives?

By joining forces and collaborating with other minds, perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences, the combination of insights frequently resolve in those magical solutions and best ideas -- something that would otherwise take forever to achieve, or worse, not happen at all.

This is the heart of the mastermind group, where you truly benefit from the “two heads are better than one” concept.

An older but still valid study found that there’s an 81% positive correlation between collaboration and innovation, and 54% of people get their best ideas while talking to colleagues.

Also: people are more likely to stay motivated in a collaborative environment, as collaborators stick to their tasks 64% longer than people who work alone.

Not only do mastermind groups provide you with novel and innovative solutions through collaboration and diversity -- they also give you access to a whole slew of additional resources, which brings us to our next advantage.

Benefit #3: More resources

The beauty of working closely with like-minded people is having reliable access to relevant resources when you need it from people you trust.

And who doesn’t appreciate people you can trust? It’s one of the six core components of any healthy relationship.

So if you need a certain skill set that’s not in your wheelhouse, either someone directly from your group will know how to do what you want to accomplish, or they’ll know someone credible who does.

In sum:

Your mastermind group widens your network to a greater wellspring of relevant skills and resources.

So with all that magic happening between collaborators, is there more to enjoy from starting your own mastermind group?

Yes, friends. We’ve got two more for you.

Benefit #4: Accountability

With regularly scheduled meetings, an official agenda (more on creating an agenda later), and actions items to complete, your group of like-minded members will hold each other accountable for making progress toward their goals.

Your mastermind peers will keep you focused and on track -- after all, multiple eyeballs and brains working toward something together mean more attention on your main objective.  

Plus, you don’t want to be the only who isn’t contributing or pulling their weight. That would be embarrassing.

Ken Wallace founded MastermindJam on the premise of his four core pillars, the third of which is accountability:

  1. Pillar of trust
  2. Pillar of candor
  3. Pillar of accountability
  4. Pillar of curation

When it comes to accountability, Ken says:

“A good mastermind will insist on accountability from each member… Masterminds that don't insist on true accountability are short-lived and a waste of everyone's time.”

He elaborates, explaining that if no one in your mastermind group has ever asked why you aren’t reaching your goals, you need to find another group.

And he would know. After all, his mastermind group is built with the group that needs accountability more than most -- fellow entrepreneurs.

Here’s a quick view of his MastermindJam membership:

Sara Christensen, who runs Kickass Masterminds, echoes a similar sentiment about accountability:

“When members achieve their goals, our groups celebrate fiercely with them. When they don’t, the facilitator leads the group in asking questions about what isn’t working and getting this person they help they need to succeed.”

Sounds good, right?

But if accountability isn't enough to seal the mastermind deal for you, there’s one more benefit to consider.

Benefit #5: A supportive network

The purpose of being involved as a mastermind member is to both benefit from and provide value to the group.

The rule of reciprocity applies where each of your members wants to help one another reach their fullest potential in exchange for receiving the same.

The basic idea behind this rule is the more you give and contribute to your colleagues’ success, the more likely they’ll want to return the favor.

It’s a concept that applies universally, by the way. Reciprocity is at the heart of how gift incentives and reward programs work: when you offer the customer something for “free,” they’re more inclined to stay loyal out of obligation.

For example, the offer you see below from ButcherBox is a perfect demonstration of reciprocity-in-action for a membership-based program.

But getting back to our point -- with the reciprocal relationships you build through your mastermind group, you can anticipate camaraderie, confidence boosts, ready access to resources, and potentially even uplifted moods.

Founder of Marketing Personalities, Brit Kolo, told me that joining a mastermind group is the best investment she’s made in her business so far, and had this to say about the supportive community within masterminds:

“Business growth is just the beginning of the incredible effects ... I've also grown as a human being, a leader, and a CEO. The other business owners in my mastermind group have become lifelong friends, and I do not say that lightly.”

It’s more than just a feeling for Brit, by the way.

With the wisdom, support, and friendships she’s gained via her mastermind group, Brit massively grew her company in 2018.  

Would it have been possible without a mastermind group? Probably. Would it have been as seamless or fulfilling? Unlikely.

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All in all:

The massive amount of support and insights that you gain from your group allows you to improve both your business and your personal life.

Win-win.  

Now that you know what you’ll get out of an online mastermind group, let’s dig into the step-by-step of how to successfully launch, manage, and grow your own online mastermind group.

Step #1: Pick your topic

Whether business-related or personal, broad or narrow in scope, you’ll want to choose one topic for your mastermind group that’s a high priority for you.

We recommend choosing a topic where you have some expertise, so you can not only share your knowledge and skills but also root yourself as an authoritative leader in the field.

And not to worry if this initially makes you feel like a fraud -- overcoming imposter syndrome is a lot easier than you might think.

It’s also necessary.

