Most businesses don’t make it past 5 years. Starting a business against such odds takes confidence, getting it up and running takes skill, and even then, there’s still plenty of luck required for your business to succeed.
One way to give yourself the best chance of settling in with the 20% of successful businesses is to leverage the expertise and experience of entrepreneurs who have already made it into that category.
While you could go the way of traditional business courses, or one-on-one mentorship, I’m going to highlight the potential of Group Business Coaching—specifically something called a ‘mastermind group.’
In this setting, you get to lean on a small group of people who know a thing or two about entrepreneurship and can give you the valuable attention and advice you need on your business journey.
This approach ensures you get more consistent and flexible feedback from a range of perspectives, and better equips you to manage the inherent uncertainty and challenges that building a successful business requires.
What’s a Mastermind Group?
Group Business Coaching is what you probably guessed from the name—a group of business-minded people gather to help each other make decisions, solve problems, and improve their business sense.
The exact structure and dynamics of these groups can vary considerably, from the number of people involved to the frequency, length, and location of the meetings, as well as the topics and progression of the meetings.
When it comes to a mastermind group, there are a couple of significant differences from other forms of group coaching for solo entrepreneurs. Here’s what you should expect:
- There should only be around 5 to 10 people. You don’t want too many as it becomes difficult for any individual to get the group’s attention for very long, it can also be intimidating and discourage members from speaking up.
- Members should be business-oriented, with experience that can be of value to the others. They don’t all need to be super-successful, as you might not be when you start, but everyone needs to be committed and focused on the subject at hand.
- There is no one “authority” figure that’s there to educate everyone else. You’re not only there to receive advice from an expert like you would in a mentorship, you are there to contribute to the success of the others.
- Meetings should be regular, and can include brainstorming, problem-solving, presentations, or even discussion about the emotional difficulties being faced—Help with all those challenges people in this line of work struggle with.
This is not a new approach, by any means. Many have recognised that two (or more) heads are better than one. The term ‘mastermind group’ appeared in the 1937 book ‘Think and Grow Rich,’ by the controversial self-help author Napoleon Hill.
Hill took it from an interview he had with Andrew Carnegie, who used it as a reference to the “sum total of the minds” of his associates. Everyone from Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, and John D. Rockefeller is said to have had their own mastermind group.
With the relative ease of starting a business today, and the proliferation of entrepreneurs, group business coaching in all its forms stands out as a valuable device for improving business success rates.
If you’re just getting started or even if you’re a seasoned pro, here are some reasons to get into such a group, as opposed to more traditional routes like courses.
It’s much more difficult to slack off or postpone work if you are only accountable to yourself—it’s a recipe for an excuse.
In a group, with the attention of other entrepreneurs firmly placed on your productivity and success, any slacking off won’t just feel like you’re letting yourself down, you’ll be letting everyone down.
Peer pressure can keep you on track and focused on your objectives, inspire greater motivation to perform at your best, and to infuse your work with higher quality and creativity.
Group coaching provides such a system, but it’s difficult to replicate in a traditional course. You’ll have deadlines and your work will be judged, but you are unlikely to get the consistent and direct attention and feedback an intimate group offers.
2. Shared Experiences
Entrepreneurs face challenges and uncertainties that are entirely unique, and difficult for those outside their world to grasp, it pays to know people who can relate to this experience and who likely have tools and ideas for managing it.
Depending on the specific situation, some members might have been in very similar positions and can help with direct and actionable advice, while others may only know what a truly unique and incomparable situation is like, and so help manage the feelings of ambiguity or unpredictability.
Relatability fosters a sense of understanding, connection, and belonging, that reduces feelings of isolation that entrepreneurship often entails. It can be validating and reassuring to know you’re not the only one who gets stuck on such tricky issues.
3. Diverse Perspectives
When you share your entrepreneurial journey with members in a group coaching setting you’ll soon find there’s a lot of value to be had in the usually wide range of backgrounds, areas of expertise, and general thinking styles of the other members.
Such a diverse range of perspectives and ideas can offer a more holistic view of an issue and can lead to more innovative solutions to the problems you face—what scientist Scott Page calls a ‘diversity bonus’.
You’ll have people who can see things in different ways from unique angles, providing many possible solutions to pick from, but those options might also mingle and synthesise into a solution nobody expected.
Of course, you won’t just get novel solutions, you’ll also learn a thing or two about how to look at problems from new perspectives, and adopt a wide range of mental models into your cognitive toolkit.
4. Tailored Flexibility
One of the more prominent drawbacks of courses is the one-size-fits-all approach. You generally have one instructor lead a group of students through a preset series of topics and tasks.
The problem with this is that everybody is different, and their situations are unique—and this is only more true for entrepreneurs.
Group coaching allows for a more customised approach to each individual, it adapts to their learning style, preferences, and personality, and it takes into consideration their particular situation and business goals.
This level of personal support gives you the freedom to forge your own path, you remain autonomous and in control—but with the added benefit of tailored feedback and advice from other entrepreneurial minds.
