This guest post by Juha Liikala is part of the VBL Guest Post Month!
I guess we’ve all been there. You wake up, check your blog’s statistics for the morning, open up your blog and start thinking about what would be your next step. What can you do to make it better. No new comments today, is there something wrong? Have the audience lost their interest on my stuff? Will this lead somewhere or am I just wasting my time? Should I create a product about this or launch a service about that?
Do you ever ask yourself these questions? I know I do.
Now, thinking about those things just by yourself won’t lead to any good. You feel alone with your thoughts, start questioning yourself end up getting stuck because you don’t know what the next “right step” would be. Luckily, there is a solution to your problem my friend: Mastermind Groups.
What is a mastermind group?
It’s a group of people with similar goals. The group usually consist of 3-10 people. You hold structured meeting every week and tackle the problems each member is having with their online business. Each week, one of the group members talk about his/her’s business for 10-20 minutes and tell others what kind of problems and questions has emerged during the week. Others in the group then go and help him/her out.
After the group has worked on the “this week’s member’s” issues, next week they do the same thing to the next member. And so on. They all keep track of their progress and make sure everyone is sticking to their plan.
Forming the group
You don’t want to make the group too big. For me personally, 10 would be the absolute maximum number of members for a group like this when you want to keep things intimate. I would suggest you start with a group of 3-5 members and expand from there if you feel like it.
How do you find the members then? Find a bunch of people you think might be a good addition to the group and just ask if they’d like to join. I formed a mastermind group of Finnish bloggers just a few months ago just by asking them through Twitter if they’d like to participate. And they did. Just ask, tell them what kind of people are you looking for and what do you wish to accomplish through the group. You’ll have your group together in no time.
Finding the right tools
When we started out, we formed a private Facebook group. This is still our “main hub” right now (you could also try out Yammer or LumoFlow) and the place where we share our thoughts and ideas. But you don’t want to leave the conversation to that level (having a “real conversation” in a FB group sucks). The mastermind groups real value comes evident, when you start having weekly group live conferences. Some of the tools you can try out:
Group chat and/or video conferencing:
- Skype Conference Calls (Free. Also, remember to record the calls for later listening. Audacity is one free tool you can use.)
- Tokbox video chat (Video chat is free, the more advanced plans cost from $12.99 to $39.99 / month)
- GoToMeeting.com (There’s a 30-day free trial you can try out. $49/month after that)
- FreeConferenceCall.com (I haven’t tried this myself, but I know some online entrepreneurs are using it for their sessions)
- Google Talk (just the group chat. I don’t think the Google’s calling app supports conference calls yet..)
Sharing & collaborating with documents + brainstorming:
- Google Docs (Share your plans and other documents created in the group)
- Box.net (An alternative way to store documents)
- MindMeister (especially try out real-time brainstorming!)
What’s the meeting like?
What exactly happens in a meeting like this, you wonder? First thing: I would recommend you arrange these meetings once in a week. If you do them less frequently, the meeting cycle can become too long and it gets hard to stay on the track.
There are of course many ways you can held your meeting, but to get you started – here’s a one structure your group could follow. For the sake of this example, let’s say that you would all be bloggers (who probably run or plan to run a business through your blog):
Your first meeting:
The first meeting doesn’t have to be that structured. The purpose of this meeting is to get you to know each other better. It would be ideal if you could meet face-to-face in a peaceful environment, but since you’re probably scattered around in different cities (maybe even different countries), I suggest you use the online conference tool of your choice and just go with it.
- Everyone gives a brief introduction of himself, his blog, his business (if one exists) and the goals he has planned for the future.
- Talk about questions like:
- What do you expect to get from being part of this group?
- What kind of issues are you having right now with your blogging business?
- What kind of “lessons learned” can you share with this group right now?
- Now, write down (everyone does this) your blog’s 1 year action plan (edit and store them in Google Docs). What do you plan to do:
- Daily /Weekly / Monthly to push your blogging & business forward?
- Where do you see your blogging business 1 year from now?
- This list doesn’t have to be in fine detail. The purpose of creating this is to have a starting plan. This plan will evolve when you held the following meetings.
- Finally, look at each others list and have a chatter about your goals.
- The last thing you need to do is to decide, who will be the first lucky person who’s plan you’re going to start working on the next time.
- That’s it for the first meeting!
Time to get your hands dirty. In the first meeting, you chose a group member who’s plan you’re going to start working on today. Let’s say we’re going to work on Mike’s plan today.
- Open the plan he made in the first meeting.
- Let him talk about the plan and tell others about it in a more detail.
- Now it’s open mic for Mike: He should tell others what issues he’s having at the moment with his blogging business.
- finding focus?
- finding audience?
- technical issues?
- his products & services related problems?
- anything at all that he believes is an obstacle for him at the moment in his blogging business
- Next comes the best part: Start discussing these problems in the group. This meeting is dedicated to solving the problems Mike is having.
- After the discussions are over, Mike should have rewritten his 1 year plan (actually, the group has rewritten it together). Not all the issues have to be solved in the meeting, but at least those questions that keep Mike from taking the next step with his business has to be answered.
The following meetings:
Follow the same pattern: Next week, next member. When you get to the point where everyone has had their problems discussed, it’s time to start over. Get back to our friend Mike’s plan and see if he was able to stick to his plan and if not – discuss what went wrong and what issues did he face. Open up his 1 year plan and start working on it once again in the group.
How many cycles should you go around with these mastermind sessions? Well, that entirely up to you! Keep doing them as long as you all feel, you’re getting something valuable out of them. And you can always join to another group (in addition to the first one) with a slightly different focus if you feel you have the time and energy to do these twice a week. Experiment and you’ll find the right mix for you!
Digging deeper – What about Joint Ventures?
In addition to getting a push forward for you own business, one of the best advantages of being a member in a mastermind group is without a doubt; Joint Ventures (JV’s). Start a blog together. Build a product. Go after some big client. Utilize each others networks, mailing lists and connections and do affiliate marketing. Utilize the power of group and start something big together. Just do it!
Making meeting fun:
Structured meetings are effective and powerful. However, sometimes you’d like to just hang out and have a more relaxed meeting. Go together on a trip to city and have a few beers and head out to the bar.. oh, wait a minute.. I forgot. You’re scattered all around the globe. Well..
How about meeting in a “virtual world”? If your meetings start to get dull, why not have a more relaxed get together and held your meeting at SecondLife? It’s been many year since I logged in the last time, so I really don’t know how the world has evolved, but sure, it was fun when I last tried it out!
Then again.. you just might want to grab a beverage of your choice during the meeting and instantly get to a more relaxed attitude. It’s up to you my friend! It does work for me! 😉
Juha Liikala is a online entrepreneur from Finland and the man behind Nomad Couch (NC). At NC he talks about location independence, freedom business and making personal connections with you blog’s audience. He also interviews other fellow online entrepreneurs (like Chris for example!).