After all, you’re the one who’s founding, facilitating, directing, and growing the mastermind group.

Better yet, choose something that you’re passionate about and an expert in. This is the perfect opportunity to pull together like-minded people who can do some serious brainstorming in solving real problems where you have a personal stake.

Plus, the more your passion shines through, the more of an impact you’ll make.

As an example, Larry Silverberg created a membership site based on his passion for acting, called Actors Revolution Club:

It’s something Larry loves to do and support, so it’s a perfect fit for him.

Struggling to whittle your mastermind group topic down? Try answering these questions for each topic you have in mind:

  1. What’s your goal and purpose for the mastermind group?
  2. What’s your mission statement or vision for the group?
  3. Who is your group for?
  4. Why would your members want to join?

Then choose the topic that gets you the most energized. If something energizes you, you’ll be more fulfilled over the long-term.

Acclaimed motivational speaker and author of The 5 Second Rule, Mel Robbins, claims your passion equals your energy level and advises:

“If something energizes you, follow it. If it depletes you, stay away from it.”

Plus, it’s ideal to find balance as an entrepreneur without burning out.

And when you consider that 91% of professionals say burnout negatively impacts the quality of their work, ensuring that your mastermind group is as fulfilling as it is energizing isn’t just a smart move -- it’s a necessary one.

Regardless, once you’ve narrowed your topic, it’s time to figure out who your members will be. We’ve got you covered in the next step.

Step #2: Choose and invite your members

As you consider who to invite to your mastermind group, we recommend considering certain key qualities as you scroll through your Rolodex of contacts.

(For our younger audience, think of a Rolodex as a contact list on index cards.)

When you think of membership invitees, try to think of people:

With similar interests

It doesn’t necessarily have to be within the same industry, but it’s important to corral people who are interested in your topic, as well as success and goal achievement.

This will help keep your content relevant and interesting, which in turn, will keep your members engaged and your membership growing.

With similar success levels

You know that saying about how you’re as strong as your weakest link, or that it’s best to play chess with those who are better than you?

Well, you don’t have to go that far, but consider the circle of influence concept, where you want to include progressive and positive people in your inner circle if you want to be proactive, rather than reactive, while striving toward your goals.

Bringing in folks who have similar success levels to you keeps the caliber of your group moving in a proactive and positive direction.

Who are supportive

The last thing you want is people who are only in it for themselves and aren’t willing to help. As you now know, one of the biggest benefits of joining a mastermind group is the supportive environment that comes with the collaboration. Stay away from people who don’t “get it”.

Who are willing to commit

This one goes hand-in-hand with being supportive. Find people who are going to show up consistently and actually commit to doing the work.

It’s not to say people can’t be involved with other priorities; you just want to steer clear of flaky people who aren’t available to contribute regularly. They’ll kill your group’s momentum and progress.

Who have diverse skillsets

One of the benefits we discussed earlier, having diversified perspectives, applies to skills, as well.

In fact, companies with above-average diversity benefit from higher innovation and revenue.

So when you’re recruiting new members, take care that each can bring a unique skillset and fill a niche role in your group.

They don’t have to be wildly different skillsets -- often, how people learn a skill can produce a significant difference in how they apply it -- but they should be divergent enough that your mastermind members challenge one another to innovate and think in new ways.

Who are problem solvers

Think about the problem-solvers you know who will help your group come up with the best solutions.

Problem-solvers are the ones who will help you identify new opportunities, engineer the results you’re looking for, and overcome your hurdles, all while remaining objective. Who better to work with toward a common goal?

To make sure you’re inviting your ideal mastermind group member, you can even go through a qualifying or screening process.

Leading entrepreneur and business coach for millennials, Peter Voogd, asks his applicants to complete an online mastermind group application directly on his site:

Some questions he uses that you can ask your prospective members during your interview process are:

  • What are your top three goals you want to achieve in the next six months?
  • How much do you want to earn in the next 12 months?
  • How do you feel this dynamic and powerful community will help you achieve your goals?
  • Why should we accept you into this exclusive group?

By qualifying his members ahead of time, Peter is able to help his mastermind members 10x their business results.  You need to follow a similar model to produce the maximum rewards for your mastermind members, too.

Bottom line:

Once you’ve qualified your members, you should have a nice group of like-minded individuals all willing to work toward a common goal.

The next two steps show you how to set expectations and give your group some structure, so you stay organized and effective.  

Step #3: Create your ground rules

It’s important to set expectations for your members, so people know exactly how and when they’re involved in your group. A great way to establish expectations is by setting some ground rules.

Some rules for you to consider are:

  • Commitment levels - How often does your group meet? How long are the meetings? Are there consequences (i.e., being kicked out of the group) if people consistently miss meetings or don’t follow through with their assignments?