5. Real-Time Problem Solving
As an entrepreneur, you’re going to face pressing issues with significant time constraints, you won’t want to be sitting and hoping that a course will provide the answers somewhere down the line.
Related to the tailored flexibility point is the advantage of problem-solving when you really need the problem solved.
In a coaching session, you bring up your current challenges and issues, allowing for immediate discussion and brainstorming of solutions. You’ll get all the benefits of the diverse perspectives and tailored answers, precisely when you need them.
The speed of feedback also means you learn and improve faster, while your business also develops and benefits from near-constant attention and refinement.
6. Networking Opportunities
Great entrepreneurs benefit from a strong support network. It opens up avenues for growth and success, and allows you to tap into a pool of resources, knowledge, and opportunities that can propel your businesses forward.
By interacting with peers from diverse backgrounds and industries, group coaching opens doors to potential clients or customers, mentors, investors, and collaborations.
Traditional business courses generally lack the dynamic networking opportunities of group business coaching, interactions are limited to classroom settings or in some cases just online chats, making it difficult to form meaningful bonds.
7. Long-Term Support
Entrepreneurial journeys are ongoing, and long-term support is crucial for navigating the unpredictable journey of building and scaling a business.
The relationships you forge with other members of your group of soloprenuers can evolve into an enduring support network, as mentioned above. This opens all sorts of doors that make the future of your businesses more resilient.
Where a course concludes and students often go their separate ways, coaching groups and the networks they build are typically more enduring.
8. Emotional Support
Building and maintaining a successful business is emotionally taxing. The day-to-day decision-making, risks, and financial uncertainty make it incredibly stressful, and then there’s the often profound disappointment and dejection that comes if your business fails—and most of them do.
Another common issue with entrepreneurship—particularly when it is remote or involves working from home—can be the isolation it involves. You’re often working alone, making all those decisions and taking all the risks on your lonesome.
Group coaching, both during the actual sessions and also in the long-term connections made, offers a level of support that can mitigate the mental and emotional toll of running a business.
The community you forge doesn’t only help with problem-solving and decision-making, it provides a safe space for sharing concerns and empathising with one another, helping to build your resilience and maintain your mental well-being.
Compared to one-on-one coaching and many traditional courses, group coaching is often more affordable, making it accessible to a wider range of eager and hopeful entrepreneurs.
This does however vary considerably. Some mastermind groups can be free to join, while others can cost anywhere from $500 to well over $10k a year.
It’s also possible for you to create them yourself if you find a few good members and maintain the structure and recurring meetings.
Meanwhile, courses also range in price depending on the institution offering them, whether you’ll be taking it in person or online, and if you want to end up with a credential. It’s possible to take business courses online for free using MOOC providers like Coursera and edX.
However, what you get for what you pay is generally on the side of group coaching. Given all the advantages mentioned above, the fact you can fit it within almost any budget makes it the most preferable choice.
10. Imparting Wisdom
While you’re likely going to join a coaching group to learn and succeed in your personal business endeavours, there is something to be said about the positive effects that come from lending support to others.
Group coaching makes everyone both a recipient and contributor to business success. You will be asked to think about the challenges your fellow entrepreneurs are facing, and to use your critical and creative muscles to help work towards solutions.
This is reciprocal learning, and you should gain a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction from contributing to others’ growth and success. How many courses can you take where you’re the teacher?
Finding Your Group
Before you go rushing out to join the first coaching group you can, it’s important to consider a few points to help find the right one for your requirements:
- Do you have the time to commit to regular meetings? Coaching and mastermind groups should meet fairly regularly and they require commitment, you’ll be letting others down if you only show up sporadically.
- What’s the structure? Some groups might expect members to prepare questions, topics, or presentations before, others are happy to see what comes up on the day.
- Do you prefer in-person or online meetings? You may need to travel if you like to be in the same space as others, and it will limit the options available to you, but can feel more social and interactive.
- How much will it cost? Most mastermind groups require a monthly or yearly fee, consider what you can afford and find one within your budget.
- How large is it? For the best dynamic it’s recommended groups are between 5 – 10 people.
- What do you want to get from the group? You might already have a business and be hoping for help running it, or you may be in the early stages of idea generation, or perhaps you simply want to learn a thing or two about entrepreneurship and test your skills on what problems others face.
When you know what type of group you want to join, you’ll need to go out and find it.
A quick online search will bring in lots of results, Meetup is a good place to search, and if you’re happy with online meetings the chances are you’ll find something for you. In-person meetings will limit your results, even more so if you’re not in a city or hub of business activity.
If you struggle to find a decent fit, there is the possibility of creating a group yourself. You’ll need to consider how you want to run it (Online? Once a month? Free or paid?) and where you can find other good members.
If you’re serious about becoming a talented entrepreneur and running a successful business, group business coaching and mastermind groups, in particular, are indispensable.
Thankfully the autonomy and freedom that entrepreneurship can offer, the feeling of success on your terms, has lured many into the realm of startups and small business, making it as easy as ever to find your little tribe of collaborators.