We’ve been running masterminds with our entrepreneurs at 10xu, so I thought I’d take a minute to explain what, why, and how.

What are Masterminds?

A mastermind is a method for groups of entrepreneurs to power each other forward by sharing experiences, helping each other, and setting and achieving stretch goals. It feels like a combination of a brainstorming session and a coach, and it’s designed to help you accomplish more than you can on your own.

It’s best if the founders in each group are at similar stages, and if they make a long-term commitment to meet on a regular basis. This way the peer pressure is at it’s maximum—which spurs results.

Most masterminds have a formal structure including a discussion of objectives, updates on goals achieved from the previous meeting along with any blockers that are preventing success. Many include brainstorming sessions and “hot seats” where a single person presents a problem and gets help from the rest of the group.

Mastermind groups can meet weekly, biweekly, or quarterly, and may be in-person or virtual.

Why are Masterminds so Great?

Benjamin Franklin regularly convened his Junto (or Leather Apron Club) for “mutual improvement” starting in Philadelphia in 1727. Franklin said, “We met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased.”

Two hundred years later, Napoleon Hill talked about a “master mind alliance” in Think and Grow Rich, describing it as, “A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.”

Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and many other accomplished  men were known for meeting with like-minded individuals at a regular cadence, in a mastermind-esque arrangement.

More recently, EO forums have been available to groups of successful entrepreneurs with established business, and masterminds have sprung up on the Internet.

So the recent popularity of the idea follows the same curve as many “overnight” sensations, existing for a while followed by a sudden explosion in growth.

Mastermind groups are built around a commitment to attend regularly, willingness to listen and contribute feedback, confidentiality, and mutual respect among the members. This creates an environment where you get effective suggestions from your peer group.  You may also have your MVP or pitch deck torn to shreds with the best of intentions 😉

There aren’t many other places where you can get this level of in-depth feedback and support.

“ I like giving feedback and getting feedback. There is a sense of community and learning what others are facing as entrepreneurs.”

— Keith G

The community you build over time feeds into a group dynamic that creates significant peer pressure to set and then meet your promises to the group—meaning you get more done.

You push yourself to set goals on par with the rest of the group, and then push yourself harder to meet that expectation. It’s a powerful driving force for founders and their teams.

It’s also incredibly helpful to tap into the group brainpower. Entrepreneurs tend to be smart people with a ton of experience, and we’ve had people unexpectedly chime in with exactly the right perspective. We think we know the person as entrepreneur X with company Y, but we don’t realize that they used to run a marketing or HR department until they share exactly the piece of info we need to break through our roadblock.

Sometimes a 2nd and 3rd opinion can be the difference between making the right and wrong decision as an entrepreneur—and it often saves valuable time.

“Without my mastermind group, I wouldn’t be where I am today in business.”

— Pat Flynn

There are two ways to get into a mastermind group: find an existing group, or create your own.

Finding a Mastermind

Finding a Mastermind group can be easy or hard depending on the circles you travel in. If you are in the startup/tech space, odds are you are one degree of separation from someone currently in a mastermind. In that case you just have to ask around.

If you can’t find someone you know who can help, then you’ll want to grow your network of entrepreneurs. Look for local in-person events. You can also check out meetup.com, a great site for finding groups of like-minded entrepreneurs in your niche.

You’ll also find online communities running both paid and free masterminds.

Freelancers and solo consultants can check out these two paid communities:

  1. Fizzle: A community that focuses on freelancers and independent entrepreneurs working on mostly lifestyle businesses.
  2. Double Your Freelancing Academy: targets the freelancer that wants to make their business more profitable and also offers a type of mastermind.

For startup founders, 10xU runs masterminds as part of our community membership.

Starting a Mastermind

An easy way to get started is to join a meetup group or other community/forum in your niche and send a variation of a message like this:

“Hey everyone,

My name is Ben, and I’m a Growth Marketer at 10xU. I’m looking to start a mastermind with a few ambitious entrepreneurs in our industry. There is no prerequisite knowledge level or success metric, just extreme ambition. We’ll be meeting twice a month on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday at 3 pm PST,on Google Hangouts. We’ll help each other grow and stay focused!

[section about your experience, sell yourself as a good group member]

Interested? Shoot me a short bio, what you’re looking for out of a mastermind group, and what you think you can contribute, and I’ll get in touch!”

The key to good masterminds is limiting a number of members. At 10xU we’ve found that seven founders works well for an hour session. If you have too many people you may feel rushed for time.