    Out of the top five dysfunctions of a team, lack of commitment is the third greatest dysfunction, so you’ll want to ensure this is clearly defined.
  • Meeting decorum - How exactly are your meetings conducted and who’s facilitating? How much time does each member have to speak and give their spiel? Will you allow for interruptions or do you prefer questions and feedback at the end?
  • Benefits - How long does a membership last and when can people renew? What do members receive when they join your mastermind group?
  • Logistics - How do your members obtain content, information, and files? Which tools will they need to become active members and how will they gain access to them? (We’ll cover more on the tools you’ll need later.)

Sara Christensen, a mastermind guru, asks her members to sign an agreement that includes these ground rules:

  • I will keep everything that is shared during the mastermind experience within the container of the mastermind unless I get express permission to share it outside of the group.
  • I will give just as much or even more than I receive.
  • I will receive with grace and without defensiveness.
  • I understand this isn’t a group for self-promotion or pitching.

With these expectations set, her members know exactly how to conduct themselves throughout their group interactions.

And once you have your own tidy list of expectations to share with your members, you’re ready for the next step.  

Step #4: Come up with an agenda

To keep your mastermind group as efficient as possible, build some structure into it with an agenda. This is especially important when you host your meetings.

I really like how this meeting agenda template from Xtensio provides space for the meeting objective at the top, making it clear what the goal and direction of the meeting will be.

(Looking for more templates? You can find some great copy-and-paste resources at Notejoy.)

We recommend you create and send out an agenda to your members before each meeting, to give your group a heads-up on what you’ll be covering during the meeting.

This’ll also keep the flow of your meeting moving right along since everyone involved will know what topics you need to cover before wrapping up the session.  

Curious about what other people include in their meeting agendas?

Chris Ducker, virtual business leader and author of Virtual Freedom and Rise of the Youpreneur, is a great example to follow.

He asks his mastermind members to do some pre-work leading up to their meetings, which, in their case, means bringing these three items:

  • One thing that’s currently working well in their business
  • One thing they need help with and want feedback on
  • One beneficial resource they can share with the group

Based on the above pre-work, members are then allotted about an hour each to discuss these three items. They’re able to get a lot done with this model, so if you’re interested in making your group equally as productive, Drucker’s mastermind group makes a strong example to follow.

In a nutshell:

Create a meeting agenda to keep your group on task, on time, and progressing toward their goals.  

Now let’s get into some simple logistics, covered in our next two steps of starting your own mastermind group.

Step #5: Set up your tools

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve come a long way, and you’ve done quite a bit of the idea generation portion. Now it’s time to figure out which tools will enable you to pull it all together.

When it comes to collaborating, how important are tools? I’d say pretty important with 83% of professionals depending on technology to collaborate.

So let’s dive into the various tools and resources that you’ll need.

At a minimum, we recommend you use tools within these three key categories to successfully set up your mastermind group:

Tool category #1: Video conferencing

Video conferencing is an essential tool for keeping distributed teams on the same page. So much so it’s the standard for remote teams -- even if they only conference once a week -- and the video conferencing market is expected to increase to a $4.48 billion value by 2023.

Some benefits of video conferencing include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced travel and time costs
  • Higher attendance
  • Improved communication

Plus, video conferencing helps people feel less isolated. 89% of remote employees claim that video helps them feel more connected to their team members.

There are several free video conferencing tools to choose from, including these top five options for you to explore:

Don’t forget to consider webinar platforms in your search, by the way.

They make great solutions for hosting membership meetings due to their wide variety of multimedia integrations.

We’re particularly big fans of WebinarNinja -- it’s what we use to host our demo -- and you can find an easy, step-by-step walkthrough for it in our previous article about using webinars to launch online courses.

Regardless, make sure that the platform you choose emphasizes ease of use. If it’s more complicated than inviting members to scheduled meetings, it’s probably not a good contender for your time.

Here’s the gist:

Video conferencing is cost-effective and keeps your mastermind group focused and engaged.

Now that you have video conferencing covered, the next tool to consider is your hosting platform.

Tool category #2: Membership site

When you have everything organized and accessible from one location where members log into their exclusive membership sites, you provide your members with an increase in perceived value.

They actually feel like they’re getting more value by joining your group.

And what comes with high perceived value? Customer loyalty.

Five key qualities that contribute to customer loyalty and the perceived value of a product or service are: care, reliability, product portfolio, ease of use, and security.

membership site hits all five of these key ingredients. Plus, your members’ perceived value feeds into your level of customer loyalty.

Membership sites are also far more organized than having a fragmented array of resources, content, and files.

For instance: Michael Yadchuk created a clean, sleek membership site to house his mastermind content under one umbrella, called The Productive Writer Mastermind.

This enables his mastermind group to share a collective pool of resources and stay updated on his latest topics without having to track social media or manage one-on-one messaging applications.

