The Business Stages Of A Mastermind Group

Mastermind groups online are different from traditional businesses. But they also share realities common to all forms of enterprise.

Several early adopters of The Mastermind Playbook asked me these questions: “How do you know when you’ve scaled a mastermind business? How do you know when all eight cylinders are firing?”

I’ll share a few observations I’ve gathered. As usual, this isn’t math class. You probably won’t get definitive answers. But I have ideas, along with some definitive questions you can take and apply to your circumstances.

Clarity and Ambition

My friend Bill Caskey has a great way of tying together clarity and ambition. “You can be ambitious and still be foolish,” he said on a recent podcast. “But I have much more ambition when I have clarity.”

The less “guesswork” we have to do with our mastermind groups, the more room there is to execute. I love this way of thinking. Friends of mine who are veterans confirm this. The military takes an enormous amount of guesswork out of soldiers’ activities. It becomes an environment of “do or die.”

When you’re trying to figure out if you’ve succeeded or scaled, it helps to be crystal clear. It would be good ahead of time to define what’s “good” versus what’s “great.” Do you have this written down somewhere? If you do, does it reflect the current version of your life and business?

Service Versus Strategy

One helpful metric I found comes from Matt Johnson, host of the YouX Podcast. He said, “I know I’ve scaled when I go from ‘selling the service’ to ‘selling the strategy behind the service.’”

I’ve observed this personally. In the early days of ISI, I sold the service of an online mastermind group. It had its merits, and people could see them. Weekly calls, business coaching services, networking opportunities. These were all good attributes that any prospective member would appreciate.

I soon realized I couldn’t talk about those features of ISI unless I framed them in a grander scheme. Authenticity, transparency and vulnerability. The “board of directors” for your life and business. The strategy of overcoming upper limit challenges. Refusing to figure out life on your own. The hope-filled concept of “a better you” sooner, rather than later.

Can you articulate the strategy behind your mastermind? Can you “think several steps ahead” for your average member? Can you think like a film director, seeing a current “scene” in someone’s life and influencing scenes that follow?

An Average Day

There's a funny thing about the moment when you realize these questions have answers. It rarely takes place in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on top of a highrise. You don’t announce it or see it coming. It’s uncommon for anyone besides you to notice. It might throw you for a curve.

Sometimes it happens in the middle of a podcast interview. I’ll be going through my usual routine. Then, all of a sudden, I have new words or concepts to attach. They seem to come out of nowhere. But they are the product of the 10,000-hour law. The more you do something, the more of that “something” you get.


You might read this and think, “That’s great, Big A. But I’m all the way back here at Square One. I don’t even know how to get ‘good,’ never mind ‘great.’”

Remember, success is a marathon, not a sprint. The object here is to hang onto your vision. But you must do the hard work of defining yourself. Before you reach the promised land. It can’t be done without accountability, either. You’ll need the presence of your own business mastermind. To start, I recommend using the SMART system to map it out.

Specific goals set boundaries and targets. They help you include activities and people that move you toward your vision. You exclude activities and people that move you away.

Measurable goals are critical. Many entrepreneurs set goals doomed to fail because there’s no measuring them. How about this one: “become a better business leader”? It sounds good, but the problem is it’s subjective. One person will say you’ve improved leaps and bounds. Another will say you’ve made no improvement whatsoever. Who is right?

On the other hand, if you set goals that combine to form a better business leader, you can measure them. Let’s say your goal is “Meet with each individual employee for 60 minutes  over the course of the next three months.” If that falls under the rubric of “becoming a better business leader,” that is a measurable goal.

Achievable goals … are the opposite of most sales goals. Have you ever worked in sales for a large corporate group? They usually have whiteboard sessions. A minefield for comparing yourself with others. It’s all about how many sales you have made. The problem is you can’t control the market. A lot of salespeople stall or end their careers based on these numbers.

But what if we started setting goals where we are the only decision-makers? What if we said, “My goal is to make 100 phone calls this week”? Customers might reserve the right to say “No,” but they can’t stop you from picking up the phone and dialing. You can dream of solving problems for 1000 new clients in the next twelve months. But your goals should consist of activities you’ll do to get there.

Realistic goals get short shrift. We’re tempted to think of a watered-down version of this. “Okay, okay … everyone knows you’re not going to be a billionaire by July.” No kidding! But is that the only example of an unrealistic goal?

In fact, I think most entrepreneurs have unrealistic goals. Here’s one: “I want to become the most successful businessman in my city.” Now, it’s true - there probably is someone who holds that distinction where you live. There may be more than one. But that’s not why this is an unrealistic goal.

Goals are realistic when they’re NOT rooted in exalting yourself. An entrepreneur with a goal of making the most money at his profession has an unrealistic goal. An entrepreneur whose goal is to serve the most people the right way? That’s a recipe God can work with!

Time-bound goals reinforce specifics and measurability. Come to think of it, they also discourage unrealistic thinking. This makes them achievable. Putting a time limit on your goals is like putting icing on a cake.

You see, you could set a goal of becoming the most successful business leader in your city. But it might take you 40 years to get there. If it does, by the time you’ve “arrived,” no one will remember, including you.

As you introduce time to this equation, you’ll begin to see that the premise is absurd. Simply changing the time limit to “sometime in the next 24 months” won’t solve the problem. You’ll get discouraged. You’ll eventually confront the reality that you didn’t even come close. Many people reach this point and give up on setting goals.

We’re hopeful this helps you think more clearly about the stages of a mastermind group. To access more powerful tools for your business, check out The Mastermind Playbook.


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