Once you find your crew, you begin the logistical nightmare that is finding a time that seven people can agree on. Luckily for you, we’ve done the heavy lifting. Here’s a good spreadsheet template for figuring out scheduling

Make your own copy, fill in names and email addresses, and delete any any unreasonable times. If you are in LA, for example, 5AM EST is probably when you’re sleeping. It’s okay to be a little selfish here since you’re putting in the work of organizing all this 😉

It’s also great to include short bios or LinkedIn profiles so people start to get to know each other.

Once the timing and cadence are decided, the next step is to decide on a structure to stick to in order to make these meetings productive.

We’ve got you covered for this too:

Running a Mastermind

Here at 10xU we picked a simple format. We run 60-minute sessions every two weeks on this schedule

1-2 min           — Roll Call

3-23 min        — Status Updates (3 min each)

24-34 min     — Hot Seat #1 (10 min)

35-45 min     — Hot Seat #2 (10 min)

46-58 min     — Accountability Setting (2 min per person)

58-60 min     — Wrap Up

To get an in depth description on what each of those sections look like check out the Mastermind on-boarding document we use internally outlining the exact way we run the masterminds, which you can use as a template.

The Hot Seat

The hot seat is one of the most useful parts of a mastermind. This is the time slot where an individual gets the whole group’s collective brain power applied to the most salient problem in their business whether it’s business decisions, feedback on a pitch, or tearing apart an MVP.  For example, I could be facing issues with my growth experiment prioritization and if I don’t get things into shape within two months my startup will go under. After I present, the entire group will go around the table asking clarifying questions and then each individual will have a chance to provide feedback or speak from experience.

“I got value from being in the hot seat and feedback from other members.”

— John L

A big part of the value a mastermind creates comes from the hot seat.

Accountability is a crucial benefit of the mastermind, so meeting minutes are essential. At 10xU we run masterminds with a dedicated “mastermind master” who takes meeting minutes for you. You might also implement a rotating schedule of members taking minutes. It’s important to have a record of accountability goals and overall progress. We prep the next session by listing everyone’s accountability goals from last time.

We use a shared Google Doc to keep everything organized. The trick is to put this week’s minutes at the top—rather than the bottom—so you don’t have to scroll down every time.

And guess what…we have the exact template we use for meeting minutes available for you to use entirely gratis:

Now all you need is equally-motivated people in your niche and you’ll be set!

A final note….

Commitment

The long-term value of your mastermind group relies on the ongoing commitment of its members. People need to attend every time, listen, and contribute. There’s nothing worse than waiting weeks for your hot seat—and then no one else shows up!

We’ve found that it’s hard to get buy-in from people who aren’t fully sold on the idea, so we’ve made the masterminds optional. We only include founders who are enthusiastic about working together.

Two more key ingredients are making a long-term commitment and adding a penalty for missing a mastermind.

Making a Long-Term Commitment

Masterminds are most effective when the same group works together over a period of time. This allows the group to gel and accomplish more in each session.

Start by having everyone agree to attend for six months (commitments are powerful, but commitments without end dates are scary). If the group is working well you can all recommit after six months.

Adding a Penalty for Missing a Mastermind

It is important that every member attends as many mastermind sessions as possible otherwise the value of the mastermind breakdown. Its a little bit like social security, everyone contributes for the good of the group. Imagine it’s your day on the hotseat and no one else show’s up to that mastermind to contribute to your dilemma. That situation can easily be prevented by implementing a sort of penalty for extensive absences.

At 10xU we used a commitment contract with a built-in fine for a certain level of non-attendance and our members see the value created by such a commitment.

“I really liked the commitment contract. It made it feel like we can depend on the group in a different way because I want to know people will be around.”

— Peter F

Another common penalty is being permanently excused from the group. An example could be: if a member misses more than two masterminds their continued membership in the mastermind gets put to a vote by the rest of the group, if they miss a 3rd session within the commitment period they get kicked out of the mastermind no vote required. You can create your own system for managing mastermind attendance but there is no one size fits all. Depending on your niche, and frequency of meeting different solutions could be a better fit.

Next Steps for Your Mastermind

Whatever you do, don’t let this be the post you bookmark and never look at again (I’m as guilty of this as anyone else)! The whole point of masterminds is to drive you towards taking actions that will move your startup forward so take a minute to think about who you know that can introduce you to a mastermind and send them a note. Can’t think of anyone? Then take the first step and join a community of likeminded individuals and create your own mastermind.

The 10xU Mastermind Template Pack

We’ve included three templates:

  1. A Time-slot Finder you can use to find a time that works for everyone you draft into your mastermind.
  2. The exact onboarding document we use to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding the Mastermind structure and operations.
  3. A Mastermind minutes template we use at the 10xU Masterminds in order to keep track of status updates, and more importantly accountability goals. (a giant time saver)

Use them as is or personalize them as much as you like to fit your specific mastermind!

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