OK, once you decide on a platform, and you’ve built out your membership site, we’ve got one more recommended tool category for you.

Tool category #3: File sharing

For any collaborative work or projects that your group plans to conquer, you’ll need cloud space to store and share access to those working files uploaded by your members. We recommend exploring these five free options:

Other popular tools that you might consider adding to your repertoire include Slack, Trello, and Google Docs. We use all three of these at Podia, so they definitely come with the creator seal of approval.

Alright, with the nuts and bolts of your mastermind group covered, let’s look at payments and membership dues.

Are you wondering if it’s appropriate to charge your members to join your mastermind group?

Absolutely. We’ll show you how in our next step.

Step #6: Decide on a membership price

As we mentioned, your membership site gives your mastermind group a virtual home, and it pulls all your various elements together, making your group appear even more valuable and beneficial.

This contributes to your members’ perceived value of your mastermind group, and hence, their customer loyalty.

But that’s not all that comes with high perceived value. You also gain the ability to charge a higher price.

Take this value map for example. If you follow fair market value pricing, the more benefits you provide, the higher you set your price.

The same thing goes for your membership site.

Don’t undersell how much value you’re providing, by the way.

After all, you’re the one taking the time to carefully hand-select and create the type of benefits, solutions, and content that you provide your members. All of these things enable them to be more successful in their personal and collective goals.

So your price point should follow accordingly.

That said, price points will naturally vary for different membership sites. As an example, Alecia May offers her The Eventistry Insiders Membership Group full access to members benefits for $37/month:

Alternatively, Krishna Teja Karnam offers multiple Salesforce Platform and Lightning membership packages to his audience, with prices ranging from $19/month to $1,499/year.  

Basically:

As you can see, your offerings, benefits, and group membership pricing can vary quite a bit.

But as long as they’re matched to your value and meeting your goals, that’s OK.

Alright, ready for our last step? It’s an important one --

Step #7: Retain and grow your membership

-- and it’s also an easy one.

How easy?

Just show that you care.

To keep your members fully engaged and involved as renewing members in your mastermind, continue to provide them with valuable content that’ll help them achieve the results they’re looking for.

This demonstrates that you’re dedicated to them and gives proof-positive of your care.

And care, studies consistently find, is the linchpin for customer (or member) retention.

68% of customers say the reason why they leave a company is that they believe you don’t care about them. Ouch.

Were you hoping for more actionable advice? Consider creating useful video content for your long-term members.

This format works for a few reasons, and it serves both your incoming and faithful customers.

Here are two of my favorite reasons to use video content:

  1. YouTube reports mobile video consumption rises 100% every year, so providing useful video content makes it easy for your members to stay engaged while on the go.
  2. 64% of people are more likely to make an online purchase after watching a video, which makes it perfect for nurturing new customers or encouraging repeat purchases.

Plus, by using video, you’ll be able to update your members with the latest and greatest coaching, as well as personally engage and nurture a bonded relationship with them.

Podia’s platform allows you to easily maintain all your video assets and upload them directly onto your membership site for all your members’ viewing pleasure.

All you need to do is click the “add new post” button from within your membership dashboard and upload content.

It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Simply put:

To keep your members successful and happy, while attracting more of your ideal mastermind members, continue to deliver valuable, engaging, and exclusive content to your audience.

If you’ve made it to step #7, congrats to you for learning about all the essential steps in starting your very own mastermind group -- you’re now ready to dig into the process and take some action.

Ready to tap into the power of the mastermind?

If you’ve got expertise and passion, plus an interest in creating a business opportunity that’s based on nurturing an online community, masterminds might just be your thing.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Mastermind groups provide a rich well of diverse perspectives, enabling them to breed equally rich solutions to novel problems
  • Mastermind members enjoy access to greater resources through the collective and help each other stay accountable for their goals
  • Starting your own mastermind group can be accomplished in just seven simple steps.
  • Begin by choosing your topic -- make sure it’s one you’re passionate about.
  • Then, sort and recruit members for your group.
  • After that, consider creating ground rules before your first meeting so the terms are clear to everyone from the start.
  • Likewise, get your mastermind members acclimated to using meeting agendas as early as possible, but feel free to play around with the format while you find your groove.
  • Make sure your tools are ready to go, as well.
  • After you’ve got a few miles under your mastermind group, revisit your price. Does it match the value -- both perceived and actual -- that your members receive? If not, you may want to tweak your pricing.
  • Finally, make sure to produce content for your long-term members just as often as you create materials for new or prospective customers. If you want them to stay loyal, they have to know you care. Video is a great format to demonstrate this.

So, entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be a lonely road where you miss out on collective efforts and business opportunities. You can benefit from building an online community through a mastermind.

Here’s to you pursuing your passions while collaborating with others and making money in the process.