Mastermind Your Way To Business Success

This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to ringing out the old and ringing in the new. It’s the time for wiping the slate clean and starting over; a time for new beginnings; a time for making New Year’s resolutions that, while spoken with the best of intentions, are usually forgotten by the time the black eyed peas are gone.

It’s the time that we look back at the carnage left in our wake over the past year and vow to do things a little different, maybe even a little smarter, in the year to come… yeah, right.

In our repentant little minds we believe that we can wreak havoc in our lives 364 days of the year and then on the dawn of the New Year come up with a bunch of resolutions that wash us clean of our sins so we can start fresh for the coming year. It’s like being a human “Etch-A-Sketch;” just turn yourself upside down and shake vigorously to wipe the slate clean.

While I’m a firm believer in goals, I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions; mainly because it has been my experience that most resolutions are repeated year after year and forgotten by the time we sober up on January 2nd. Resolutions sound great rattling around in our heads, but when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road, most of us backslide off into the ditch.

As entrepreneurs, our resolutions often lean toward the business side of life. We vow to make more sales calls, to be nicer to our employees, to keep better records, to spend more time considering the bottomline – they are all resolutions you should be thinking about for the coming year.

One of your resolutions should be to network more; to mix and mingle with other entrepreneurs who are in the same boat you are; to find mentors who are ahead of you in the game and can help pull you up to their level.

One of my resolutions/goals for 2007 is to start a mastermind group. Starting a mastermind group doesn’t mean that I am assembling a team of super villains to plot world domination (that comes in Q3).

A mastermind group is a collection of entrepreneurs who meet on a regular basis to talk about their businesses. They discuss problems, resolutions, marketing, customers, trends, products – anything and everything to do with their businesses. The point is to listen to each other and offer input wherever possible, with the thought being that advice and ideas from other entrepreneurs will help you think of new things, solve problems, and grow your business faster than if you were doing all the thinking yourself.

So how do you start a mastermind group? How do you choose whom to invite into your group? Let me detail the formation of my own mastermind group and you can use that as a guideline for forming your own.

I started by making a list of those entrepreneurs that I did business with in 2006 that had the most impact on my business. For example, Paul Finley of FINS Marketing, has been my marketing consultant for a couple of years now. He not only handles all of my traditional marketing, but has also become my manager of sorts. He works to promote my columns and radio shows on a national scale and will be the point man for promoting my new book when it comes out in the spring. Naturally Paul was my first choice for the group.

Then there’s Jim Houk of DreamMaker Entertainment. Jim is my go-to guy for video recording and editing. Jim managed two large projects and several small ones for me in 2006 and proved himself to be an invaluable part of my team, so asking Jim to join my mastermind group was a no-brainer.

Next was Darin and Marianne Windham, of Windham Entertainment. I met the Windham’s when they were students in my entrepreneurial class at Biztech and we knew our businesses perfectly complimented one another. Windham became the booking agent for my speaking and public appearances and I can even book my travel through their website. Again, a no-brainer.

Then there was Robert Lutrick of VectorSuite Studios. Robert is who I rely on for graphics and photography. And Paige Rucker of Durham Advertising. Paige is an expert at media placement and one of the best marketers I know.

Do you see the thread that runs through here? These are all people who proved to me that they were true experts in their fields and that I could rely on them without hesitation. Each of these businesses also compliments the other; they are different cogs in a common machine.

Part of my goal in bringing these diverse businesses into the mastermind group is that they could also work together on projects that do not include me and thereby increase their own contacts, portfolios, and bottom line.

When forming a mastermind group start with those entrepreneurs you know well and do business with on a regular basis. Choose businesses that are complimentary (not competitive) to your own, that service the same markets and customers.

And just for fun you can add a little diversity by inviting in entrepreneurs that are not in your industry, but are seasoned business vets who are full of good advice on business topics in general. The point is to help each other, to get multiple brains thinking on one topic, and in the end to make everyone’s business stronger and more profitable.

So add starting your own mastermind group to your list of New Year’s resolutions for 2007. And if you only manage to keep one resolution, this should be it.